A day in the life: Rene Alejandro Manzanilla Vela

The head chef at Trader Vic’s, Hilton Dubai Jumeirah talks us through a typical day
Rene Alejandro Manzanilla Vela
Rene Alejandro Manzanilla Vela

8:30am – I wake up and take a shower.

8:45am – It’s time for a fresh cup of coffee together with breakfast. Depending on how much time I have, I will prepare either a simple bowl with cereal, or our favourite sourdough, poached eggs with grated tomato and garlic.


9:00 am – This time of the morning, I love to spend time with my wife. As a chef, it’s sometimes hard that on weekends, I am away from my family. I am lucky to have a wife who understands the nature of the industry I have chosen and loves me deeply. Having her unconditional support makes me even more motivated to start my busy weekend days.

9:15am – I get ready to head to work while listening to my favourite podcast from Mexico. This takes me back home in a way and gives me a positive vibe to embrace busy Friday operations at Trader Vic’s.

9:45am –The first thing I would do once I reach the hotel, is to check on the kitchen, turn on the lights and start with the final setup for Cheeky Tiki Brunch. Upon arrival, I will start the fire in our signature Trader Vic´s Chinese wood-fired oven. The design of Trader Vic’s Chinese wood-fired ovens can be traced back to the Han Dynasty and are built onsite in all our restaurants. The ovens are encased in glass so that our guests can see this unique operation

10:00am – Hang the roast to cook for 3 hours on the wood fire to get that amazing smoked aroma.

10:30am – I will take a short tea break

10:35am – I have a catch up with the restaurant manager to finalize details about the Friday brunch bookings, food allergies or any VIP details, as well as the reservations or groups for the night.

11:45 am – Finalise the preparations and gather the culinary team for a pre-brunch briefing. On those briefings, I brief the team about the brunch bookings, special requirements by the guests and delegate responsibilities for the day.

12:30 pm – We start the Cheeky Tiki Brunch service.

1:00 pm – I am back at the Trader Vic’s wood oven to check on the roast and portion it accordingly.

2:30 pm – By this time, main course service is finished and I will go check on my pastry team who is plating all the desserts. This is also the time during brunch when I like to go to the guest’s tables and check on their feedback. We have a lot of regular guests at our brunch, and as a chef, it feels great seeing familiar faces every week coming for some great food and great vibes.

4:00pm – We close the brunch service. I will have lunch with my culinary team and talk about operations, what can we improve or change for next week. We also discuss feedback from guests which they gather as well.

5:00 pm – This is my ‘me time’ of the day. Time to grab an espresso, slow down a bit and catch up on social media and news from my family and friends all around the world.

5:15 pm – Second briefing about the dinner service, check the stocks and availabilities. We also prepare mis en place for Saturday brunch.

5:30 pm – We open for dinner service.

8:30 pm – Restaurant gets really busy at this time of the evening. Even though I feel a bit tired by then, the music and atmosphere in the restaurant gives me that new bolt of energy – it’s like I am suddenly in a beach party on some tropical island and I love it.

10:30pm – I check my emails, place orders for the next few days or have a one-on-one catch up with some members of my culinary team. I joined Trader Vic’s JBR recently and I like spending time with my team and learn more about them – personally and professionally. It’s been a tough year for everyone considering we are all far away from our families, and my goal is to be there for my team at this time more than ever. I will take a look around the restaurant and check on guest’s satisfaction and head home.

11:00 pm – I reach home and I cook again! But this time, it’s for my favourite customer - my wife J. We usually watch a movie after dinner and chat about our day.

1:00 am – Sleep. It’s an early start and late finish for me, but I truly enjoy vibrant Friday operations at Trader Vic’s JBR.

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