Yes, you heard it right; it’s the end of an era. Satish Arora, Director Food Production – Taj Sats, after 50 years in the kitchen is retiring on March 31st, 2016 after an impressive almost 50 years. He is popularly known as Bhishma Pitamah in Indian hospitality industry. He has been working for Taj Group of hotels, India’s first, oldest, biggest and pioneer chain of hotels. Probably he is only chef in India who is working for single company continuously for almost five decades.
“I am born as a chef and I will die as a chef. I am sad to be leaving but it is the right time for me to stop working, for a while. I will really miss everyone because I have been here for so many years and really enjoy my job from bottom of my heart. I’m just planning to have a break to start with. I might take up a couple of hobbies, but I will see how I get on. Many offers have come my way to join them locally and internationally”.
Arora joined Taj Mahal Hotel Bombay in 1966, when he was just 19 years of age, beginning his career as management trainee. Arora was the youngest Chef in the world to take over a 5-Star Hotel Kitchen at the age of 26 as Executive Chef of Taj Mahal hotel Mumbai in 1972. He took over reins from Angelo Mascarenhas who was Executive chef of Taj Mahal hotel who served for 55 years. Later he was appointed Chef Culinary of the Taj Group – Western and Southern Regions in 1985, appointed Director Food Production 1990.
Arora is known as the father of culinary art in India and a high profiled Indian chef. He completed his basic schooling from Ramjas School, Paharganj Delhi and graduated from IHM Pusa, in 1966. He did Hotel Management with specialization course in Kitchen Planning and Production. He had been a cooking legend for almost five decades. He is an ambassador of Indian cooking and was placed among the ultimate chefs for being associated with Indian Cuisine. “The King Maker” as his chefs whom he taught and trained for many years became top chef themselves.
Retirement from Tajsats is not the closed chapter of his career but a new beginning too. Post retirement numerous offers have already pouring in for him to join their company. First and foremost is United Kingdom base DSI flight caterer. DSI caters to United Airlines, Qantas Australian Airlines, British Airways and Virgin train. Besides, there is an open offer from India’s leading private Airline who is willing to take him on their board too. “I am keeping my options open as of now, as I planning to take a short break before deciding” said Satish Arora.
Chef Arora was groomed under strict discipline during childhood days and remained punctual till date. Having come from an Army family, he travelled extensively along with his father to various parts of the country, trying out cuisines prepared by army cooks when they used to stay in officers Mess. When asked about why he chose cooking profession, he says “My mother was a wonderful cook and I used to trail her in the kitchen and observed her cooking. I tried out various dishes in her absence whenever she used to visit temples for kirtan. She helped me enhancing my cooking skill and informed me what lacked in my dishes and used to give me cooking tips. I was keen in cooking and believed in perfection so I used to pen down recipe in my diary and used to try out the same dish to perfection”.
His culinary journey with Taj group has seen countless unforgettable moment in his life. He travelled on board with former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s entourage, travelled to USA, Iran, Egypt and Colombo. He was assign to PM”s cookery at Taj Hotel in Kumarakom in Kerala during his stays there for his treatment.
The Taj group has sent him to widen his culinary adeptness at regular intervals. He was sent to Frankfurt and Dusseldorf in 1968 for extensive training, sent for special course in cold food decoration in USA 1976, lead team Chefs to China to learn Chinese Cuisine and to teach Indian Cuisine in 1978. He travelled to Pakistan to learn Peshwari Food in 1980. He lead team of chefs to organise food festivals globally that includes Goan food promotion in Europe in 1973, 1975 and 1979, Japan & Switzerland in 1988 and in South Africa in1993.
Chef Arora was the first Indian chef appointed as one of the 8 members’ team on Singapore Airlines Culinary Panel in 1999.British PM Margaret Thatcher autographed his chef cap and PM of Indira Gandhi patted on his back in appreciation in 1983, during Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) held in Goa. Arora was in charge of CHOGM culinary team. Another feather in his cap was when he went to London to prepare meals for Queen Elizabeth and the entire Royalty for the President of India’s “Royal Banquet” in 1990.He was in-charge of SAARC heads of Governments catering in Colombia 1998. Furthermore, he prepared meals for Prince Charles banquet to Indian Industrialist in UK in 1991.
He has won many awards and accolades. The Curry Club of England conferred him Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, won Gold Medal in the Culinary Olympics Japan 1987, Cathay Pacific conferred an Award for excellent presentation of Indian Cuisine in 1992, a German Food Magazine chose him among 20 best Chefs in the world in 1991, awarded outstanding “Chine Des Rotisseurs” Dinner in Colombo in 1994, winner of gold medal in Culinary Olympic in Japan organized by Okura Hotel where teams from U.S.A., Paris, Singapore, Rome, Italy and India participated in 1987, won a medal from Swiss Press Club. He was awarded a silver plaque by culinary forum in India for outstanding services to culinary field in 2002, Lifetime Achievement Award from World Culinary Forum and Indian Culinary Forum in 2013.
It may sound unbelievable but it’s factual that he has organized and in person served exclusive dishes to plentiful heads of the state and leading dignitary of the world. The list includes US President Bill Clinton, Her majesty – Queen Elizabeth of England, President Mikhail Gorbachev of USSR, François Mitterrand President of France, British PM’s Sir Edward Richard Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Lady Diana, Prince Karim Aga Khan, Queen Beatrix of Netherlands, His Highness Shaikh Bin Sulman Al Khaifa Amir of Bahrain, Australian PM Bob Hawke, Kenith Kaunda of Zambia, President -Robert Mugabe, Jayawardhene of Srilanka, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam PM of Mauritius, Sir Shridath Ramphal Commonwealth Secretary general, Hussein bin Talal King of Jordan, Veerasamy Ringadoo President of Mauritius, Naka Sone – PM of Japan, President –Major Yuri Gagarin, Prince Claus of Netherlands, Zubin Mehta -World known Orchestra Conductor, Mohammed Ali (Boxer), Gina Lollabrigeda (Actress), Rex Harrison (Actor), (1st Man to go to space), Neil Armstrong (American Astronaut), leading Indian Film Stars, Indian and International cricket team. And last but not the least Indian PM Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee and all Presidents of India.
WHAT INDUSTRY PEOPLE HAS TO SAY
Ajit B Kerkar – Former Managing Director Taj group of hotels
“Satish is such an iconic personality that it is difficult to justify in words this extremely talented person, his culinary skills, his creativeness and above all his simplicity and humility, a fine human being. Satish revolutionised the Food & Beverage Department of the Taj Mahal hotel, later he moved to specialised Air Catering business of the Group (TAJSats). Today he is considered one of the world’s top few experts in airline catering. He was closely associated with me in the Taj. It is a great pleasure to see him grow and evolve over the years and achieve success and fame. I wish him all the best always and many more years of success”.
Sanjeev Kapoor – Grand Master Chef, owner – Food Food Channel
“I am speechless to describe chef Satish Arora. He is amazing, in depth knowledge of culinary, a walking encyclopaedia and a good human being, The industry people classified him as “The Magician”, having said that, permit me to express the same to Chef Arora, classifying him as the countries culinary magician, with his “out of the box” approach towards excellence. You are the best”.
Jitendra kumar – Chief Operating Officer – Devyani Airport Services (Former Executive Chef Taj Lands End)
“Chef, you might bid adieu to this organization but your footprints will stay in our hearts forever. Bosses are the subject of ire and complaint. We criticize them readily when we see things go awry; we bemoan when we have to work late; we are quick to get irritated when the meetings are difficult.
Personally, the more I go out on a limb and try new things, the fewer leaders there are in front of me. Each step I take in carving out a new path, I find there aren’t as many people around me looking back, telling me what I’m doing is right. Or whether what I’m doing is worth doing at all. It can be a lonely, strange endeavour. And often the only sound you hear is criticism. Or the crickets chirping..extend my arm and I find you standing by my side like a ROCK. You have been a great inspiration and a mentor. I wish all the best in years to come…May God bless you with good health and all the happiness that you desire. We’ll miss you Chef..!!
Ashrafi Matcheswala – General Manager Taj Campton Place, San Francisco
“Chef Satish Arora is a wonderful human being and a brilliant chef. He has cooked for presidents and maharajas and yet has retained his humility. His five decades at the Taj are a credit to his wonderful talent and I wish him all the best in all his future endeavours”.
Amit Chowdhury – Executive Chef, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel Mumbai
“Chef Arora is an icon to many chefs. I was one of them. He had through his sheer hard work and dedication inspired many budding chefs. His humility and his thirst for knowledge was his strength. I had the opportunity to work with him & learn when I joined as a trainee chef in Taj. His knowledge about Continental cuisine is vast and was probably responsible in making this cuisine popular in The Taj group”.
A V Sriram – Michelin Star Chef and Director Operations – The Quilon St. James Court Buckingham Gate London (A Taj Hotel)
“Chef Arora has been chef of the chefs. He has contributed immensely to the Taj group and the hospitality industry in the whole. He has personally been a great friend and teacher. I wish chef Arora a very happy and enjoyable second inning if he decides to continue in the trade. Good luck and thank you for your friendship and advice, always.
Anirudh Roy – Executive Chef Taj Lands End
“A man for all seasons, great talent and substance. Yet humble and a guiding light for all aspiring chefs! He is a beacon of Indian hospitality industry and would remain so. All the very best”.
Salil Fadnis – Executive Chef Sahara Star hotel & Aamby Valley
“When I started my career, I knew only two names and one of them was Chef Satish Arora. He has been a pioneer and I have always looked up to him right from my initial days. He’s a legend and stands tall with his work, greatness and simplicity. I was not fortunate enough to work with him but I have tremendous respect and that has grown with every interaction that I’ve had with him”.
Farhat Jamal – senior vice-president (operations) Western India and Africa
“I have known Chef Arora for over 3 decades. His contribution to culinary journey of Taj Group
Has been truly commendable. His humility, energy, immense passion for driving quality and creativity is exceptional. One of the great chef’s of our time”.
P.K. Mohankumar – Ex COO Indian Hotels Co & Ex MD & COO Ginger Hotels
“Dearest Arorasaab your final working day @ Taj is an Era being over ! But for many of us Chef Arora is Mr Taj! Welcome to the heritage club! You will always be a TAJ Ratna!! God bless”.
Report: Sitaram Mewati