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February 2023, Issue"Flexibility & Adaptability are Equally Crucial to Become a Successful Leader"

Chef Sanjay KumarExecutive Chef Abela & Co. Dubai

Having worked with the finest of Indian Chefs and expatriate Chefs- Sanjay Kumar has imbibed tremendous learning and construed his own style of Indian - western cuisine and management- which he would like to result in culinary excellence, quantum profitability, job satisfaction, and growth for others and self. In an interview Sanjay Kumar Executive Chef of Abela & Co. describe his culinary journey. Excerpts.

How did you get in the culinary world?
Probably when I was 11 years old, I decided to be a chef. This is because I grew up in the urban side of North India, where my family tended to our own vegetable garden. This provided us with an abundance of fresh products throughout the year. Since I was eight years old, I've started assisting my mother in the kitchen with simple tasks such as preparing veggies, sweets, and parathas. That rapidly led to me taking on more responsibility for the preparation of Sunday meals and lunch. As my relative also ran a wine business and imported a large number of wines from many places, I became acquainted with the two most significant pillars of the culinary world: food and wine. And that's how my connection to the culinary world began in my early years.

What suggestions do you have about how to test a progressive idea effectively?
Both talent and skill need to be continually improved for a chef to flourish. They cannot be separated because they are intertwined. If I had to choose, I'd choose skills since, once you master them, it will be simpler to adapt to other kitchens.

It's evident that we were on to something given the recent growth of social networks that prioritize photo and video content over more conventional formats, especially among young people who view the world through a smartphone and are shunning Facebook in favor of sites like Instagram and TikTok.

We already knew the market, which was a significant advantage, and it just proves how crucial early planning and market research are. If we lack expertise or experience in a critical aspect of the market, it's a sign that you need to hire the right strategic partners. Recognizing where additional knowledge is required is just part of the job.

What qualities should an effective team leader have, in your opinion?
New ideas are inspired by curiosity. We can better comprehend the issue and identify a solution by keeping updated with events and analyzing our own actions. It is quite difficult for leaders to maintain their position at the top by keeping these attributes in mind since all industries and technologies are continually improving. Hiring people from varied backgrounds often introduces innovative ideas and perspectives as new trends and technology develop over time. Every opinion should indeed be valued, and no employee or leader is too senior to learn. Leadership is about being receptive to new ideas and encouraging a creative and inventive workplace.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as knowing enough or everything about your profession and industry - that's the beauty of being a leader in an ever-changing landscape.

What advice would you provide a prospective chef?
The most crucial thing to keep in mind while entering the field is having a certain end objective. Plan out your career path. Do you wish to work for a hotel, or do you enjoy the ambiance of fine dining? Do you want to own a restaurant or are you more interested in becoming a head chef? Being a chef is the most gratifying occupation for me but it's no secret that the food sector is associated with putting in long hours on the job therefore sometimes it's very challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The hotel sector is gloriously rewarding, and constantly changing, hence it's impossible to get tired of it if you have the proper perseverance.

What suggestions do you have for forming a team and strengthening management and leadership?
Transparency stems from the notion that your highs can be just as high as your lows. You should only recruit staff who are wiser than you in their position, along with this apparent knowledge and if you have a team that is intelligent, sincere, and dedicated to their work, it is easier for you to accomplish your goals.

The support and trust you need in difficult circumstances can be ensured by being open and honest with a team that shares your values. This is a testament to the culture of transparency and trusts that we have built here.

Again, it is not very easy to lead by example. There is something powerful about knowing we are all in the same boat, and I would never ask for anything I haven't done myself or would not do myself if I could, and my team knows it.

What are the best points you wanted to focus on which really apply to becoming a great team leader?
The first step on a lifelong path to leadership is self-awareness. There are times when you need to be a manager more than a leader, therefore flexibility and adaptability are equally crucial to become more significant than merely having a name. You must reflect on yourself if you want to lead effectively. You're in a great position if you can identify your own strengths and obstacles before someone else can, and the most crucial rule is to never point out a problem without first considering a solution.

What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Carry yourself appropriately for the role you aspire to. Notice how the person in that role represents the idea, carries themselves, interacts with others, and how business networks form. Even if you are the best, you should be as adaptable as possible to embrace these approaches.

What further suggestions do you have?
Do not let people or circumstances make you cynical. Although life is very challenging, it's important to maintain an open mind because when someone becomes jaded, they allow terrible events to cloud their judgment and drive them to believe something that isn't actually true. You may miss out on some of life's best possibilities if you are jaded. Nobody is flawless, which is yet another thing to keep in mind. Never profess to be perfect; instead, pay attention to your workplace. When you reach that point, you know you've succeeded.