Akshay Bhardwaj grew up eating homemade Indian food prepared by his mother. Couple this with his father being a restaurateur, Bhardwaj found himself drawn to the restaurant industry at an early age. Though he started studying business at university, he found himself in the kitchen of Junoon in 2012 as an apprentice, and he has worked for the restaurant group ever since, including a brief stint at the Dubai location.
"The talented kitchen is particularly adept at bringing out contrasting flavors and textures in myriad dishes," say inspectors of Junoon, which has held a Michelin star since its opening in 2010. Bhardwaj reached the top of the ranks when he was promoted to executive chef in 2017, allowing him to continue to push the boundaries of Indian cooking and share his food with the world.
What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
My first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide was working as a line cook in 2012 as we received one star for that year.
What were your thoughts when you knew you received a star?
A wave of emotions hit me this year when I found out that we got our star. I was very thankful for my entire staff for their sacrifices and hard work over the course of the year.
How did you celebrate?
We celebrated the star by having a party for the staff to show our appreciation to them.
How much influence/inspiration does the MICHELIN Guide have on your career?
The MICHELIN Guide is something that every top chef and restaurateur knows about and has been featured in. The history of the guide is unmatched when it comes to the culinary world so it has been one of my goals to be recognized by them.
How will having a star change the direction of your restaurant?
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with having a star as diners come expecting a certain standard of excellence, so you can never have an off service. There is constant pressure 365 days a year to deliver a memorable experience for our guests.
What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?
My advice is to make sure you are surrounded by a team who equally believe in both your short term and long term ambitions as you cannot do it on your own at a sustainable level. Aim to serve the best possible food you can produce day in and day out and strive for consistently great services. Keep a sharp eye for details and don't chase after stars—chase knowledge and techniques and the rest will come in time.
Photos courtesy of Junoon.