Chef Ajay Negi, chef de cuisine at Bombay Brasserie, Taj Dubai is working hard to dispel the myths surrounding Indian food.
Describe your first ever role in the F&B industry?
I started my career in 2001 as a commis 3 in the kitchen of the Radisson hotel in Jalandhar, Punjab. I was very intrigued by spice mixes, marinades and the baking of fresh breads in the tandoor, an Indian clay oven. I strengthened my foundations under the watchful guidance chef Gurubaksh, who had a keen eye for detail and groomed me to become a perfectionist.
Who has inspired you most in your career?
Our executive chef Jitin Joshi – I have been working with him for four years now. His guidance in terms of flavour pairings, respect for ingredients, menu planning and his non-biased approach have inspired me immensely. He brings his experience from some great restaurants such as Benares and At.mosphere and has worked with world-renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Atul Kochhar. He is a true mentor and role model in every sense.
How do you view the F&B scene in the region?
I feel Dubai’s dining scene is extremely dynamic and one the fastest growing in the world, with a host of celebrity chefs. Almost any cuisine is easily available here and homegrown brands have been raising the bar and seeing success and popularity. It’s a beautiful melting point of cultures and cuisines. There is so much to learn in this fast-paced industry and that keeps us constantly growing as individuals and professionals.
What is the biggest challenge of your role?
Indian food is perceived as hot, oily and spicy, but it needn’t be. Indian food can also be light, healthy and flavourful and doesn’t need to be overly spicy. Hopefully with our carefully curated menu at Bombay Brasserie, we have been able to change these perceptions.
What is the best aspect of your role?
The best part of my day is when I see a smile on a diner’s face, and there’s nothing more rewarding than a genuine thank you. This means we have touched the guest’s heart through the palate. I also enjoy creating bespoke experiences and memories for our diners – be it their birthday, anniversary or even a casual family dinner. It’s the little things that go a long way.
If you could work in any restaurant in the world, which would it be?
Gaggan, a restaurant run by chef Gaggan Anand in Bangkok. I like his modern take on traditional Indian cuisine.
What tip would offer those starting out in the F&B industry in the region?
Work hard, strengthen the basics and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Always taste your food and season it well!
May 2015 – present: Chef de cuisine, Taj Dubai
October 2013 – April 2015: Head chef, Patiala restaurant, Souq Al Bahar, Dubai
January 2010 – September 2013: Chef de partie, Armani Hotel, Dubai