Chef Sajesh Nair, executive chef, Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, speaks about his journey in the culinary arts sphere
What inspired you to pursue culinary arts as a career?
The inspiration to pursue a career in the culinary arts was present from my childhood itself as I was inspired by my father wearing the chef’s whites. I have always looked up to him, and I believe that here one can truly say that it was all in the genes.
What were the initial challenges and opportunities throughout your journey in the culinary world?
In the initial phase, learning the job quickly with very less scope of error was challenging and so was being in a competitive space filled with experts. However, it was also a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to learn and hone my skills with every passing day. This has helped me greatly in the long run because as guest preferences are always dynamic, the trait of adapting quickly to situations has assisted me to keep up with trends.
I have been very fortunate to have been mentored by some of the best and kind-hearted chefs during my initial days in the kitchens. During my journey with Taj, I got many an opportunity to learn from some of our renowned chefs including a couple of established expat chefs. This, combined with the opportunity of international travel, gave me much exposure and a chance to learn various cuisines and participate in esteemed food expos and festivals; thereby enhancing my culinary skills.
How has the stint been with Taj? While many have a story to dictate of being associated with the brand, what’s your inspirational tale?
I believe IHCL – and Taj – to be an inspirational institution, where you truly feel associated with the brand values of Trust, Awareness and Joy. IHCL as a company not only takes the best care of you but also provides you with ample opportunities to learn and grow. In my long stint with the company, there have been many inspiring moments, but one personal experience that has left a lifelong impact is how the company and its leaders and associates showed strength and resilience during 26/11. The way IHCL stood strong throughout as a beacon of hope and took care of all of us across teams and the local community is a testament to the strong values that the company operates on. It is therefore, not surprising and a matter of great pride to be a part of Taj – India’s strongest brand, as we were recently rated by Brand Finance.
What strategies have you devised to make the guest experience the Tajness in F&B, once the businesses are rolling in full strength again?
In the new normal world, we will continue to strive to offer our guests our legendary Tajness experience with a restrengthened commitment. It means delivering world-class hospitality and services while adhering to the highest standards of enhanced hygiene and safety, anticipating changed guest requirements and translating it into a curated gastronomic delight; all the while creating culinary experiences as before. We will also be incorporating more immunity booster ingredients and recipes in our menus, keeping guest wellbeing in mind.
Moving forward what would you suggest the aspiring chefs keen on joining the industry?
One needs to know and truly believe that hard work will pay off. I also believe that learning the basics thoroughly is the most important foundation of anything that once chooses to pursue, especially the culinary arts. The dedication and passion to cook has to come from one’s heart – so dedicate yourself to the passion of cooking and always respect the culinary art, culture and culinary artists who will teach you the tricks of the trade. And most importantly, always be curious, open-minded to new suggestions and keep learning as an on-going process.