THE MASTER OF ALL CHEFS
Manjit Singh Gill Corporate Executive Chef, ITC Hotels
The Challenges for Manjit Singh Gill
Internal politics hit Manjit’s career in 1983 itself, and he quit ITC to join his father in a business he had set up post retirement. Not the kind that had his heart in business, it was a tough phase for Manjit. Luckily, it was a short one and ITC summoned him back within three months to take forward what he had set up. Manjit happily rejoined the organization, only to quit it again in late 1991. After a fulfilling journey with Maurya for over nine years, mostly as its executive chef, Manjit decided that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and rejoined his father’s business, which had grown manifold.
It was easier said than done, and Manjit realized this very quickly as once again he found it difficult to adjust to the business environment. At this point what came in handy for Manjit was his everlasting relationship with ITC. At the time of quitting ITC had asked if he could remain with them as a consultant, which he had happily agreed to.
Mercifully for the gastronomic world, he rejoined ITC after two years in 1993. Madan Lal, the front man of Bukhara had unfortunately died in a car accident after which Habib Rehman, head of ITC approached Manjit to consider his return. ‘Manjit, I’m sure you are not enjoying your work and nor are we without you. Why don’t you join back?’ he said.
‘I will surely rejoin, but on two conditions,’ replied Manjit. ‘Firstly, I will not restart on probation as I want my confirmation from day one itself. Secondly, I will create my own reporting system down the line.’
Manjit rejoined the ITC corporate office on his terms, and the new journey entailed a much different role. His new function pertained to participating in the company’s ambitions to grow and open new hotels, as well as share his experience on a larger platform. He would play a significant role in conceptualizing as well as work towards research and development of new products. He also had an inherent sense of responsibility in helping his junior chefs evolve with more information and knowledge.
Being an astute chef with years of experience, he understood that with each passing year the food habits and preferences of people were changing and it was a continuous challenge to remain on top and introduce the subtle changes. New ingredients and their variants entered the market almost every day, and recipes had to be adapted to those changes, but with utmost caution. Environmental changes were affecting the taste of food significantly, and a canny chef could not be oblivious to that fact. For example, chilies are severely affected by the change in weather. ‘The same varieties have become much hotter now,’ says Manjit while explaining how recipes have to keep evolving.