Sinju Varghese is the executive chef at Al Raha Beach Hotel, Abu Dhabi. Sinju Varghese is the executive chef at Al Raha Beach Hotel, Abu Dhabi.

What inspired you to get into the hospitality industry?

I used to always travel a lot, and I found it interesting to try the local cuisine and ingredients, and understand the culture of the places I have visited. The hospitality industry was the best choice to explore my passion and do what I love.

How has your previous work experience inspired you to get to where you are today?

We normally compare chefs’ careers with the military or priesthood. The initial five to seven years are really tough. We have to work for unbelievably long (16 to 20) hours, be humiliated and are paid very less. If you can survive it with a positive energy and acquire great knowledge, then you can make your career by choosing the right place to work and with the right chefs. I was fortunate enough to work at some unique restaurants and with some of the greatest chefs of all time.

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Have you experienced any stand out events or moments which have shaped your career to date?

Yes, indeed — there have been many such instances. That is the best part of working as a chef. You get to cook for royals and celebrities, as well as attend world-class events. I have cooked at events like the Laureus World Sports Awards and at royal weddings, as well as for a lot of presidential dinners for dignitaries such as HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, John Kerry, David Cameron, Tony Blair, and Nicolas Sarkozy. During these events, you experience a lot of sleepless nights, but there is a greater joy in knowing all has ended well.

Where has been your favourite place to work so far, and how does that compare to your current position?

Every place has its own charm, challenges and uniqueness. It is how you approach it [that makes a difference]. After having worked for a few years in Central Asia, I have been based in the UAE for a long time, and this country always has fascinated me. Whether it is the cultural diversification or the innovative streak of the authorities, everything in this country is unique, and life is simplified yet interesting.

What would you say are some of your most significant accomplishments in your career so far?

I am a happy chef, doing what I love to do.  I became an executive chef at the age of 32, which I think is a great accomplishment. I have had to sacrifice my teenage years for this. I started working when I was 16. Yet, when I look back, I feel good. Winning a few prestigious awards like the Young Chef of the Year in 2013, Chef of the Year in 2014, and the Best Restaurant Awards for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 are some of the significant accomplishments of my career.

In what ways are you planning to add to the success of your new hotel?

Al Raha Beach Hotel is a family-friendly resort, and it has a lot of potential and room for F&B. The all-day dining restaurant Sevilla is known for its buffet spread and fish market brunch, with the largest kids’ buffet and ‘meet the meat’ concept. I have fine-tuned the menus and offerings. Now, we are giving a lot of emphasis to our Mediterranean restaurant Azur and our pool bar La Piscine with the bento box menu. La Piscine will soon be ready for alfresco dining with some great steaks and fresh catch for evening dinners.

What aspect of your new position are you most excited about?

We have a very good and experienced team of hoteliers which makes this place unique. The team is so vibrant and enthusiastic, and this excites me a lot.

Can you describe any new initiatives or programmes that you are planning to introduce as part of your new position?

We have lots of initiatives planned for the days and months ahead. We want Al Raha Beach Hotel to be the hot spot for foodies in Abu Dhabi. All my efforts will focus on delivering quality food to our guest at a very competitive price. We will be very well known in the market for the quality, taste and value for money.