Chef Arvind Saraswat Whom I interacted with

    My Tribute to Chef Arvind Saraswat

 A Legend passed away yesterday, 13th July 2019. I had the fortune of interacting with him in his role first as an Interviewer 1986 at IHMCT Ahmedabad.  Later from 1991- 1994 as a teaching faculty at IMCT Pusa and in my capacity as one of the members of the Indian Culinary Federation. I saw him in a new light then.

But, first, flashback 1986 The Final Round for the Management Trainee slot with the Taj. My first interaction with him.

Ramola Mahajini- Group HR Head was firing away questions starting on the 4 core subjects of Food Production, Food & Beverage Service, Front Office and Housekeeping. I was to my own surprise, in my elements, answering brilliantly.

All this while, the legend, Chef Saraswat, threatening with his stilled silence and hint of a smile. Almost foreboding, waiting like a vulture for his prey patiently.

Ramola- daughter of Late SK Wankhede- Wankhede stadium, changed tracks noticing cricket in my interests. But, knowing my facts, figures and anecdotes of my passion better than hotel management subjects, every delivery she bowled was despatched to the ropes effortlessly. Queries on literature, another interest, followed. Very articulate, well read and knowledgeable she was, in whom I found a great ally to literally discuss on everything from Spofforth, Bradman, The three W’S, Kundanlal Saigal, Hollywood, Bollywood authors, books….

To me it looked as we both were the only duo in the room on the edge of our seats facing each other chatting away like school friends meeting after years. The legend was, solemn; inscrutable his face. I dared not look at him, lest I falter.

At the end of the session lasting almost 2 hours, I was offered the letter in the F & B Department. Yet, he remained stoic. For some inexplicable reason, I did not take it up, but that’s not relevant here.

1991 I was asked my Sumita Paul, the Editor of The Pioneer Pulse – The Pioneer’s Sunday supplement (when Vinod Mehta was the Editor) to write  a feature on the leading  Chefs of India based in Delhi.

That’s when my impressions of Chef Saraswat changed. On my meeting Chef Manjit Singh Gill-Executive Chef-Welcomgroup Maurya Sheraton, Chef  Devinder -Meridien and Chef Sudhir Sibal -Executive Chef The Ashok also the member of the ‘Cub de Chef de Chefs- The Ivy League Club of Chefs assigned to the Head of State, they asked me to meet Chef Saraswat being the senior most and a legend as well. I shuddered at the idea. “Nahi Sir dar lagta hai” was my immediate response! They laughed but compelled me to refer me as well.

For the meet at TAC- Taj Air Caterers, I   was there an hour in advance. Outside the gate waking and smoking in a bid to be calm.

When I was announced, I was flummoxed to be greeted by him with a very warm smile that finding expression all over his face. Here I was like the club class bowler whose loosener saw Vivian Richards play a defensive shot. The thought in my mind was “When Viv Richards plays a defensive shot; the entire cricketing fraternity exclaims “Now what!”

Needless to state, I was on pins & needles. As he led me to his office, pulling the chair for me. I was pinching myself. ‘It was too good to be true.’ Seeing me uncomfortable, he was kind enough to ask me what he could do to make me comfortable. I confessed “Dar lagta hai” recalling the campus interview and quoting from the grapevine. He laughed. To comfort me and put me at ease with “Neelakantan that was then.”  “But Chef, that impression has stayed all these years which was fuelled further by the grapevine at Pusa and on interacting with you at Pusa too.”

To put me at ease he ordered lunch.  Taking the pleasure of serving me as a host would do at home.

I found myself. Then, to realize he was human as human as we who chat ‘nineteen to the dozen’ are, but, he kept his silence, which was misunderstood by us sitting on judgement. This man was charming for me not to notice time ticking away. It was dusk as I bid farewell. It was kind of him to organize a cab with his compliments over ruling my protests to drop me home . Slipping into my hands before closing the door a nice box ” Some treats for your family!”

The grapevine had it that he had ‘a hole in the heart.’ But the wag said “Impossible, for a heartless man.” I differ on that count. With “A man whose large heart we blinded by our prejudices, could not view.”

He shared very many insights which made for a great story on the Chefs of India in Delhi.

 I recall, starting the feature referring to the short story by Jeffery Archer on the boy who serendipitously becomes a great Chef. Detailing the hard work, grit determination and the long hours that become endless more when a Chef joins the managerial cadre.Getting rave reviews for the feature. One of my first attempts in mainline editions.

 But the finest and first among all callers from Chefs that Sunday was from the legend Chef Arvind Saraswat, calling early to compliment me for a lovely article.  Inviting me over whenever I wished to.

On noticing the cricket ground attached to the TAC, similar to those in New Zealand, I inquired whether my boys could play here; a cricket ground, basin shaped butting the road leading to the airport.He introduced me to the Manager to liaise to play our games there. My boys used to organize inconsequential fixtures just to play there in those picturesque settings. Lunch the airline food then a novelty to us being the bonus.

 Thank you Chef Arvind Saraswat.The first Indian Chef, presumably to author a book- his first of many- ‘Prashad Cooking with the Masters’ co authored with Jiggs Kalra with whom he did India’s 1st cookery series by the same name Prashad…

Go in peace to join your good friend Jiggs Kalra who has preceded you. To cook Prashad Cooking with Indian Masters for the Gods waiting in attendance.

A Tribute

Mr YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

 A tribute to the late YC Deveshwar, former Chairman, ITC 

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division). 

And I, the Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad. 

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in tall at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours,  into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WGV GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in and  with one glance remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God, every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to. 

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the light glow,  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training with “Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check; if his staff were ready to receive guests. A hectic day late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected on his stature as the MD and his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I could not as he had in truly  007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no class room lecture could have. I chuckle at the thought of St. Peter   caught napping, literally ! 

MS Neelakantan  is a  Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/

YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

The Late YC Deveshwar and His Eye for DetailA tribute to the ITC Chairman

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division).

And I, the  Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad.

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours, tall into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WG Vadodara team of  GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in, with with on one glance, sweeping the lobby remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God,! every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to.

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a  team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify; is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the  light glow  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training sessions  with a “ Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I  help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check if his staff were ready to receive guests.  A hectic day, late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected  on his stature as the MD and  his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I  could not as he had in truly 007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no  class room lecture could have.I chuckle at the thought of  St. Peter  going to be caught napping, literally !

(MS Neelakantan- is a Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Co-founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/ . Aslso  ranked high on www.quora.com as a life coach .

Howard Gardner’s Eight types of Human Intelligence and Hotel Management

Dr. Howard Gardener, Harvard University Professor and a developmental psychologist developed the Eight Intelligence concept in 1983 .The theory being every human being has one or more ways of learning according to her/ his intelligence.

In this respect a  Hotel management student learns in all the eight methods leading to developing an aptitude.And to choose the department she/he is most apt at.

What are the Eight  human intelligence?

Kinesthetic intelligence– People skilled at using their body; their hands and legs. Anywhere skills are required. Hand Hand & eye coordination with a fine sense of their body awareness.The skills normally associated with those in the Food & Beverage Service, the Kitchens and the House-keeping areas. Using the service spoon & fork to serve, walking with a tray heavy with a  food order; in the kitchens to use the different types of knives and other equipment ,in the housekeeping department  to use equipment, to clean guest  rooms , make beds, be creative with floral arrangements and  make the beds e al.

Spatial Intelligence: Ability to visualize and think in three dimensional  shapes and sizes.Examples being banquet themes by Food & Beverage  Service Staff, buffet counter displays by Chefs, interior decoration themes including soft furnishings in guest rooms and public areas by Housekeepers as well as in designing uniforms.

Mathematical Intelligence: The intelligence to think with reason and logic to solve problems: The ability to think logically and with reasoning as in managing guest complaints by all the Service Staff.

Auditory Intelligence: Intelligence: The ability to learn and work by listening & hearing as well as speaking. Applicable to all  personnel n the hotel.  The intelligence to listen and speak. Primarily related to Oral Communication which  is the main type of communication practiced. A waiter taking an order.  A House-keeping staff listening and ensuring  a guest request. A Room Reservations clerk taking down a reservation. Or a Chef preparing the required order on listening from the waiter.

Linguistic Intelligence Intelligence to listen and understand language as well as to speak and write. Now we all are aware of how much a guest feels at home once we can understand and converse in his language. Again  applicable to all the staff waiting on guests.

Naturalist Intelligence:  To be sensitive to nature and excel at it :  The drive from the main gate to the portico, even in city hotels would be limed with well manicured lawns.  Hotels for aesthetic purposes and for a green touch Hotels a potted plants in the public area.   Restaurant tables normally have a bud vase on the table .  The swimming pool area around which there would be a coffee-shop/ restaurant would  usually be encircled by a manicured lawn. A water body and lawns in close proximity.  It is but natural staff develop a naturalist intelligence.

Intra-personal Intelligence: Intelligence to be aware of self, emotions, motivation , goals etc.This is a must as  the hotel is a ‘people industry’ and all the staff must have fine intra-personal intelligence and keep developing it with the period of time. Team-members are people, other department members are people and of course guests too.

Interpersonal Intelligence: Intelligence to understand the other.: The hotel is the place where the guest comes for his basic needs of food & shelter. The hotel staff have to have this intelligence not just to interact with the guest but to interact with their team members, their colleagues in the other departments with whom they have to coordinate regularly. A fine example would be of a front office clerk who has to, on registering a guest coordinates with Room  Service, House-keeping and other Food & Beverage Outlets. Also internally within the Front Office Department itself with the  Billing section and the Reservations department. This sort of interpersonal interactions are frequent and not just restricted to arrivals, departures and reservations.

 

 

Why Hotel Industry is referred to as the ‘father of the Service Industry’

WHY The hotel Industry is unique in very many aspects and referred to as the ‘Father of the Service Industry’

  • It is the only industry serving the basic needs of Man- Food & Shelter.
  • The ‘People’s Industry’- People are the clients, referred to as Guests, People wait on them  – ‘For the People by The People!’
  • The only industry and segment of the service industry where books of accounts are closed for the day at the stroke of midnight. A new folio opened for the next day.
  •  Doors are open 24 hours a day 365 days a year. ‘The show must go on’ is practiced here.
  • ‘Father of the Service Industry’ as only in a hotel is the processing to finished goods to sale and consumption happens under one roof. Unlike in banking, aviation….

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