Back-of-House interview: Meet chef Ankit Pahuja

Chef Ankit Pahuja on how he manages the kitchens of the Namak by Kunal Kapur

'I enjoy the busy operations of my kitchen,' chef Ankit Pahuja
'I enjoy the busy operations of my kitchen,' chef Ankit Pahuja

Hotelier heads down to the Dusit Thani Abu  Dhabi to find out how chef Ankit Pahuja manages the kitchens of the Namak by Kunal Kapur.

My job in 50 words.
I am currently spearheading the culinary operations of Namak by Kunal Kapur at Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi. One of my main aims is to driving innovation across the board when it comes to food preparation and presentation. I actively engaged in menu planning, budgeting and the menu engineering of Namak.

My hospitality journey
I joined the hospitality industry by chance not choice. I cracked my culinary arts exams but my dad wanted me to do something creative and innovative. Hence, came to my mind to join the hospitality industry. From there on, everything just started to fall in place and there has been no looking back ever since. I joined Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi on 20 May, 2018 to undertake the project of opening a progressive Indian restaurant. My prime reason for embracing this role is attributed to the fact that the restaurant offers bespoke Indian cuisine infused with global flavours.

Three biggest challenges
1. Managing multiple expectations: Holding the flag of a celebrity chef restaurant in itself is an exciting challenge. It entails not just meeting, but exceeding the expectations of both the celebrity chef and the brand “Dusit Thani”.

2. Perception of local market: The food that we are doing is not only curry in a bowl but a level up to showcase Indian cuisine and making the local market understand the culinary sophistication is bit challenging at times.

3. Loyalty of staff: Retaining staff loyal is one of the major challenges these days for any head chef. With a large number of branded hotels opening in the GCC region, the opportunities are galore for hospitality professionals.

My strategies

I brought creativity to the tables with dishes such as “Oops I dropped my chaat”, an Indian delicacy prepared live in front of guests with unmatched showmanship of chef’s skills. My forte has always been to rotate the menu in line with changing seasonality. Competition mapping is also important to see what other culinary brands are doing. In addition to that, I believe in working with the freshest produce possible.

Why I enjoy my job

I enjoy the busy operations of my kitchen. For me “Routine is boring” and I always try to go that extra mile in my culinary preparations while pushing my limits and making every day different.  I love to be constantly on my toes to innovate and elevate my skills in food production.

My ultimate goal 
Good question! Every chef has a dream of having one restaurant of their own, but that is too early as this age. I would be happy to work and learn more for the next couple of years and possibly have one restaurant of my own someday in future.

A regular day
My day starts at 10:30 am with the morning briefing, discussing the business, guest satisfaction tracking system and routine check-ups in the kitchen. Post which the operations and mails of having organized systems in place and following through my follow ups post which the evening service and day ends at 11 pm in the evening.

My single biggest achievement?
Having worked with different properties I have nurtured my skills and grown into my current profile. I am the youngest chef de cuisine in the whole hotel. Innovation has been strength. To stay ahead in the fierce competition, especially in Abu Dhabi, it’s imperative to innovate and create unique culinary moments at all times.

Future plans 
We have few new dishes and pop-ups lined up in the restaurant for the upcoming events, and we have also started our Signature Brunch on Saturdays. Dishes from Namak will also be served during the upcoming Ramadan. Times are indeed exciting for us!

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