After passing from Hotel School in Chennai, Tamil Nadu in 1987, Rajiv S Gulshan joined Oberoi School of Management as Trainee chef. Enjoying a rich career beginning in 1989 with the Oberoi Maidens and then the Oberoi Towers in 1991, Rajiv learned the art of cooking to a western palate.
Being a recipient of Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi Outstanding Performance award, he was posted back to his alma mater, The Oberoi School as a Chef Trainer to train management trainees and Chef Trainees from all parts of the world. Rajiv’s interest in regional cooking was sparked when he joined the Hotel Ambre in Mauritius, in 1994. There he prepared Indian coastal food from areas such as Malabar, Goa and the West Bengal regions of India.
His signature dishes ranged from tandoori wild boar chops with aubergine chutney to chicken tikka makhani on cumin and chili potato crush and saffron crusted medallions of cottage cheese. In his quest to gain more insight into India’s regional cuisine, Rajiv travelled from coast to coast in his position as Head of Food production- training & Systems with the Sterling Resort in 1995, cooking with master chefs in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Orissa, Darjeeling, and Himachal Pradesh. Two years later, he joined the Oberoi group of hotels again, at the Oberoi Grand in Calcutta. There he opened famous Brasserie “La Terrace” serving International food to various nationalities.
In 1998 Rajiv was made the Executive Chef of Cecil, a boutique hotel in the Himalayas. Signature dishes from this period included mouth-watering creations like Cappuccino of field mushrooms with olive froth, Iced Kulu trout served with almond butter, mountain goat curry with cinnamon, chicken cooked with green mango & coriander and sun dried lentil dumplings in tomato gravy. In 2000, Rajiv was promoted to Area Chef of 3 Luxury resorts in the Himalayas.
He furthered his knowledge of home-style cooking by living with the local shepherd families in the villages and cooking with the women folk and old master chefs. Impressed by the simplicity of their cooking and the variety of produce used in their dishes, Rajiv transferred these techniques to the hotel kitchen. Serving up dishes such as green moong lentil with tree tomatoes and mustard paste, ice-water trout with yellow chili and wild lemon pickle, the appreciation for the riot of colour produced by the food and their modern presentation were well lauded by the guests. His cuisine has been mentioned in Gallavanter’s guide and written about by Ms. Fay Maschler in Evening Standard (Tuesday edition), UK. In 2001, Mr. Oberoi sent Rajiv to cook with Naked Chef Jamie Oliver in London. He has also worked with Enzo’s in Melbourne and interacted with Chef Tetsuya in Sydney.
After this international exposure, Rajiv was assigned to open luxurious ‘Udaivilas’ hotel in Udaipur, and used the opportunity to research the cuisine of Rajasthan. Some of his dishes from this period include chicken tikka wrapped in lotus leaf, Palia tian with lal maas, Makai ka soyeta, lamb heart filled ravioli in tandoor smoked tomato soup. In 2002, Rajiv joined Veda as Executive Chef. His extensive knowledge of Indian regional foods and holistic approach to cooking were a natural fit with Veda’s culinary philosophy. Veda revealed a side of Indian cuisine most diners were not familiar with – home style cooking.
Time magazine has named Veda as one of the 3 best restaurants in Asia. “Veda brings Indian cuisine into the rarefied realm of tall food and takes Indian dishes in a never- before- seen direction.” The October 2003 issue of Discovery (an in-flight magazine of Cathay Pacific) has named VEDA one of the 88 reasons to fly in to Hong Kong. While in Hong Kong, he did training sessions on Asian flavour dynamics and undertook an in depth study of Vietnamese and Thai food. He also took a course in Flavour Dynamics at Culinary Institute of America (Napa Valley Campus).
Since the beginning of 2004, Rajiv has been involved in setting up of a hotel school in the island of Mauritius (Indian Ocean). One of the most famous courses given by Rajiv is on “Understanding Asian Spices”. In August 2004, Rajiv was decorated with “Commander de Commanderie de Cordon Bleu”. He has featured in various International magazines and also done pairing of Asian food with Veuve Clicqout Champagne and new world wines. Rajiv was the editor of Hong Kong Chef’s association magazine and has regularly featured in Food and Wine articles of South China Morning post.
His articles have been published by Hong Kong Hotel & Caterer and in Namaste Yoga magazine on health and spa cuisine. Chef Gulshan also works with Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong for their Indian food promotions. He has also been consulting Chiva Som resorts in Hua Hin, Thailand for Ayurvedic and spa cuisine. In September 2006, he had been invited by Raffles Singapore to conduct a Food Promotion on Food from Royal Palaces of India.
He works closely with Hotel School in Reunion Island for their yearly charity event to help the destitute in Madagascar. Presently doing his Doctorate from Melbourne University, Rajiv is exploring the judgment issues faced by chef-assessors when assessing commercial cookery qualification. His thesis will shed light on
‘To what extent does an assessor’s level of vocational expertise interact with their level of assessment expertise to influence the quality of vocational education and training provided to students?’