The Big Climb: Vikas Milhoutra
What attracted you to the role?
I have been working in the culinary industry for 28 years now as a chef and of this, the last 17 years as an executive chef in seven different cities globally. Each city and destination was different from the other and after having worked in India, Maldives, Mauritius, and the UK, I thought that the Middle East, and especially Dubai, will be a great place to be in because it is international, has a high level of competitiveness, and most of all easy availability of any ingredient that a chef could desire.
How have your past experiences lent themselves to your expertise in this role?
I have been fortunate to have worked in some of the most exquisite properties of Taj across the world and the hotels have ranged from palaces (Rambagh Palace, Jaipur) to resorts (Fort Aguada Beach Resort in Goa and Maldives), to an international city hosting the 2012 Olympics (St James Court London).
The foundation of my career was at the oldest and most precious of our hotels — Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai.
All these experiences taught me how to work with people of different nationalities, understand and make the most of local produce, and appreciate the cultural diversity of both our guests and colleagues and accordingly plan menus/themes etc. to suit their tastes. An important lesson was that a cut, copy, paste formula will not and cannot work across destinations.
What are you most looking forward to as part of this new role?
To make the most of my learning of the Middle Eastern palate and how I could use this knowledge to provide an international appeal. I look forward to the challenge of being able to create meal experiences which would appeal to every nationality visiting our hotel and there are over 32 of them. I also hope to be able to share my knowledge and learnings with my young team and equip them for a better future.
Can you share your thoughts on sustainability issues? Is there anything you and Taj Dubai will be doing to improve it?
It is imperative that we live, procure and use our natural resources responsibly so that we can leave behind enough resources for successive generations.
At Taj we are very serious about this and go through a whole lot of measures towards a more sustainable future. For example, our menus do not contain wild salmon, shark’s fin etc. across the group. Water conservation is another big focus and the same is also shared with colleagues and guests. We need to source our products right — use organic foods, line caught fish instead of the trawler catch etc.
We look into how food is produced, how it is transported, how it is consumed and finally how it is disposed in a way friendly to the environment.
What is your favourite thing about the hotel’s brands?
‘Tajness’ which is an initiative of our company that celebrates all that is good about us as the custodian of Indian hospitality. We offer a set of experiences and rituals that set us apart from the other brands.