Celebrated Chef Vineet Bhatia, whose illustrious global career started with the Oberoi Hotels, tells us what makes the Biki blitzkrieg so brilliant!
Back in the 1980s, a young student at the Oberoi School of Hotel Management (as the Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development was then known), was very aware of the persona of PRS Oberoi, a man whom people around him feared.
Now, close to four decades later, Chef Vineet Bhatia, whose own accomplishments are legendary (with multiple Michelin stars, restaurants, books, and shows under his toque, and Culinary Ambassador for GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland since 2021), sings paeans about the man from whom, he says he learnt a lot.
“Whatever I am today is, in many ways, because of what working at the Oberois has taught me. I really can’t thank Mr Oberoi enough for what he has done. Not just for me as a person, but for the entire hospitality industry,” he avers.
Bhatia, who was training at the Oberoi back in 1985-86, says even if you never met him directly, you could sense his aura or presence when he was in the hotel. And later, when he joined the Oberoi group in 1988 as an apprentice after completing his training, working under the eagle eyes of PRS Oberoi in Delhi, he understood why everyone was so much in awe of the man at the top.
“Mr Oberoi has a very keen sense and eye for detail. He’s very particular. That’s something I learnt from him,” Bhatia says. He explains, “He’s extremely particular about everything, including his own lifestyle, about how he dresses, how he operates, how he conducts meetings… He has extremely good taste in luxury and in life. He’s very used to only dealing with best. So, when you’re around someone like that, you are at your best because he demands the best from you. He demands 100 per cent and nothing less. This has been instilled in my DNA and stays with me even today,” says Bhatia.
When he left the Oberoi group in 1993 to move to the UK, he had never met PRS Oberoi face to face.
It was only in 2009, when the veteran wanted to meet the chef who had gone places, taking Indian cuisine to never-before-achieved glory, wanting him to create the vision for Ziya, a new Indian restaurant at Oberoi Mumbai. that they finally spoke.
Bhatia smiles, “I was given a slot in 2009 to meet him for 30 minutes and I thought I’d make the most of it. That meeting went on for three hours. We had a great handshake at the end, a hug from him and his blessings. He said, ‘Ziya is going to be your baby’.”
What touched Bhatia even more was that when announcing Ziya to guests and the media, PRS Oberoi described his return to the Oberoi fold as ‘the prodigal son returns’. “I was so touched and emotional to be welcomed back by this iconic man, a legend. It was special to me,” he admits.
Working with him closely, has given Bhatia a deeper understanding of Oberoi’s genius. “He’s absolutely legendary. His stories are world renowned and they’re actually true! Hat’s off to the man who has put Indian hospitality on the world map. The legacy he has created is something very few people in this world can ever do.”
The chef adds, “He has a very strong opinion of how he wants things. He is very vocal about it. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell you on your face. But if you can convince him and tell him what you need and why you need it with proper reasoning, then he will back you through and through, which most people don’t know.”
According to Bhatia, “You need to be able to be strong enough to tell him ‘Mr Oberoi, I feel this is the way it can be done’ and if you can justify it, then I promise you, hand on my heart, that he will give you whatever you want.” That unequivocal support he offers his team is what lends itself to true success.