Name: Kunal D.
Position: Dual Executive Chef
Hotel: JW Marriott Parq Vancouver & The DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection
Dream destination: Somewhere in the mountains, like The St. Regis Lhasa Resort in Tibet
Drink or treat of choice: Mango margarita, mango smoothie — anything with mangoes
Every aspiring chef should get the chance to be a part of the hotel opening team. At least, that’s according to Dual Executive Chef Kunal D., whose Marriott journey started with the opening of the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver in Western Canada.
“It was one of the best experiences,” says Kunal. “You’re starting everything from scratch. You get a blank book, and you start writing your own story. My story started just like that.”
Kunal always wanted to be a general manager, so he studied hotel management in school, which required the students to be trained in every single department of a hotel. That’s where he crystallized his passion for cooking, which he now calls his purpose in life.
“I want to feed people” says Kunal, who moved to Canada from India when he was 20 years old. “As a chef, you have so much power in your hand with the food, you can connect people with the food. You can go right into their heart.”
Kunal’s pride in his team and place of work are clear. As a dual executive chef, he oversees culinary for both the JW Marriott and its sister hotel, The DOUGLAS, Autograph Collection, both of which are a part of the Parq Vancouver, a large casino and hotel complex on the edges of Yaletown.
“We can call ourselves the market leaders,” Kunal says about his culinary program, which includes a team of 70+ cooks. “The hotel has excellent leadership, high staff engagement, and our food quality and guest satisfaction are always at the highest.”
Below, Kunal shares a glimpse into a typical day leading his team to greatness, as a Marriott executive chef.
8:00 am: Show gratitude to the team and check in on their mental health
This is my favorite part of my day. I have 70 people on my team, and each one of them has a different story and a different background, and they might have something deeper going on, like a mental health struggle, given everything in the world right now. So, to me, it’s important to connect with each of them at the start of every day to say, “thank you, thank you for choosing to work today.”
Mental health challenges are very real in any kitchen, which is why taking this time is so vital. Young chefs need to take mental health seriously and ask for help. Especially in a leadership position, you must be fully present for your team in order to motivate them to make good decisions in their life.
8:30 am: Check in with other department leaders
As a chef, you feel like everyone needs you and it’s hard to be on everyone’s plate. So, I try to be more accommodating by proactively asking other departments what they need from me or my team before the day officially gets started.
9:00 am: Managers meeting
In this daily briefing, we discuss the operations, guest feedback or comments, and what’s going on with the business.
10:15 am: Creative work
My job is to create a culinary experience for our guests, which includes designing concepts, writing the menus, and more. I find that the morning, when one’s mind is as pure and clear as possible, is the best time for me to get this creative work done.
11:00 am: Sustainable smoothie break
One of our biggest areas of focus is reducing food waste and carbon emissions, so any food that is leftover in the kitchen gets consumed — we make sure to have a solution for any surplus. And one of those solutions is smoothies! We take leftover berries and fruit from the breakfast buffets, blend them with a protein powder, and enjoy them as a team. It’s a big morale booster and a simple way to show my commitment to the health and wellness of my team — plus, it’s trendy! People love smoothies.
12:30 pm: Planning and strategy
By this point in the day, most of the leaders have arrived and I work with them to plan the whole day — we talk about what’s coming, any challenges we’re facing and finding potential solutions for those obstacles. In today’s world, change is constant (whether it be supply challenges or issues with tools), so we work through solutions to make sure the day is going to be amazing and instill confidence in our team.
1:15 pm: R&D and experimentation
The afternoons are the best time for my team to do the research and development for our upcoming menus and experiment with our recipes and techniques.
2:15 pm: Prep time
The afternoon shift associates have arrived and the kitchens are in full operational mode, prepping for dinner or one of the many events that take place at our hotel, which serves as the venue for a lot of conventions, events, weddings, and big conferences.
5:00 pm: Curtains up!
The evening is all about performing. Guests have arrived for dinner service, the events are underway, and it is officially performance time for our culinary staff. One of my most significant duties is supporting my team, primarily through struggles. As with any performance, sometimes you have failures or challenges, but that struggle is very, very necessary because that’s what gives you the experience.
8:00 pm: Greet the guests
Most days I end on a very happy note by walking through our executive lounge to meet hotel guests or stopping by an event and chatting with the organizer to ask about their experience and see how they’re enjoying the food. I want to end my day talking to the guests.