Khushwant Singh

Manjit Singh Gill Corporate Executive Chef, ITC Hotels

Manjit Joins ITC

Once his training was over, Manjit left the Oberoi group and joined the hotel division of ITC, (then Indian Tobacco Company) in 1977, the very year ITC opened its five-star luxury hotel, Maurya Sheraton in New Delhi. To join the ITC, he had to forego his bond with the Oberoi, which mandates a management trainee to work for them for a specified period. His starting salary was Rs. 1250. Manjit joined Maurya Sheraton as sous chef in the ‘western kitchen’ under the French chef, Roger Moncourt, (who later took on Indian citizenship).


And then there was no looking back as step-by-step Manjit honed his cooking skills working under various international chefs.

With a fire in the belly, Manjit gave his absolute best in the kitchen, working twelve to fourteen hours a day. However, when the time came for promotion in 1979, his grade did not change; he had been passed over. He firmly believed the ones who had been promoted had only their sycophantic skills to thank and not their culinary skills. ‘It was a turning point in my life because it was here that I resolved that I would upgrade my skills to a level where I cannot be ignored, come what may.’

Armed with this realization Manjit applied for a summer course at the Ivy League, Cornell University, USA. This education was that giant leap he had been searching, and it was to forever change the course of his life. However, how he reached Cornell is nothing short of a thriller! A tale of sheer determination and a young man’s desire to be the best in his chosen career.

As luck would have it, the one thousand dollar per week fee for the course at Cornell was understandably very steep for Manjit, and he found it hard to put the funds together. However, the yearning to study at Cornell was so intense that he decided to leave home and find a job in the Middle East to fund his further education. Interestingly, when Manjit handed in his resignation, the ITC management, seeing promise in the young chef asked him not to leave the company but instead go on a two year leave without pay. Manjit lapped up the offer and soon headed for Abu Dhabi where he worked in a small hotel called Nihaal. ‘My purpose was not to gain work experience, but earn money to fund my course where I could enhance my knowledge,’ says Manjit. Since the sole objective was to make money, Manjit would not hesitate in working overtime to earn that extra buck and mustered up his fee within nine months. ‘I had no expenses, and my family had no expectations of me sending money home, so everything I earned, I saved,’ Manjit claims proudly.

So much so he adds, ‘You wouldn’t believe that I returned in the very same shirt and trousers that I had flown out in. I carried no gift for my wife or parents. The only gift I carried was for my twin daughters and my third daughter who was born a month before I left for Abu Dhabi.’ A doting father, Manjit has a large family consisting of three daughters and one son.

Having earned enough to pay for Cornell, Manjit returned to India from Abu Dhabi and flew to the US within a couple of days.

While at Cornell, he studied Commercial Food Production Management, Food and Audit Control and Advanced Techniques in Food Production, which became pivotal in defining, Manjit the Chef.

Khushwant Singh
  • Agrima Goyal

    As cooking is mostly about chemical and physical changes, are Chef’s with science background at an advantage over others ?

    Agrima Goyal
    Class 11 (science stream)
    Intend to make a career in culinary science/arts