An art, craft and cricket enthusiast as a child, Chef Raheel always dreamt of joining the design school. There were days where he believed he belonged in the Indian cricket team. Years later, he does represent the country but not on the play ground, but across the best of kitchen ranges.
When Chef Raheel completed school, he was a typical teenager with no set academic direction. In his quest to discern various career choices, he discovered an entrance exam by The National Council of Hotel Management while he was enjoying a game of cricket with friends. He enrolled himself to the course, and the fortunate encounter unfolded as a destined career path. Meet Chef Raheel Ahmad, the culinary APEC director, Marriott International, who heads 270 hotels across 22 brands of Marriott.
For a long time during the early years of his life, he was oblivious to cooking and the kitchen, but when he first stepped into the culinary space, he knew that’s where his heart belonged. His love for food transformed from just relishing to exploring and creating.He spent long hours of time traversing recipes and flavours from across the globe and time periods. He went a step ahead, owned his mother’s kitchen and created recipes each day and won a number of accolades for his institute. However, twenty – five years ago, when the profession of a Chef was not as glamorous as it is today, Chef Raheel embraced the criticism and said in jest, ‘I work in the food production department’.
Chef Raheel’s culinary journey became exciting when he first landed an offer with The Taj, Bombay as a management trainee. He has been a part of some winning brands ever since and has worked across the world. He is a strong believer of having hands on experience of the holistic functions of culinary than just one aspect of it. This drove him to take up varied styles of projects. His experience spans from working in restaurants, to a cruise line, to hotels. His stints across various brands have enabled him to focus on the kitchen basics, operations, innovation, leadership and psychology of guests too. His pre-opening experience at The Oberoi, Gurgaon opened new doors for him that later paved way to begin his journey with the Marriott as he took over Marriott Jaipur as the Executive Chef.
The past 20 years with the Marriott has aided Chef Raheel live the brand’s idea. When we asked him about Marriott’s F&B aspirations and philosophy, he asserts with conviction “In every project, Marriott and its representatives come together and focus on a cause beyond business. We believe in building a sturdy system that focuses on sustainability and waste management. Our target is to reduce food wastage by 50% by 2025. We are a socially responsible brand and we are taking every step to save the world’s resources and make it a better place to live in, one step at a time.”
While we discussed about the aspiring culinary talents, Chef Raheel added, “Marriott is in the industry for the past 90 years, and we understand its needs like second to none. To create opportunities for the deserving young culinary aspirants, we tie up with institutes in different countries to nurture talent, and set a strong foundation to all budding enthusiasts”
With his contagious levels of energy and eternal passion towards food, Chef Raheel is always a man on the go. He exemplifies simplicity and his most effective way to a guest’s heart is just that -“Empathise! Look at food from the diner’s point of view. Connect with the diner emotionally. If a chef is able to do this before dishing out something, he cannot go wrong. This is a rule I abide by before creating something”
Being one of the largest hospitality brands in the world, Marriott serves close to 2.5 lakh guests every single day in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Under his leadership, he aligns to the brand’s principles by architecting effective F&B initiatives such as encouraging moving towards locavore produces, and creating opportunities for the local talent.