Girish Babu

The Self Made Culinarian

The ever-brilliant and much-experienced Girish Babu, Ex Executive Chef, Media One Hotel, Dubai, has a history of working in the hospitality industry for around  25 years and is a real inspiration for the upcoming aspirants in culinary.

Highly skilled in F&B Management and New Concept Development, Girish is well-versed in creating opportunities for the team around and making them a class apart by helping unleash their creativity,  embrace new trends and deliver at the highest standards to excel.   

How did it all begin

Being from a generation that had the best of both worlds in terms of access to technology and a good lifestyle, Girish was ambitious about his choice of career from the very beginning. 

“After high school, my dream was to join the Indian Air Force, as I was very active in the National Cadet Corps - NCC, a vibrant Tri-Services Organization, comprising the Army, Navy and Air Wing, engaged in grooming the youth of the country into disciplined and patriotic citizens.  However, that dream of joining the Air Force just remained a distant dream due to differences within the family due to perceptions about the risks involved, but then came to terms with the same, as I was someone practical,  who enjoyed changes & challenges, also open to trying anything new.   However, back then in the very early '90s there were not so many careers to choose and hospitality definitely was not a popular one and yet chose it, somehow, or to be more precise, hospitality chose me”, says Girish.

It was only after spending a year studying Zoology which Girish opted for after finishing high school, soon realized that his calling was beyond animal dissections. “When it hit me that I wanted to do something more interesting, I left for Madras, now Chennai, and got myself enrolled in a newly opened Empee College for Hotel Management and Catering Technology even though I had no plans at that time in terms of a career in this field. The only thing that felt promising at that time was, a job in hospitality that could take me anywhere in the world and I loved travelling. As I leapt, I thoroughly enjoyed the discovery of the ‘Chef’ in me through this course”.

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Growing Up Connected to Food

Coming from a  farming family, Girish had a simple childhood in the midst of nature with food always wholesome & fresh and an environment around that helped him understand the true joy of family, along with the warmth of sharing tasks and cooking together in the kitchen.

“As a child, I used to help my mother in the kitchen. Being part of a very big joint family with over three dozens of cousins, all special occasions and celebrations became big feasts usually cooked at home with everyone actively participating”, says Girish.

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Building the Culinary Foundation

Starting with all the novice cooking experiences in his mother’s kitchen, Girish got his first professional cooking exposure when he began his formal culinary education in Chennai. 

“I loved the cooking sessions at our college. It was a joy to feed people, tweak the traditional recipes; and was always chosen to lead the menu and cook lunch. During our college days, we had to cook for the entire college that included teachers and admin staff. There were around 180-200 pax to tend to and unlike today, those days we had to solely depend on various cookbooks to get the recipes for these preparations”, Girish fondly remembers.   

Such activities helped him tremendously grow as a chef from the very beginning, which otherwise required one to be working in restaurants or hotels, to hands-on learn and gain the level of knowledge & experience, Girish acquired while studying itself.

Take on Training and Culinary Education 

Girish did his professional culinary learning at a time and in a place where there was limited scope & possibilities and It was only with his dedication, hard work, and unwavering quest to learn that helped him to succeed through such a period and to reach where he is today.     

“Back then apart from college, there were no other mediums of training available for culinary students. One had to be committed and dedicated at all times,  keep ears & eyes open to closely observe how dishes were prepared and presented during classes. It was both physical & mental stress at all times. I would say only the strongest with an unshakable mindset could  alone survive.”

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Today, as the times stand changed and so have the education and practises in the industry, changed as well “I am so happy for the new generation of chefs, and seeing how the industry & the educational system have evolved over time, helping  one to be  extensively  exposed to a myriad of  cuisines, techniques & technologies and get to actively interact with finest of  chefs,  all  of which make a world of difference in helping groom the aspiring young chefs.”

The Culinary Journey and Career Highlights

In his 25 years of culinary journey, Girish has worn many hats and won several laurels. According to him, starting his career with the Oberoi Group as a part-time trainee gave him the right beginning for his career. 

As per him, having had the opportunity to work with Planet Hollywood & Wafi Hospitality and with top leaders in the industry such as Chef Paul Kwok, Chef Russell Impiazzi, Susan Potter, Shafeena Yusuffali, and Mark Lee were the best parts of his career as they all helped become stronger,  to climb the ladder higher.

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Girish enriched his international experiences when he was sent to Spain by Planet Hollywood to get trained in Spanish cuisine under the two-star Michelin Chef Fernando Canales and from working in the US for a very popular cruise line. 

“Once you work in a cruise line you will never really complain about anything in life after that. The experiences you get in an environment that make you ready to face any kind of situation in life. It was indeed a life-changing experience that has made me who I am today ”, says Girish. 

It is the Dubai experience that is the most memorable for him as he achieved many of the significant milestones of his career.

His achievements and contributions to the world of hospitality here include being nominated  Best Executive Chef – the Middle East, getting to host several cookery shows on several television channels including BBC Good Food, being a part of many Guinness World Record attempts, becoming an active senior member of the Emirates Culinary Guild and most importantly leading a wonderful team that has achieved several stars together.

I am not academically brilliant but, "I believe that if one is sincere & true to oneself, determined to help & support  -  that's true success," says Girish. 

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Industry Evolution and the Covid Effect

As per Girish, the food industry has grown, stride to stride and several-fold in the past decade, which has helped create a lot of opportunities & challenges both to the operators and the workforce equally. The use of new trends, techniques, and concepts, also the emergence and fall of cuisines & eating habits, together have added to the extreme competitiveness in the  F&B scene.

“Having worked in the industry since 1995. I was fortunate enough to have experienced a wonderful and exciting career. It is unfortunate to see the way in which the Covid pandemic has impacted hospitality and like many, I too have not been spared and with no choice had to bid adieu to my job at Media One. Currently, I am in my hometown working on setting up a farm for exotic herbs & poultry to support the local industry here”.  

What's Next? 

As a chef – “I love sharing my knowledge and experience with those who love cooking, hence, I am also planning to write a book about South Indian Cuisine.  A tour of south India especially focusing on its cuisine, establishing a farm and  restaurant  of my own, that serves good food are what are  in the anvil” 

As a person- “I want to live my life as close as possible to nature and enjoy the rest of it responsibly so that the future generations do not have to miss out on anything”- Girish Babu

 

“More than ever, chefs today need to up their game with the optimal use of technology & trends in their cooking and get knowledge of the digital world, as well. Having the right qualification with proper training and being specialized in skills are very important for career growth and most important one has also to be at par with the other good chefs in the industry, too.”

 


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