The quintessential hospitality man

Friends of Farhat Jamal who thought they’d lost him to Delhi and the Shangri-La, will be happy to hear that not only is the dapper hotelier returning to Mumbai, but is returning to the Taj Group as senior vice-president (operations), responsible for Western India and Africa.

Jamal has much experience under his belt, having served as vice-president and GM of the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai; GM of Taj Lands End, Mumbai, and deputy general manager of St James’ Court. But in our opinion, it is a much humbler position, where he first displayed his emotional intelligence and people skills, that carried him to his present position.

Farhat Jamal
Farhat Jamal

Almost three decades ago, we had been sent by our friend, Camellia Panjabi at that time VP (marketing) at the Taj and also editor of its magazine on a journalistic assignment to Delhi. We were, as it happened at that time, very young and not a little unsure of the things that we now take in our stride: staying alone at a ‘big’ hotel, calling up people we hardly knew for interviews, lunching and dining alone at the restaurants we were supposed to write about, etc.

And so, as it happened, we found ourselves shyly lunching alone at the Italian eatery at the Taj Mansingh one afternoon. It was a buffet, the restaurant was sparsely populated, and we were feeling quite miserable, when the soft-spoken restaurant manager, perhaps sensing our awkwardness, went out of his way to be kind and gracious and make us feel at home.

He had no way of knowing who we were, or that we had been sent to write about the restaurant or its activities, neither did the subject come up: it was only that in the finest tradition of the Taj, he was making sure that a guest any guest left feeling a little better about themselves and the world. That restaurant manager happened to be Farhat Jamal starting out on his career. We laugh together over the memory now.

But that he went on to such heights in his career doesn’t surprise us. Welcome home, Farhat, and may you have the opportunity to make many more guests at your hotels feel as welcome and cared for, as you had once made an unsure and awkward writer, all those years ago.

Smart move
The effervescent Sanjna Kapoor, who has quietly dedicated her life to the cause of good theatre, called to invite us next week to celebrate the successful conclusion of the first year of SMART. “It’s India’s first programme to impart knowledge, skills and expertise about arts management within the theatre community itself,” she said.

Sanjna Kapoor with the SMART core team
Sanjna Kapoor with the SMART core team

“The program is specially conceived, designed and developed by experts from the field, who tailor it to the context and constraints of the arts in India, and address the dire need for effective arts management in our country,” she said, adding, “We initiated SMART in January 2015 and have spent a remarkable year filled with rich experiences, deep learning and tremendous joy.

So we would be delighted if you joined us to recognise and celebrate our very first batch of 17 SMART graduates.” As for the clever acronym ‘SMART’, Kapoor said it stood for ‘Strategic Management in the Art of Theatre.’ That’s pretty smart too!

Two hospitality doyens
It’s yet another feather in Biki Oberoi’s cap. Recently, Oberoi hotels was voted the world’s #1 hotel brand and its Udaivilas in Rajasthan the top hotel in the world, by readers of the prestigious Travel and Leisure magazine, considered the Holy Grail of international hospitality and travel.

Biki Oberoi and Pallavi Shah
Biki Oberoi and Pallavi Shah

And to receive the honours at an elegant soiree in New York last week was the great man himself. Seen here with our friend, another hospitality and travel doyenne, Pallavi Shah the Mumbai girl who decades ago had moved to the Big Apple, married a Nepali prince, worked for Air India and now runs a high-end travel company the two make a pretty picture indeed at the event.

“We go back at least 50 years, and I have been a staunch fan of the Oberoi Vilas hotels since Biki Oberoi’s vision launched them,” posted Shah along with this photograph. Nice!

Arsenic and mint tea
More from the corridors of Mumbai’s snootiest club. Mint tea with its resident grande dame was a riveting affair. “It is apparent to regular members that three idle old men including one who rents his house by the hour along with a trio of women (including a former airhostess married to a musician member, and an elderly Cordon Bleu lady member, along with a pharma honcho) are doing all they can to indulge in filthy vengeful and fabricated character assassination,” she wailed. Such a palaver. Could elections to various committees be around the corner we wonder?

Floyd comes to town
Floyd Cardoz, the celebrated Indian-American chef will be in Mumbai next week and will be found in the kitchen at Lower Parel’s Bombay Canteen, no doubt cooking up a storm.

Chef Floyd Cardoz. Pic/Getty Images
Chef Floyd Cardoz. Pic/Getty Images

Cardoz, who previously worked for celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group for 17 years and saw much success in his career overseas, having opened the now defunct contemporary Indian restaurant ‘Tabla,’ and then going on to helm the kitchen at the highly rated North End Grill in New York; left his day job last year for new culinary adventures around the world.

One of them being the successful Bombay Canteen in Mumbai, which he, along with his partner and one-time apprentice Sameer Seth, started a few months ago. And though Cardoz, who is known to be brimming with new ideas and without hesitation in implementing them, is sure to bring some changes in the menu we just hope the Eggs Kejriwal stay!

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