In this month’s Talent section we speak to James Knight-Pacheco, who has been appointed as executive head chef with Vida Downtown Dubai. In his new role he is responsible for all culinary matters at the hotel from the Vida food trucks to the brunch menus as well as the F&B locations at the hotel including 3in1 and Stage2
Can you tell us how you started out in the industry?
When I was 15-years-old, I started working in a university, washing dishes for large functions during the weekends, and then everything escalated from there. Even with my first experience I was hooked to the hospitality industry!
Who has influenced you most in your career?
A very famous chef in the UK- Raymond Blanc! It was just an incredible learning experience working for him, as well as inspirational. In many ways, he taught you to think, not just cook, and he did that with all of his departments. His most famous pupil was Marco Pierre White.
How do you view the hospitality industry in the Middle East?
The region is going through a very exciting time. What inspires me most is seeing local brands flourishing and making their mark. To watch food and beverage grow under Emaar brands such as Vida Hotels and Resorts and outlets such as 3in1 at Vida Downtown Dubai is enormously exciting. These outlets offer something fundamentally different to our guests and provide a certain quality that distinguishes them from the competition. We always need to keep in mind the expectations of our guests and how those expectations are delivered on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
Our diners are a hip clientele, generally a mixture of young entrepreneurs and fashionistas who want a space that offers delectable late-night mocktails and Dubai’s best signature dishes.
What is the biggest challenge you find in your job?
Continuity and consistency is everything in this industry. I love the challenge of the role which keeps me motivated and propels me into achieving as much as I can. One of the fundamental objectives I strive toward is to ensure that our existing customers stay with us. With so much competition, you have to innovate as well as be consistent in your offer, and at times that can really set you back if you don’t plan accordingly.
What do you like most about your role?
Being a creative chef is one of the best parts of the role. Specifically, I have enjoyed seeing the evolution of Saturdaze at 3in1 – a bespoke “long and lazy” brunch experience that presents a list of classic favourites for a choosy clientele who appreciate quality food. Another aspect of my role is about giving my chefs a chance to create their dishes; it is a fantastic thing to do, because you learn from each other, plus watching how a chef develops a dish can be rewarding.
What advice would you offer anyone starting out in the industry in the region?
Always have an open mind, be willing to learn at all times, be humble, and stay in the industry because you have a passion for it. It has never been about the money for me; it has always been to learn, delight guests, and to inspire my team.