Michelin-star Executive Chef on creating world-class experiences around food.
Born in Queens, Akshay Bhardwaj studied business at Fordham University and Baruch College, and then pivoted to his passion: cooking. His ascension in the culinary world was extraordinary; between 2012 and 2017, he worked his way from working the line to executive chef at Junoon. Junoon was awarded one Michelin Star eight consecutive years from 2011, and held the title of the only Indian restaurant in New York City with a Michelin Star from 2018-2019. He was also selected as a Gohan Society Culinary Scholar — and traveled to Japan to study the delicate art of omakase — and became the first Indian chef to be selected for the Forbes “30 under 30: Food & Drink” list. Bhardwaj showcases a menu that reflects the diversity of India, steeped in the classics while offering deft touches of modernity.
Show Notes & Links
- Michelin Interview
- Forbes 30 under 30
- AkshayRocks on Twitter
- Junoon NYC
- Setting the Table by Danny Meyer (Shake Shack)
- Boiling Point Gordon Ramsey Documentary
- The Devil in the Kitchen Marco Pierre White
- Sanjeev Kapoor
- Chef mentality vs Cook mentality
Madhav SBSS 0:05
Hello boys and girls. Welcome to this episode of seeking Sathya podcast. Today my guest is Akhay Bharadwaj. Akshay is a Michelin star executive chef. He’s been featured on Forbes 30 under 30. Following a stint at Juno in Dubai, he returned to genome in New York City to become a sous chef. Along the way, he learned French, Italian and Japanese culinary techniques working on the way in which he applies a genome to help push the boundaries of Indian cuisine. He was promoted to the executive chef in 2016. Actually, cooking has a strong emotional component rooted in childhood fond memories, and how they made him feel. In October 2019 gentleman was awarded a Michelin star for the ninth year in a row. Juno now holds the title of the only Indian restaurant in New York City with a Michelin star. And he is one of the youngest Indian chefs to be recognized for this coveted award. Akshay visits Indian India regularly where he enjoys his grandmother’s cooking. Okay, thanks for coming on the show.
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:04
Thank you so much for having me. Really appreciate it.
Madhav SBSS 1:08
Awesome. You were born in Queens, growing up in New Jersey? How is it like growing up?
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:15
Growing up in Queens, I have a older brother and my mom and my father, who was also in the restaurant industry. And when I was seven years old, I moved to New Jersey, where I’ve lived ever since. So I kind of Yeah, it was it was it was an interesting childhood kind of moving from living in a small apartment with two bedrooms and a bunk bed, and one bathroom that we all shared to finding a little bit of success, my father was able to start a restaurant. And he saw a great deal of success in 1997 and expanded the company. In 2001, we moved to New Jersey, where, you know, I got to, you know, study and some better schools and whatnot. Now eventually went to Fordham and then kind of ended up changing course, and finding my way into the kitchen, which was definitely not planned when I was younger.
Madhav SBSS 2:24
Any fond memories from either from your parents or your grandmother growing up to do you recall any specific foods or anything that sort of takes you back?
Akshay Bharadwaj 2:37
Yeah, I would, I would, first and foremost say that I was the first child born in America on either side of the family. So my older brother, he was born in India, two years after my parents got married, they had an arranged marriage. And when my parents came to America in 1990, my brother was three years old, I was born three years later. So I was the prototypical American child, where when my grandparents would come and visit, my grandmother could only speak in Hindi. And I could only speak in English. I wasn’t too fond of Indian culture didn’t really go and see bollywood movies, didn’t really spend time, you know, with the family whenever, you know, they go to the cinema or go to a show in Atlantic City to watch. You know, I’m about budgeting or one of these guys. So it was it was definitely I was definitely the odd man out. My brother could speak fluent Hindi. He grew up on Bella javal. But my mom did instill in me eating Indian cuisine on day in and day out basis. She would cook six days a week or seven days a week. Mostly vegetarian meals. So I already in a big steel Dolly, a different subject almost every day. So we’re talking Allah goby, motor pioneer gear Gaea in the story. You bindi, you name it, and I ate it with, you know, and wrote the stuff I wrote to my mother when it comes and she made everything from scratch. So it’s actually funny. We made this joke nowadays, that I used to actually get very cranky. When my parents would order outside food if they Ordered Chinese food or pizza, or Burger King, whatever it was, I used to really get offended like, why are we eating this? When I’m, you know, in love with eating dog row decency. So it’s kind of funny because most kids if you if you see that, and it’s unfortunate, but in Indian culture, as well as probably other Culture is the kid that grew up here in America are more used to eating outside food, whether it’s because both the parents are working, or whatever the case is, they don’t have time to prepare the meals, it is a long process a few hours, you know, if you’re making everything from scratch, like my mother used to. So I guess it’s kind of interesting that I grew up in that time. And so much has changed in the last 15 or 20 years. And especially in the last decade, I went from not being able to speak a lick of Hindi to now I am fluent in Hindi, and speak better Hindi than my brother.
Because I work in an Indian kitchen. And when I was forced to do that, so, you know, there’s definitely a lot of fun memories, where every time we used to go to India, I was very lucky that in the 2000s, when I was 10 years old, 11 years old, you know, throughout high school, we would go in the wintertime during winter vacation. So two weeks, in December, we would take a trip, and we would go and stay at, you know, my paternal grandfather’s house. And while we were there, my grandmother, on both my mom and father side would cook, you know, 24, seven, breakfast, lunch and dinner, we would go and eat out anyway. But we were still eating at home multiple times a day. So it was always great to see kind of the culture and the difference. In India versus America. You know, one of the one of the biggest differences I would say is the produce in India, the vegetables, when I was shocked to see that you wake up in the morning in New Delhi, and you hear a gentleman screaming from the street, yelling, you know, go bubala goby Roby. You know, like, things like that there’s yelling and yelling the produce of the day, the vegetables that he has on his part, as he’s pulling the cart down the street, people just, you know, go outside their house, will yell for the guy to come over and you know, pick out whatever veggies that they want. And they’ll cook with that. So the concept of going to the grocery store or going to the farmers market, isn’t as crucial as, as it is here. So it was definitely interesting. We also have the running joke that my grandmother, so old school, she was born I guess in 1939 1938 1939. So she has to there was no concept of microwaves. So she, when I say she has to eat something hot, or drink something hot when she makes Chai, or she’s making a roti if or pronta if you do not eat it within the first five seconds to 10 seconds. That is like slapping her in the face. Oh, yeah, just because that’s how she’s used to a tee. She’s not you know, my mother always. You know, laughs about it, because she’s still to this day, as to forcefully drink a cup of Chai within like, you know, the snap of a finger and two seconds URLs to the the grandma, my grandmother will start you know, making faces and kind of, you know, bitching at my mom, pardon my French but there’s definitely a lot of that it’s been It was definitely very interesting growing up and seeing kind of the differences between the American lifestyle and Indian myself whenever I went back home.
Madhav SBSS 8:39
That’s just that’s a phenomenal story. I mean, like, the couple of things that you mentioned, like the fresh produce, for example, the guy yelling out, you know, the produce of the day. I mean, I think the freshness is a key part of, I guess at least Indian cooking and culture. And that’s just, you can’t even imagine that right in some parts of the world where there is no fresh purchase, you just go get this stuff from freezer section.
Akshay Bharadwaj 9:10
And the and the other thing the other craziest thing is even at our restaurant, there’s days when I get frustrated because you I’m trying to replicate something out of memory, something an emotion that I have felt when I eat something, there’ll be something as simple as just a brand that has a stuffing inside of it. And all the components call for is yogurt on the side and buttered smeared on top. Yes, because my grandmother makes her yogurt from scratch in her house. And the butter is also the side rosette good quality that her food is superior quite frankly to anything that I can try to replicate in a kitchen in new York City.
Madhav SBSS 10:01
On the note of your mom’s cooking and your grandmother’s cooking, I did notice that you have something called mass rice pudding. That’s part of your menu. I think a ginger junoon is right.
Akshay Bharadwaj 10:14
Yes. So it actually advertised, my mother really does come to the restaurant, and she really does make the rice pudding. So there is no, I make it, my pastry chef makes it and we just put a spin on it and put her name on it. The New York Post actually did an article on us because they were so blown away by the concept of a chef’s mother coming in and preparing a dish that’s on the menu, and is loved by so many people. The backstory kind of behind that was that growing up growing up in Queens, and then growing up in New Jersey, I used to hang out with my friends after school. And all of my friends were either Jewish or Asian Americans, you know, Korean, or, and whatnot. I had very few Indian friends, there were only probably two or three Indian kids in my grade actually. So with that being said, they were in they had never tried Indian cuisine in their life. And it was a totally foreign kind of concept watching us eat with our hands. And, and the whole, the whole experience. So it took them a while to gradually warm up to actually try my mom’s food because we used to spend a lot of time at my home, where you know, we had a backyard That was perfect for football and perfect for soccer and baseball, it was nice and long in length. So we used to usually just play sports in the backyard, and then come inside and grab our water or Gatorade and whatnot. So my mom would be cooking and she would always offer them food, they would always say no. And then finally after a few years, you know they warmed up to it, they ate a roti, they fell in love with that, then they a chocolate booty Chola they fell in love with that chicken goodie over and over that. So just gradually became a thing where my mom always just knew that, hey, oxes friends are coming over, I better make some extra rookies, I better make extra on Sunday, you know, extra whatever. So rice pudding was definitely a thing that she would make whenever we used to have food does at our house, which would be on a Sunday, which would be like us to me, or one of those, you know, a whole one more festivals. So every time we would do that my mother would invite PRC and invite her friends, our family friends, and they had kids and whatnot. And I would invite my friends and we would play in the backyard. And then around three o’clock, four o’clock in the afternoon, we would come inside on a Sunday and do Puja, they would participate my friends, the you know, all my friends would participate. And they would eat the full meal, whatever it was. And rice pudding was definitely one of their favorites. There was no doubt about it. Everybody fell in love with it. Everyone used to go crazy about it. Essentially, the same thing happened when I started working in junoon. My mother started picking me up from school, school, not school picking me up from work. And once in a while when there was a puja or something, she would bring rice pudding, give it to the staff, she would tell me to do it. And I would and the staff would always go crazy about it. And even though we had rice pudding on the menu already from a pastry chef, the whole staff would gravitate towards this rice pudding, it would be sneaking it in quart containers and to go boxes, you would just see stashes of rice pudding all throughout the kitchen, it actually became a rule that I would hand it out in a bowl to each person, because I couldn’t just leave it out there for people because some guy would end up taking like two three, yeah, a huge bucket of it. Basically, that’s exactly what happened. So it is is this something that everyone loves. And finally in 2016 or so, we kind of came up with the idea when I took over as head chef, my pastry chef that I hired joined the staff you know, we discussed the menu moving forward and one of those ideas was Hey, what about your mother’s pudding, whatever, you know, what are we realistically put that on the menu. It will make our lives easier. It’s great and flavour and you know maybe she’ll like like it and she loved the idea she likes that she loved hanging out in the kitchen love to you know, kind of watch me work and whatnot. So it just worked perfectly and that’s been on the menu ever since. Well, you
Madhav SBSS 14:47
also mentioned something about your early childhood, your dad starting cafe spice. Do you recall anything specify any particular memory stick with you? During those days, you know, going from that, like two bedroom apartment where, you know, you mentioned about the shared bathroom and very, you know, down to beginnings, and then starting this cafe spice restaurants, I would think. And how did I mean? Did you as a child learn something from that, that that influenced you?
Akshay Bharadwaj 15:22
Yeah, I would, I would definitely say, two words that I learned at a very young age. And those two words would be work ethic. I would I would say, my father, right now I was four years old, five years old. He put in so much work. I’m talking from morning, when we go went to school, he was getting up and getting ready for work, which was 7am. And most nights, he would not be back before midnight. No chance. I never I thought it was that, Oh, well, dad’s probably hanging out at the bar, having a drink and just hanging out, you know, how difficult can his job be? Every time I go to the restaurant, you know, he joined us for dinner. So it was probably just every night eating dinner sitting and whatnot. And only, you know, did I realize 13 for 15 years after the fact when I actually started having to work. And I had to book no room to sleep next door to the restaurant because I had to wake up too early. And I was sleeping so late, that I realized that damn, you know, there’s, there’s some serious work that he had to put in to see his vision actually come to fruition. Because this industry, I’m sure you see the stats, and you notice that they might say 6% or profitable or whatever I think realistically 99% of restaurants are doing from the start, you’re essentially opening a restaurant to shut it down. And that’s, it’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. And I think we’ve definitely seen this past year with the pandemic, exactly how fragile of a system this industry is. So for my father to be able to have this vision, him and his partner were able to you know, build it. And since day one of the restaurants, they were packed every night. You know, they expanded. So I definitely saw just how much work he had to put in. And I remember just the smell of like him being very sweaty, like I will never forget, like it smells like just, you know, he was cooking in the kitchen. Also he was he’s a trained chef. So he would sometimes be he was training this this other staff and showing them how some of the careers of the gravies of imaginations work to be made. And you could smell it on them. Really you would I could smell like raw meat like this odor and hide. It sounds like I’m talking trash about him, you know that he does it but it was just that he was working so hard. He would come home and crash and sleep. And I remember on my sixth birthday, I think it was that it was November Thanksgiving weekend is over is where my birthday. So I was getting ready for school. I was in the second grade or first grade. And my mom, you know, I came into my parents room. My mom like tagged my dad on the shoulders like a you know, actually his birthday like he knew but he was passed out sleeping you know without really like turning around and wishing me or anything like when under his futon because they had a futon of like a bed bed. So it was like on the floor basically like a mattress with the you know the wooden planks. So he just reads kind of like under him and pulled out a Razor scooter on handed handed me his birth my birthday present to me. And he just went right back to sweet. And I was very happy I got my Razor scooter. I was thrilled. It had orangewheels I still remember, but I just remember that he was so exhausted that there were no real emotion there. There was this kind of like handing it to me and go back to sleep because he had to go back and work another 14 hours, 16 hours. So that’s something I’ll never forget.
Madhav SBSS 19:24
You certainly probably missed some of the time as he was working hard for such long hours. But at the same time, it gave you some sense of what it takes to achieve that kind of excellence. And that’s, that’s amazing. I also think that as a child you learn piano for like 1213 years is the right?
Akshay Bharadwaj 19:49
I was gonna say basically, no one thing. No, I really, really despised playing the piano growing up. I used to hate taking Since my mom used to sign me up for every single activity, you could think of swimming lessons, Taekwondo lessons, piano lessons, baseball, basketball, all these sports. I’m talking like Middle School, third grade, fourth grade, whatever piano, I started in kindergarten. And I used to always fight her on all of these things. But now as the 27 year old, I can firmly say that I’m so so thankful that she was forcing me to do these activities, because half of them I actually ended up loving, like I was like, I’m proud that I can play the piano now I can play Mozart, Beethoven, it’s great. It’s a great skill to have. And sports I fell in love with eventually. So I ended up really liking a lot of those things. But I would have never on my own wanted to try try any of those things. So if I can give a tip to any young parent, I would say just make Forster to do everything, they might hate you. But they’ll find something that they love. Because of it probably.
Madhav SBSS 21:01
When you say now you definitely look back and appreciate it. Do you see some of that? applying to what you do today?
Akshay Bharadwaj 21:11
Yeah, I think that’s a? That’s a great question. I think with the piano, there’s so much repetition that you need to continuously practice. And you need to have a great fundamental day. My tenor teacher, he was from China, but he played for the German orchestra. And he was super gifted. And unlike other kids that were my age, he used to force me to do sight reading, which was read the notes and play instead of memorizing. And I always used to get upset at him we got we kind of became very close friends later on when I was in high school, just because I spent so much time with them. So I used to, you know, openly get upset that hey, like, let me just I can play faster if if you just let me memorize. And he would say no, you got to practice your scales, you got to get get your fundamental basics to be the best. Because once you have those you’re set in life, you will always know how to play the piano, if you can read the notes, you can always you can memorize one sheet of music, and then you will never know what to do when something new comes in front of you. And I think that’s a lot like cooking, where you need that repetition. And you need to understand the fundamental basics of whatever it is that you’re doing. Because nowadays, when I look at a recipe, I’m not really looking at how many ounces or how many grams of specific ingredient, I just kind of scan the ingredients, scan the method maybe. And then I can make my own estimate on what I need to do for that district come out well, and the free, can you make a dish, it’ll come out, okay, the second time you make it, it’ll come out a lot better a little bit better the next time a little bit better than next time. And if you just keep getting better. And it’s the same thing with music and the piano and just about anything, if you say sports, or whatever it is, the more that you practice, the more time that you spent doing something, we’re going to eventually get to a point where you’re great at it. And even once you’re great at it, you can still do better. So I would definitely say that those were probably the similarities and shaft now I definitely respect the musicians themselves. If you look at Beethoven, I always tell my staff the story about Beethoven and the fact that this guy was deaf, and I’ll play like his symphonies. When, you know, when we’re in the kitchen, sometimes when I’m telling a cook about him, it’s like, listen to this, this is this is masterful, it’s phenomenal. The guy did it without even being able to really hear what he was doing. But he was just so masterful at it. And I think music is a creative expression. It’s something that, you know, it’s new every time if you’re making something, you know, if you’re if you’re giving a performance, if you give a concert in New York, your concert will be slightly different than the concert you give in Boston. And the constant you know, it’s, it’s, it’s different every time you’re physically playing something. And if you’re creating something that also you’re expressing your emotion onto the page when you’re writing music, so I think there’s definitely very similar aspects of that in cooking as well. Every single night you’re cooking the maybe the same dish, you’re giving the same concert, but it’s still going to be a little different. The guests it’s subjective to the guests It’s subjective to the listener to what the guests he might, he might think it’s really great one day and my thing is in the next day, same thing with the person listening to the music, you might think it’s great, another person might think it’s terrible. It’s all subjective. So I definitely think that there’s there is parallel to it, there’s similarities to
Madhav SBSS 25:20
the creative expression that you talk about. Actually, I try to cook once a week, or once in two weeks for the creative expression, because I do art. And I love creating stuff on the white canvas. So whenever I’m trying to cook, I tend to just create something I’m looking for, hey, what if I put this this and this, instead of for following a formula? You know, what if what, what’s going to come out? That that mysterious aspect of it. I love that part of it, like the creative expression. But I’m sure as a Michelin star chef for a restaurant, you might not have the leeway to experiment. Since we were on the topic, I was going to ask you later, but maybe Could you expand on? How do you experiment with the creative expression in the food that you prepare? Because at the same time, you have to maintain the quality? You have to maintain the expectations of the people in our lab? How do you manage that while also experimenting?
Akshay Bharadwaj 26:22
Yeah, that’s, it’s kind of, it’s pretty interesting, because I would junoon, we were, I was given a blank canvas, kind of how you say when you’re when you’re drawing, I was given a blank canvas in that I was given complete creative control over the menu, and of what we do and how we do it. And I think that’s one of the important things that I’ve learned from my father was, if you’re going to push the boundaries, which my father has tried to do with Indian cuisine, his whole life, you have to be bold, and you have to take chances and take risks. Sometimes it’ll pay off and you’ll be very satisfied. Sometimes it won’t pay off. And when it doesn’t pay off, you should learn from that learn from the mistake. Like you said, You cook, and sometimes you experiment and you put three ingredients in without looking at the recipe and say, What if this works, if it doesn’t work, you learn from it. You know, if cinnamon if you put too much nutmeg or too much green cardamom, you realize oh, and nutmeg is a very strong spice jar and uses very strong spice. I shouldn’t put that much of it. You know, it happens to everyone. I’ve learned the same way. So, you know, when it comes to creative expression, we were lucky because at junoon we were given a chef’s tasting menu. So we had our regular standard three, three Course Menu, prefix menu, our cards menu, you know, whatever the menu was. So some of the classics that we had like your Margiela, Bob door, your daughter down me those things were staying on the menu no matter what. But on the tasting menu, I used to get basically 10 dishes or so that I could play with and that I could change around which is great. And then on the regular menu because we were trying to be more seasonally driven and use the best purveyors and think outside the box not be like every other Indian restaurant that you know just serves a curry and a bowl and calls it a day or just shows that you can peek on the playground with onions and mint chutney you know, you can get that everywhere you go, you know, or see kebab with onions and green chutney, that’s nothing new. It’s been done for hundreds of years 1000s of years. So, you know of apples. We’re in season in New York City. You know, the fall season has great apples and grapes, pears. So we would do an apple chutney, for instance. Or during the spring and summer when berries are in full season, we would do something with berries a berry chutney that might go with, you know, a sea kebab, you know that you wouldn’t normally think those two things will work or that you’ve even maybe tried that. But those are the sorts of things that we used to always try. And I was lucky that I got those opportunities. So I always kind of played around with different techniques. Meaning, you know, using a Japanese technique on an Indian dish, for example, like our tuna, we did a tuna Pani Puri, which will go the bus but instead of the traditional aliou stuffing, we did tuna rechart masala raw tuna stuffed in it and instead of your regular meant cilantro, tamarind water that’s your green chili, you know water that you put up and you eat. We made a cilantro based dashi ranges from kombu, which is a Japanese ingredient that they that they use, and is very important for, for their cuisine, if they’re making, you know, almost coffee or anything like that. So, you know, we kind of played around with it a couple of times, and we saw that, wow, this is giving us a totally different experience.
It’s an astrology in a way, because the whole process of punching your cracker and filling the cracker with the water, the bottom of the pot, the funny part, and eating it, that whole experience is there. And then once you bite into it, and burst with the water and everything in your mouth, but this time, you’re getting a different sense of umami, and you’re getting that masala with the tuna. And it is a totally different experience, you know, we would add some chopped onion chopped tomatoes in there. So you’re just getting something that you wouldn’t be able to get in any other restaurant, most likely, in the country or in the world. So those are the sorts of things that, you know, we got to really play with, and how we got to create. But on the flip side, we definitely saw that we had a lot of experiments that didn’t go well. And every time for every good dish, you got to decide, maybe it doesn’t work out as well, I have a whole notebook filled with those dishes. But you learn from them. And sometimes those failures help you open the door for a greater success.
Madhav SBSS 31:33
Yeah, I mean, talking about we are definitely experimentation is a key ingredient to actually creating something new, right? If you’re just following like you said, the same old formula from 100 years ago, there’s no experimentation. It’s just a safe approach, you’ll never make anything new. Just to touch on since you brought it up the idea of taking something from a different cuisine or a different practice like a Japanese art. Do you have anything to share around like, I believe in Indian cuisine itself is so wide vast, like ranging things that people make across India. But there’s also so much that could be incorporated like you just did with the with the gold Opus. Did you number one? like did you actually learn like some specific techniques in the Japanese calorie art that you try to adopt? In in general? And is that is that a common practice? Or is it something that not not to add widely adopted by, you know, Indian restaurants across the world.
Akshay Bharadwaj 32:44
So I yes, for Japanese cuisine, I was able to get a culinary scholarship actually, in 2009. Through this nonprofit organization called the go Han society. So each year, they take applications and they’ll take about five to six shots. And you travel to Japan, you travel through different cities, they basically set it up the board of directors, there’s some phenomenal chefs and restaurant tours that are on the board, they will travel with you three, four of them with the five chefs and you go from city to city four or five different cities experience the culture, and then you actually do work for a few days in a restaurant in common is our so each chef is in a different restaurant, and you’re learning, you know, in whichever kitchen that you’re in, so I was able to spend four days there. So, you know, got to really see the different kinds of fishes that they use and some of the techniques that they use for that. But dashi was one of those recipes that I had known about that I had read about. I knew theoretically, but I really had never thought much about it in practical use, like, how would I actually use it in my kitchen. So it really did become a thing where I’m the kind of learner that when I see something that the best way that I can learn it. I know that some people are more auditory learners, or different methods, you know, reading and whatnot. So, for me, it’s whenever I travel to a different city or anything like that, that’s when I usually soak in the culture, and I really can figure out what I can do in an Indian sense through the lens of an Indian chef. So I would say that we were, yes, we were given the opportunity that hey, if you if you have a different technique, and you want to try to implement it into into our budget, you’re free to do that. But we have to also make sure that we stay true to the cuisine on everyone on bastardizing the cuisine, and, you know, that’s always a fine line. You know, you want to make sure that you’re still maintaining the integrity, but you’re also doing Doing something refreshing and new. So yeah, I mean with that, you know, like, like, let’s say for kitri, I thought of a dish where, and it was, you know, through kind of traveling and whatnot that I was, I think in Indonesia. While I was in Indonesia, I was cooking there for a few days. And one of the places we tried, they took a very traditional rice dish. I’m not really remembering the name right now. But on top of the rice, dismissive troubles on it, and when I asked the chef that I was with Hey, like, you know, is this is this how they used to present it is how they usually serve it at home. There’s no this is, you know, this is more of a hero upscale and whatnot. But the flavors, it really matches and the way he made the rice was very traditional. And it was mind blowing. I was I was really, really impressed with it. And in my mind, immediately, I thought, well, why can’t I do Portuguese like that. And the funny thing was, when I returned from Indonesia, we did an event in Italy, which is those big stores are there, I’m not sure if you heard of Italy. So they have like multiple restaurants inside of it. So I was doing an event with one of the restaurants there. And one of the dishes they gave me was just a bowl of plain risotto with just a lot of a mountain of shaved truffles. And I was like, well, this, this is just in my face. Now I have two experiments. When I get back to the kitchen, I’ve seen resilio and truffles, obviously I’ve eaten, you know, multiple times in my life. But the fact that it happened within a few weeks of seeing this Indonesian bush also have troubles on it, I’m going to try my own version. So we get run back to the kitchen, we made katroo de with traditional way, the way that my parents used to make it for me growing up as a child. And we got, you know, a ball of Burgundy trub, white burgundy truffles and shaved it and it was just mind blowing. And ever since that’s been on our tasting menu. Wow.
Madhav SBSS 37:16
It’s mouthwatering. I mean, it’s just sounds Yeah, it sounds so good. And I love the the attitude of experimenting and taking from different cultures. And it’s just phenomenal.
Akshay Bharadwaj 37:31
Yeah. And just to add, because I do you mentioned also like, you know, is it okay, you know, for, for chefs to do something like that, you know, for Indian shots. You know, I definitely think that if you look in the last, the turn of the century, probably and more, so the last 10 years, you would definitely see, I think more chefs has been experimenting, I think they feel more freedom to do it, I think that this new age of social media has kind of opened the floodgates where you can now you know, turn on Instagram, and you can see what you know, a chef across the world is doing, and you know, you can get more motivation or more influence, you know, from seeing all these different things, the inspiration can come from a myriad of ways. So I definitely think that Indian cuisine, especially, has had so many other parts of the world, kind of come to the country and influence our cuisine, whether it was the Portuguese coming to go on, as you know, introducing the, you know, what we know is been diluted today came from Portuguese. And when you look at, you know, the media and you look at, you know, North Indian, and how much the British played a role in North Indian cooking. So I definitely think that you can see different and obviously, the Middle East, but that’s 1000s of years and hundreds of years, you know, whether it’s the tin doors and the spices and things like that, you know, those conference a little west of India, when you’re looking at the map. So there’s definitely been a lot of influences on our cuisine. So that’s why I always kind of laugh when you hear people saying that, oh, you know, Justin’s food, you guys aren’t authentic, you guys aren’t traditional. I’m like, Alright, well, what do you you know, like, I didn’t really know what you guys want, you know, there’s, there’s 1000s of restaurants would do border chicken and almost the entire premiere. If you want that you can get it anywhere. You don’t need to come here. But I want to kind of take influences from around the world and re put it back into our cuisine in a different lens through a more modern technique, and you know, using those, those more newer, you know, the newer technologies of the world and whatnot to kind of enhance the experience that you get, because I do think that when you’re looking at our restaurant, I want it to be an experience for the guests. Not just it’s a meal I pay and I read.
Madhav SBSS 40:06
Yeah, yep. And yeah, talking to you, if you’re taking on that leadership within June, and sort of saying, you know, I’m going to do it slightly differently. But I know, I’m going to be careful about it. But like, I believe you had gone all the way from like line lead and whatnot to second sous chef to sous chef to executive chef now. But then, as you became the chef, I believe, three, three years ago, maybe junoon, already had a reputation. And he was already a well established, high profile Michelin star restaurant. Right? And did that. create any pressure on? You mean, you took it on very early, I believe and like, was there a pressure on you to actually deliver and keep up? And how did you handle that pressure?
Akshay Bharadwaj 40:59
Yeah, no, there’s 100%, there was a lot of pressure. I was 22 years old when I took it over. So I was definitely on the younger side. And being that young, obviously, I had a chip on my shoulder that I got approved myself that I don’t want to be that guy that takes it over. And in this first year, you know, screws, screws, the legacy up. Because we are that boy, and being six years in a row in the Michelin, those no small feat of research of your Indian cuisine, and in New York City to survive that long, was unprecedented. So with them, it was there was there was a lot of pressure and the way to kind of cope with it. Looking back on it, I probably didn’t do the best job of coping with depression, to be honest, looking, looking back on it. Now, what I would definitely say is that I’m more organized. Now, I’m more so focused on my tasks at hand, and but then always thinking big picture. So I’m a big proponent of writing the thoughts down, organizing your thoughts on a piece of paper, more so than even on my laptop, because I do feel that having that pen in your hand and really kind of controlling what you’re writing on the page is just a draw diagram, whatever it is, it’s better that you have that kind of personal connection. putting it on a laptop. So I started doing that and definitely wait for setting my goals in line of today’s my daily goals. Then I have the weekly goals, monthly, you know, mid, the three months away, whatever. And then yearly goals. And I’m not afraid any more of having that daily list, monitoring completed in one day, and being able to prioritize, okay, this is what is the most important star that I got to actually get that done today. But these three other things, yeah, that can go on tomorrow. It’s okay. It’s okay to be vulnerable. But to try and take on everything and to be salt, because when once you become the head chef, you’re not even necessarily cooking as much as you are a problem solver. There are just so many problems that come to a restaurant on a day to day basis. It’s a 24 seven job, even if a restaurant is closed twice a week, on those two days, you’re in charge of that restaurant, and you’re the best. There’s going to be things that you have to get done, there’s gonna be issues, whether it’s a vendor, not being able to deliver your produce, and your meet, another vendor can deliver the or the refrigerator broke, and we need to call someone because things are starting to spoil. or one of the other machines broke in my sous vide machine broke or one of the indoor plates broke and it’s indoors not working. That’s happened several times. We’re on a Friday night service that the newer play broke on, we had to do 300 guests on one to do making both breads and kebab. So there’s definitely been in 10th intent problems that you have to kind of on the fly, adapt. So adaptability. That’s another thing that’s very big. And I would say finding a hobby or to outside of your work is also very important. You might not have hours and hours to spend on that hobby. But if if it’s something that gives you rest and relaxation of your mind and or your body, it’s a good thing. And also for me it’s sports that I love. So catching the end of a Yankees game is important to me or catching a Knicks game and things like that. or going out to another restaurant and dining you know, finding one day a week to do something like that where I can go eat me just And or spend some time with my family, whatever it is, those things were very important to me. And those are things that will definitely help cope with the pressures that you find. Because pressure will be there today, it’s going to be there tomorrow. And the pressure is there 365 days a year. Yeah, that’s just, that’s the nature of the beast. So you’re never going to be able to stop the pressure, the dough is going to be there. But you can find ways to divert it into something positive in your life. So that’s something that I definitely try to do. I know other people do meditation, or they do yoga in the morning, you know, there’s definitely other areas, maybe read a book. And the there’s a myriad of things that you could do. But I definitely think finding an hour or so
every day, or having one day off, or two days off in a week where you can really rest is very important. And then the third thing would just be making sure you’re organized. If you’re having a conversation, whenever I used to go to a meeting, or have a conversation with someone, I would always bring a notepad with me take notes on it, this so that I remember, because you might remember what you said to somebody. 10 minutes from now you’ll remember one hour from now you’ll remember, but six months from now, when you have to remember what he said, there’s no chance. And for me, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast. So it’s probably twice as important.
Madhav SBSS 46:38
You mentioned taking notes and writing or the act of actually putting pen to paper is something that is sort of a rarity nowadays, right? With everything on Insta and but that that sort of gives me perspective of how you think setting, you want that hands on that the personal touch in what you do. And writing on a paper is something that you prefer, rather than Of course, to do it on a phone, you could do it on the laptop. that personal touch, I think is pretty crucial ingredient of being a good chef. And you also talked about Yeah, like, I think just being a problem solver, which I never really thought of a chef as a problem solver. But that’s really unique perspective. I can only imagine, right? I mean, there’s so many things that could go wrong. And like how do you handle this uncertainty.
Akshay Bharadwaj 47:47
Another example No, but to handle the uncertainty. But before I talk about that, the Another example would be that during Restaurant Week, which is the busiest one of the busiest times of the year, where you’re doing about 250 to 300 guests tonight easily. We had in our basement, we had two floors in the restaurant. So the downstairs, all the pipes basically from the upstairs, including the bathrooms and whatnot. All went to the downstairs, we had our sump pump down there. So all the toilets, all the water, everything that in any drain would go over there. So our restaurant was so big that we had to some pumps. And both were needed in order for the water level to overstay down from the because you had the dish machine running. So we would have a glass wash one for glasses, another dish machine for plates and silverware. And then we had another dish machine in the bar that did their cocktail glasses. So that’s constantly running. So that’s a lot of water right there. Then you have all the employees, awesome. Their hands, well, nice. There’s water running there. And then of course, you’re the bathroom. People are using it all night. That’s 300 guests using the bathroom over the course of six hours. So the sump pump broke at around eight o’clock pm on a Friday, Saturday night. With that the dancers started flooding, it started coming over the drains. So now I have a full house, they can’t use the bathroom. Because if they use the bathroom, the toilet water starts to rise, because it’s not going down anymore. So right at that time, we had to figure out okay, how do we manage to a, above all give the guests a satisfactory experience? It’s a lot of first time diners that come for Restaurant Week. So they’ve never eaten engineering. So how do we make sure that they’re having a good time? Plus, they’re having a safe time but things are being you know, everything is safe. And then how do I manage to allow my staff to actually work because we We’re running out of plates we’re running, we shut off the dish machine for a little while while they were trying to fix it. But they said you can’t fix all a company will come overnight, and they’re gonna have to drain everything and all this stuff, just a total, six hour to eight hour process overnight. We can’t do anything about it right now at 8pm on a Saturday night. So, you know, I had to gather my dishwashers and whatnot and ask them listen, we can run the machine, you’re going to have to rotate like a bucket of water. And we’ll you know, we’ll wash a plate like that the old fashioned way. And in the meantime, maybe once an hour, we can run the machine once the level starts going down. And, you know, we turned off the excess, you know, the water for scrubbing and soap and whatnot, because we were used to Queen like, almost every hour when the kitchen, scrub everything down mop and whatnot. So we said, okay, hold off on the marketing, hold off on all these other things. We’ll wait until after the guests leave, and then we’re going to do everything. So you know, in a frantic, you know, ATM, you got you got a flood? What are you gonna do? No, it’s,
Madhav SBSS 51:10
it’s just a follow up on that, like, how do you prepare for something like this? Like, I mean, as a, as the team lead or this, you know, leading everybody? How do you prepare for something like this? Right? You can, right? I mean, there is. And then if you’re not really necessarily prepared, but how do you handle the situation? Like, are you like the commander in chief? Sort of like, Hey, this is what we’re gonna do XYZ, this, how are we gonna, and you have, of course, the guests, and you need to make sure that they’re happy. It’s not just about managing the chaos.
Akshay Bharadwaj 51:43
Yeah, I never, I tried my best not to lead in a militaristic way, whenever I do know, whenever those decisions had to be made, I always tried to be as transparent as possible for my staff, because I think if I’m a human being, on my staff, there’s humans. So if I can come to you on a human level, and be like, Hey, listen, this is a situation, you know, x, y, and z is going wrong, I’m going to need you to pivot, I know that this isn’t maybe your job, or this isn’t what you signed up for. But as you know, I know you have whatever issue is going on in your life, but I’m going to need you to do something different, or do you know, handle this situation this way, rather than this way. So I always tried to present the facts, let them know that I’m coming to you on a human level. And you know, I can’t help and run wise and do it myself, I will do that. But I never want to compromise the product also and the quality. So if, if me having to help somebody compromises the guest experience, I can’t do that person will have to do it, they’ll have to understand and you know, please, you know, do it, we can talk about it later. But let’s just get it done right now. Because during that timeframe, or 6pm, to 10pm, or 11, or however long you’re open for the guest is the most important thing, the way that we pay our bills, the way that we pay the vendors, the way that we pay our guests are not our guests, but our our staff, feed families is the money that the guests are giving us. So they’re having a cruddy time and a crappy time, then guess what they know, we’re gonna have to shutter the doors. So let’s, you know, let’s get the job done. Whatever it takes to get it done, let’s do it. And then we will reflect on it after it’s over. Once the last guest to the left. And we’ve walked door, we can chat we can discuss and we can learn from it. Because you know, like you said, you cannot you there is no chance you can prepare for these kinds of catastrophes when it happens. But experience and having that experience and the more experience you have, you can then pull from those memories and be like, Okay, well, something similar has happened, this is what we can do. And me myself, I don’t ever really take too many major decisions. Just by myself. I always like to pick the brains of those around me. You know, I think one of the most important things or pieces of, you know, reading material I’ve ever read was that, you know, you never want to be the smartest guy in the room. Interior leader you want to be you want to have those around you that are smarter than you. You should have basic knowledge of everything that these guys are talking about and you should know you know and be able to hold your own, but people have their expertise is in their different fields. use that knowledge and then make the best decision you can possibly make and the people that work under you. If you are interested. putting them into conversations, they will take ownership themselves, and they will do a better job in turn. That’s what I’ve seen, at least in my career.
Madhav SBSS 55:11
Yeah, dude, that’s absolutely i think that applies to any leadership, like try to be transparent, involve the team members, and really treat them as humans, like you talked about, like their people to and your people to and when you’re authentic and real, I think people can relate to that much better. Talking about so the book, you said, like you’ve read something about how, you know, we don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. Are you? I came across his book, and I thought I’ll just mention it because we are talking about, you know, chaos in the kitchen. Are you the devil in the kitchen? Or are you not really? Like, you know, I don’t know if you heard this book. Which book I’m talking about, I guess. Right. Mario pure white.
Akshay Bharadwaj 56:03
wrote this book called The devil in the kitchen. Definitely times that you have to be, you know, when you look at what, what chefs, you know, Marco Pierre white, was able to do you know, being the youngest British chef to obtain to Michelin that, you know, and you see the people that worked under him. Gordon Ramsay was one of them. There’s a great documentary. You can find it on YouTube. It’s a two hour documentary. It was shot. I forget Actually, no, it’s not my copyright. I’m confusing it. It’s Gordon Ramsay buddies. Gordon Ramsay trying to go to third Michelin and Mr. Copyright is part of that document. It’s about two hours long. It is phenomenal. Because this is Gordon Ramsay before he became you know, Hell’s Kitchen and all this stuff. He had just gone to a Michelin and he had just opened his new restaurant. Yeah, this was like 9897, something like that. It is so fascinating. But even with local pure white, it’s the same thing where these guys to get to that level of perfection, you have to be so demanding of the people around you. Because this standard is just so high you you can’t allow even one plate one component one garnish to be out of place when you are aiming for that kind of perfection when you are going for three Michelin, you know, we had one Michelin and the pressure was so you know was was so crazy. You know, everything I literally have a heart attack, trying to get through I’m not even kidding. Like, I think my heart just like burst through my, you know, through my chest. You know, there’s definitely times where I get upset at my staff. And yes, I definitely do yell, because I get frustrated when I see others. That a I hired, I hire certain people that I see potential and first and foremost. So I never hire someone if I don’t think that they are capable of something that they can do. So just in that, I get upset when they fall below that line level below that standard. And, you know, there’s these two mentalities when you talk about the kitchen, and I guess it can, it can relate to just about anything, there is a cook mentality, and there’s the chef’s mentality, the cook mentality is you’re going to come in, you’re going to just do your, whatever your assignment is your job. That’s it, the recipe is that I’m going to just do the recipe. That’s it, you know, even at home, I’m not going to I’m just going to do what I know what I’m comfortable with. And I’m going to skate by doing the bare minimum. Get my paycheck Oh, Eve and, and there’s great books like that. And you need those in your kitchen for sure. Because you don’t want you know, too many principals, too many teachers, non students, right, something like that. So, the same thing. So the chef’s mentality is essentially that the chef will go beyond what his job requirement his or her job requirement is, they will do whatever it takes, after you get your job done. You go and help the next person who helps the next person. And you know, you come in early, you relate those are that the chef mentality because you’re the captain of the ship. And and this is the mentality I did not have when I first started in the in the restaurant, I had the cook mentality. And it wasn’t until I was 21 years old or 22 years old, like Yeah, I was 2021 when I really started seeing it for like, Okay, I gotta step up, I gotta stop this, doing the bare minimum. If I want to make this a career, I’ve got to go that extra mile because no one’s gonna want to teach someone. They don’t deserve it right? Like, if I’m working busting my butt and someone next to me is not doing their job or they’re doing the bare minimum. A it’s bad for morale and be I’m not going to want to you know, work with that person or not. Don’t want to teach that person it does cause it becomes a cancer in the in the workplace, you know, when, when that kind of thing happens. So you know, with multiple pure white and being the devil in the kitchen, yeah, I do push people, because I do expect something great out of them, if I’ve hired them. We have guests that are spending their hard earned money.
It’s one of the most expensive Indian restaurants in the country. And there’s a lot of special occasions, usually that these guests come for, whether it’s a birthday, graduation, anniversary, whatever the case is. So if I am not providing them the best possible experience, then we have failed to a certain degree. And if my cooks or staff or whoever, don’t care about that, the fact that we’re not doing a good job, or they’re themselves aren’t holding themselves to a higher standard, that bothers me. And if they make the same mistake, over and over again, that’s when I really lose it, because I’m okay with you making a mistake once, maybe even twice, but learn from that mistake and don’t make it again. And when someone keeps repeating it, that always gets me because that means that they don’t care enough to learn from it.
Madhav SBSS 1:01:17
I just loved the way you talked about the chef versus the cook mentality and the mindset. And both are important. But at the same time. I think it’s also important to have that bigger picture. I’m not just here to do a job, but also to really achieve the end outcome, which is to make the guests happy. And I think that ownership and accountability. It’s amazing the way you put it chef mentor. I think one of the guys I respect a lot in the venture capital industries, Paul Graham, he talks about the maker schedule versus a manager’s schedule. Like there’s somebody who’s just making things versus somebody who is actually looking at the big picture and making sure you know, the vision is actually you I looked at something maybe correct me if I’m wrong, but I saw something around like when you talk about, you know, mentors like Mario, pure white and Gordon Ramsay and others. I looked at something that you had posted maybe on your Instagram where you talk about. Thank you, Sanjeev Kapoor for being so tough on me. Do you do? Do you recall what that was? And what what Sanjeev Kapoor, the famous Indian chef told you about and why was he tough on you? What was the lesson from that?
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:02:38
Oh, yeah, that’s that’s a very great, I can tell you if you did your research, that’s, that’s fantastic. Oh, by the way I do. And so the Gordon Ramsay that documentary on YouTube, I think it’s called boiling point. I’m remembering now. So I definitely would recommend one point. Yeah, anyone? That’s a fan of it. Yeah, if you’re a fan of restaurants, and you want to see whether whether real chef is, you know, asked to do. It inspires me to this day bill, probably once every three months or four months, I actually will sit and watch it, you know, just to get my juices juices flowing. But But going back to the question. So Sanjeev Kapoor with my father being in the industry, it actually turned out to be that they were friends from school, and kind of, you know, knew each other. And we’re and we’re friends for a while. So they’re family friends. So I’ve kind of known him since I was young, when his family came and visited America, they would stay at our house. And likewise, when we run a Mumbai, we would stay with them. And he’s very down to earth and humble. He’s a phenomenal he would cook, you know, for us all the time. And he was just amazing. And just a really good person overall. Though, when I entered the industry, our relationship definitely changed a little bit where it was definitely still sees my uncle and the respect. But he definitely kicked my butt in terms of when we went and dinner. I remember this is probably 2013 2014 now or like, even before that I was allowed to cook and I’m starting to learn that we would literally quiz me on like the stuff we were on the food that we were eating. So we went to a Chinese restaurant and we were eating and in the middle of the meal, he would ask me like, what’s this cut? Is it my morning? Or is it you know, a different is a report value? What does it show? You know, he would ask me those sorts of questions. And then he would ask me like, what books are you reading? And then he would give me a list of like, okay, these are the books that you need to read. You know, this is, you know, giving me suggestions. And I always I really appreciated that because, and he was definitely even to this day. When it comes to the restaurant, I will always try to give him dishes that I’m working on. And he will always give me feedback that is honest and truthful from his heart. Most of the time, it’s critical in order, there’s a lot of criticism.
And as a chef, when you’re getting criticized, when you get criticized from a guest, you might not think that, but the chef, we think about that criticism all day and all night, it’s vectors in your brain. Whenever you whenever I start, I don’t read Yelp reviews anymore, I don’t read these kinds of reviews, because my blood starts boiling, you start getting anxiety, you start, you know, you get upset and angry, because you’re spending so many hours, just spending 16 hours. And you don’t know whether that guest is this is spewing hate because they didn’t get a free entree, or maybe the staff was, you know, hypothetically rude to them, or you or they had a bad day, or they got into a fight with their family maybe. And, you know, they came, there’s a myriad of things that could happen, and the food could have been, you know, not too good that day. But me as a chef, when I am working case, everything that leaves the kitchen, and I approve of it, I literally have plastic spoons that go through like 150 200 spoons a night, and you know, you’re at the restaurant food and just based off of tasting every single thing that comes out of the kitchen. So when someone says something critical, it hurts. And in his case, he didn’t have to do that, you know, for me, too. He could have easily just, you know, been like, you know, yeah, your food’s good. You know, you’re okay. But he’s always pushing me. And I know that when I’m going to meet him the next time that there’s going to be questions that he’s going to ask, and, you know, I better come prepared, then, you know, I always keep that in the back of my mind that this is his fantastic chef. And you can see why he’s a fantastic chef and such a celebrated chef, because he knows literally just about everything, you know, he knows every book that being written right now, Johnny’s read them to what every shop is doing in the world, and he’s eaten across the globe. And he himself cooks all the time, that food is his life. And it really is amazing to see that. And I can’t say that for every celebrity shocked, to be honest, I think nowadays, unfortunately, with social media and whatnot, that Shuster kind of just looking the same. And you know, they want to be, you know, whatever. They don’t want to really be in the kitchen cooking, which is unfortunate, but you can tell with him that it comes from a good place. When he pushes me, he kicks my ass a lot. So I definitely appreciate it
Madhav SBSS 1:07:54
was one thing.
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:07:57
The one thing to add to that actually, I’ll never forget, was when he asked me about a book in particular, I mentioned the idea I have it. You know, at home, I ordered it and I said hold. And I’ll never forget him saying, Yeah, you know, you should. Instead of being at home, you should open it and actually read it rather than just owning it. And I’ll never forget that, you know, that said that. And it was it was definitely eye opening for me.
Madhav SBSS 1:08:31
Yeah, I think we all need the truth tellers in our life too. Can you share a little bit about your next set of ventures? What’s happening June social? Is that a new initiative? Yes,
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:08:44
so we have a lot of things in the works actually right now, which I’m very, very excited for. So actually relocated junoon itself. So the restaurant itself, we are moving and in the process of moving. And we are very lucky that we’ve found a beautiful restaurant literally right down the street from us. So and it’s a smaller location, which kind of fits what we’re gonna be doing in this next decade, you know, General just turned 10 years old and 2020 of December. So that decade is kind of you know, is over and behind us and now it’s kind of time to pivot. I look to the future. And one of those projects just after we opened this junoon will be junoon social ridges a find fast, casual concept. Find fast casual, meaning that you’ll get that genuine experience. Those recipes, those curries, the flavors, you’re still going to get that but you can get it within 90 seconds to two minutes of your order when you’re physically ordering. So Yeah, it’s a QSR essentially a quick serve restaurant. And we will be doing, you know, I, you know, unfortunately, we haven’t really seen yet an Indian concept that that’s been able to go national in terms of fast, casual. So our goal is definitely hitting the Northeast first and then from there expanding. So you know, the infrastructure is very important. The first kind of what the feedback is, and we’re going to learn from that, and we’re going to expand and based on if our clients are, in fact happy with our product, but I do think they will be you know, we we have a great team. And besides the food part, we’re going to have a great drink menu as well bottles, cocktails, and mocktails. Some desserts, on the fly, you know, spice and Java space, and wines and spice jars that you can buy there. So actually, it’s pretty interesting because out this new junoon that we are opening, which is going to be opening soon, we’re doing a little marketplace in the front of the restaurant. So where the bar is, when you enter, there will be bottled cocktails and mocktails, low alcohol, no alcohol drinks, there will be spice blends that you can buy in jars, there will be pastries and cakes and chocolate that you can buy, like boxes of chocolates and whatnot, there will be road grabbing go sandwiches that you can get to science and whatnot. And, you know, a couple more things, but I can’t really give all the details yet. We’ll have to stay tuned for that. But for the most part, we’re going to be we’re going to be testing out a lot of these a lot of our denude social items here at junoon. First, use the marketplace, you know different teas, different coffees, all these like kind of make it like a little cafe in a way and start the and then implement from here into engineering social, which will definitely be a larger menu format and a bigger experience in terms of lot of curries and bronies. And, you know, coffee rolls and Moss, you know, grab and go Papaji and different things. And some of those things you will be able to find at the marketplace some of those things you’ll actually be able to find on her tasting menu, because we actually have started on the chef Cousteau venue and they ended up going into the fast casual because they were such interesting concepts. So all these things are kind of in the works right now. And within the next month or so junoon will be opening and which is April of 2021 to may 2021. That’s not our launch date. Definitely. And then after that, we’re going to move towards genuine social. And hopefully by end of 2021 2022 we will be having more news on that.
Madhav SBSS 1:13:17
Love the concept. And wait. You talked briefly about a couple of times like you know, a documentary or a book. You recommended the boiling point as one of them. Are there any particular books that you’ve learned from or gifted to friends and family that you recommend?
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:13:35
Yeah, recently, I re read setting the table by Danny Meyer. So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Danny Meyer. Yes, Union Square Hospitality Group. So Shake Shack, the original 11 Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern Union Square cafe. He is a legend. So I would definitely say his book setting the table is up there as my favorite all time but for sure. There’s just so many, not only hospitality related stories and quotes and lessons in there, it’s it’s so good for any business person, any entrepreneur that wants to start a business and confident or maybe wants to hear not just the X’s and O’s or the, you know, the this is more so on the personality and human side of that he’s explaining how he was able, you know, to work with all these different personalities and when’s the right time to expand the business and there’s just so many great lines. There’s one that I really love, where he he keeps on saying wellness in quotations. So wellmers are like overwhelming underwhelm or for your staff. That they are comfortable and it sends a message to the rest of the staff and the guests. That averages it testable. And that is the most dangerous person that you can hire in your restaurant. Not an under not an under achiever or an overachiever, but just that average person that just does enough to get by. And I thought that was so profound. And he has multiple, so many things that he says in the book that I just can’t, you know, I would take another hour for me to go over.
Madhav SBSS 1:15:24
That’s perfect. Yeah. Wellmers, I’ve never heard that term. Wellmers. And you’re so right. And in the valley, Steve Jobs used to talk about, you know, you need to hire a players, if you hire B players, they’ll hire c players. So I guess, you know, you hire an average person, they’ll probably just downhill all the way from there.
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:15:45
Yeah. Another thing he says, I remember he mentioned, like, you know what he says, when employees don’t work out, it’s because of the attitude of it, usually, because of the attitude of I won’t, rather than I can. So I always think that that’s a very interesting kind of way to look at it. When it comes to that, you know, it’s so much in the mind of how do you get a person to understand what your vision is. The last thing that I’m just gonna say is, it’s a very famous story of the salt shaker stories that he says. And he, when he opened his first restaurant he was running around. You know, he kept any, you know, told his mentor that hey, like I, I can, you know, get my staff to buy into this, you know, into what I’m doing and what I’m training them and whatever. And the mentor basically kept moving the salt shaker, away from the police service positioned on the table. And Danny Meyer kept on picking up the salt shaker and putting it back into his place. So then Danny Meyer asked him like, why, why do you keep on moving to salt shaker, he said, the salt shaker is basically your staff, they’re going to keep moving the salt shaker out of place. It is your job, no matter how many times I tell shaker booth to put this old shaker back in its place exactly where it is. And if you do that enough times, they themselves will put this also back in its original place. So I mean, there’s so many stories like that, that I that it really resonated with me. And I don’t think it’s just for hospitality. I think it’s for life in general.
Madhav SBSS 1:17:20
Yeah, I can take a lesson away from that, to my own work that I do as a product manager. I can see that totally. Just one couple of other questions. One is sorry, go ahead. Yeah, yeah, I love it. I love it. Go ahead.
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:17:36
The last one change works only when people believe it is happening for them, not to them. That just another little one liner that I thought was very interesting.
Madhav SBSS 1:17:48
Change, make them feel that change is happening for them, and not to them. Wonderful. So on that note of the short lines or quotes that really stick with you, if you could write a message or something on a full moon that the whole world can see, what would you want to convey to the world?
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:18:10
So I would I would probably keep it short and simple. I would say respect others the way you want to be respected.
Madhav SBSS 1:18:18
Nice way to bring this to close. I was gonna ask you one last question, but I think you kind of answered it with this particular thing that you just said, Dad,
Akshay Bharadwaj 1:18:26
thank you so much for for having me. It really was a pleasure to talk with you. You’ll have to come visit when we open. Perfect,
Madhav SBSS 1:18:35
nice way to close it. Thanks so much. Actually, I really wish you all the best with all these new projects that you’re picking up
Transcribed by https://otter.ai