Known to revolutionise the culinary world in the UAE and globally, Chef Vineet Bhatia is considered the father of modern Indian food.

Inspired by the eclectic influences during his childhood, each dish is inspired by the culture, spirit and vitality of his motherland. His journey first started in 1993, when he embarked on a journey to revamp the poor reflection of Indian cooking across the UK by opening Kama by Vineet.

While his initial attempt to succeed in his first career choice didn’t quite head in the direction he wanted, he later went on to open several restaurants across the globe and become the first Indian chef-patron to have been awarded a Michelin star in 2001.

With over 20 restaurants run globally over his 30-year career span, Chef Vineet Bhatia first opened Indego at Grosvenor House, putting the restaurant firmly on Dubai’s foodie map after noticing the gap in the culinary world. He thereby revolutionised contemporary Indian fine-dining with his artful techniques since its opening in 2005.

He later went on to open Indya by Vineet at Le Royal Meridian to curate Indian cuisine with a twist that will tantalise senses, lure taste buds and challenge perceptions of the country as we know it.

By being the first proprietor to receive such an accolade and inspire young chefs around the globe, it important for us to learn about his journey and speak to the Chef, Vineet Bhatia himself to see how it all began.

What inspired you to become a chef and how did it all begin?

Initially, the thought of becoming a chef hadn’t crossed my mind. I was always fascinated by the thrill of flying and aspired to join the Indian Air Force growing up. However, due to my height I did not make it through the selection process and so this dream became a distant reality. I then went through a process of elimination to discover what my future job prospect could be. By chance, I began working in a kitchen of a five-star hotel which exposed me to the discipline and regiment of the industry. This encouraged me to delve further into the culinary world and make it my career. In my final year of culinary college, I was seleced for the Oberoi Culinary School (OCLD) and studied the culinary arts, furthering my learning and development for three years. Throughout my time there I harboured a relentless determination to learn and quickly became inspired by the discipline of the F&B industry. I worked 18 hours a day, with no days off for many years. I firmly believe that success is born out of hard work and after many years with this mindset, this is why I believe I am where I am today.


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A post shared by Indego by Vineet (@indegobyvineet)

You first launched Indego by Vineet at Grosvenor House in Dubai and later launched Indya by Vineet. Talk us through the concepts and how do they co-relate?

Indego by Vineet was launched at a completely different point in Dubai’s culinary history to Indya by Vineet. Indego opened at Grosvenor House Dubai in 2005 and was one of the very first fine-dining Indian restaurants in that part of the city. Until then, most Indian restaurants were in Deira, Bur Dubai and Al Karama and were not considered high-end. I’m so pleased to say that Indego has laid down the blueprint of the fine, modern, progressive version of Indian cuisine and I think it is fair to say that it also paved the way for several restaurants to walk down this path who have since also put their own twist on things.

Indya on the other hand was born into another era in Dubai. Indya consciously explores another side of Indian food and is a more relaxed, casual affair which explores the diversity of Indian street food. It isn’t region specific but rather Pan-Indian. I focused on the various types of street food found in multiple cities across India. I wanted to create somewhere that was really casual, with a great buzz, loud and vibrant, making it the perfect spot to enjoy with friends and family.

Was Indian cuisine always your main focus since the beginning?

Yes, I have always been strong-willed with my intention to stick to Indian cuisine. The flavours, the variety and the diversity intrigue me. However, I have consciously not stuck to strictly traditional Indian dishes. After moving to London in the early ‘90s, I started to cater to a Western audience and developed my skills to suit a wide range of palettes. This is also the reason why I don’t always stick to conventional names when creating dishes that are more classical to the Indian taste, as a chef I’ve learned to resonate with all cultures, and this is especially important in a city such as Dubai.

You managed to elevate the style of Indian cuisine in the UK with Zaika and Rasoi in London. How was this a challenge and how did you overcome this?

Initially, I never really set out to redefine Indian cuisine – and certainly not in the way that I have done. For me, it was an expression of doing things that included the flavours that I liked, and I enjoyed by a global audience. Once I found resistance in being able to do this in India – I knew I had to explore other parts of the world. I chose London mainly because of how close it was to London Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, due to my love of aircrafts.But the challenge I faced in London was how Indian food was represented in the UK. In 1993, when I landed in London my first place of work was Star of India, a glorified curry house on Brompton Road, Chelsea. It was here that I first became aware of what Indian food was in London. So what I started to do is correct things in a way that I knew them to be for the better of the restaurant. It was a risk I took and it was eventually that it was accepted by both my employees, but also appreciated by the guests themselves.

You were the first Indian Chef’s to earn a Michelin star – tell us more about your journey.

Like I’ve always stated, I’ve never really set out to a earn a Michelin star. In fact, I was blissfully unaware of this whilst I was a chef in India, it’s only when I landed in London that I understood this more. After some time, I began to realise the various tiering of restaurants, the calibre, the skills and the grading system, and then also understood how and what the Michelin star is all about. The more I knew about it, the more I realised that it is not something Indian cuisine can achieve. It’s not possible because an Indian ethnic cuisine was never really considered to be worthy of such an award. Because of this, it was never there at the back of my mind. All I did at that point was cook from my heart and what resonated with me. And I still do that today. At the start of my career in London – I felt I needed to correct how Indian food was represented. In my first place of work I was in fact, the only Indian in the kitchen there. The dishes, although they were prepared by the Bangladeshis had no connections to what we identified as Indian back home. At that point in my career, it was all about correcting the menu and then I slowly started introducing it to the different dishes that I was trained for. I enjoyed trying to make it easily understandable to the guest and get the narration as simple and as plain English as possible. This was appreciated by the guests and the reason why we received word of mouth recommendations, which eventually led to other partners and investors approaching me and to my Michelin star – something I least expected. I did not set out to do all this but it was a beautiful reward for doing what I love and following my heart.

You’ve travelled the globe over. How has travelling influenced you overall cooking style and choice of flavours?

Traveling opens your eyes and exposes you to different parts of the world – different cultures, people and what makes them the way that they are. As a chef, it has given me insight into new cooking techniques and ingredients. I’ve always kept my mind open and receptive to learning an understanding why certain people like certain food. By looking into this, it helps me bring my food to that common platform. This means that the different people that come into my restaurants from different cultures and different countries can enjoy my food and understand it – it also helps guests appreciate the rich culinary heritage of Indian cuisine. I think that’s what traveling has helped me understand and influence my cooking the most.


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You focus on an experiential dining journey – was this always the concept from the outset?

I have always felt like my food has evolved with the Indian cuisine, alongside my evolution as a chef. As I grew from a trainee to Chef de Cuisine, to a Chef Entrepreneur I learned different skills and became exposed to different ingredients, all of which have been translated into my culinary ethos. As I became more and more confident in my role, I learned to look at my concepts from a whole different perspective. When building successful restaurants, the food is an important element, however the ambience and senses are also equally critical.

I like to think that I have always focused on my restaurants being an experiential dining journey but I am still working at perfecting it. It is essential that we create a complete experience for our guests right from when they walk through the door, to the bespoke service, to the way the menu reads – everything must come together perfectly to create an unforgettable dining moment for everyone.

What first bought you to Dubai and how is evolved since you first launched your dining concepts in this part of the world?

I opened my restaurant, Rasoi in London, which was often frequented by people who lived in Dubai who expressed their interest in opening a restaurant over here [Dubai]. Representatives of Grosvenor House proposed the idea to me and intrigued, I flew over to Dubai. At this time, the Dubai Marina was far from what it is today however the plans were extremely impressive and I saw the huge potential of the growing city. However, opening an Indian restaurant here still came with great challenges. Dubai had not yet seen Indian food as a fine-dining option, it was best to enjoy it in Bur Dubai and you didn’t need to spend much enjoy a good meal. For me, it felt like starting all over again, introducing fine-dining Indian cuisine and facing the same tests as I had in London. This was all extremely exciting to me and so I accepted Grosvenor House’s offer, opening Indego by Vineet just a short while later. Indego was the first Indian restaurant to serve a tasting menu and plated dishes, alongside some sharing plates such as Butter Chicken, Biryani and Rogan Josh. We offered a delicious menu of five to six courses paired with exquisite wine. Indego helped to lay the blueprint for progressive, modern Indian dining in the city and it makes me so happy to see other brilliant restaurants to be recognised in awards now present in the region such as Gault and Millau, Michelin and World’s 50 Best. The quality of ingredients available in Dubai has also changed and improved significantly over time. The strong trading relationship now established with India means that I can get some of the best quality ingredients into my restaurants, making the dishes we create even better for our guests.

What piece of advice would you give to those who wish to follow your path?

It makes me very happy that there is not only myself, but other Indian chef’s that younger generations can look to as role models. When I was growing up, there were not many chefs from India to aspire to. For those looking to follow the same path as me, I would advise them to prepare for hard work. Creating great food is a craft that you must learn to master, and it almost always requires long hours. You must be ready to be working while your family and friends are partying or relaxing. There are no short cuts, but it all pays off in the end. If you go into this career with an understanding of this, and the industry is your passion, then you will succeed. It is a demanding business, but it is very rewarding seeing the joy you bring to people and seeing them happy when tasting your food is extremely heartening and keeps me going when times seem tough!

In your opinion, how has Indian food evolved over the years and taken on a new meaning with gastronomy?

Indian cuisine has vastly evolved from food previously seen as from a third-world country to now being enjoyed in some of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants. It is now recognised by elite food critics, and we are starting to see chefs who specialise in other cuisines using traditionally Indian ingredients that are crossing the culinary lines. Indian cuisine has carved its own niche, being available for those at all different experience and skill levels of the industry. It makes me extremely proud to see them being used so widely.

How do you experiment with different ingredients and manage to innovate in the culinary world year after year?

I have always been curious. While I was growing up, I was always the kid who didn’t like being told what to do. I enjoyed breaking the rules, not following instructions and tried to work everything out for myself. This at many times has translated and led to the creation of many of my dishes. I draw my inspiration from my guests and build upon what they like the most as well as outside influences such as the dishes I find on my travels, culinary books, my peers and more – they all inspire me. I like to always keep an open mind and persevering through experiential flavours that may not turn out as well as I had hoped. Mistakes are what make you stronger and I like to build on both the good and the bad.

What have been some of the key milestones in your career?

The first great milestone of my career was being rejected as a pilot in the Indian Air Force as without this happening, I would not have become a chef. My journey in this industry started with a rejection however I believe that this is the path I was meant to take. I was then selected by the Oberoi School of Hotel Management, and this is where I learned my knowledge and insight into Indian cuisine, all of which still helps me today. One of my most important milestones was breaking into the (tough) London restaurant scene and opening Rasoi which was all quite a journey. The restaurant allowed me to have a global platform and people started to really recognise my work in the industry, and I began to work as a consultant with different hotels and restaurants around the world. Another proud moment, that brought me closer to my love of aircrafts, is when I designed the menus for British Airways, a partnership which lasted over 10 years, as well as the famous Concorde. Working with both of these recognisable names exposed so many different people, who many have not considered Indian food to be a luxury cuisine, to our culinary ethos. However, with that being said, the proudest thing I have accomplished is building such a great team. Awards come and go but loyalty from your team is what creates true happiness for me. I always try to put my team first and when you grow, they grow with you. They have become my chosen family and I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

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