Born and raised in Kerala (India) Nitin Radhakrishnan studied in one of the most prestigious hospitality schools in Switzerland. Shortly after graduating, he secured his first position in the 5* Dolder Grand, Zurich. He then decided to move to the UK where he worked for some of the most prestigious 5* hotels such as The Savoy, The Marriott or Grange Hotel Group. Nitin gained a wealth of experience in top establishments and worked in almost all aspects of hospitality: from Customer Service, Food and Beverage management to Operations.
In 2015, Nitin joined Le Cordon Bleu London’s team as a fully qualified teacher.
Can you share one of your fondest memories since you’ve been working in the industry working with the best?
One of the fondest memories would have to be meeting Sir Paul McCartney and his wife at the time Heather Mills. He came in for a late dessert when I was working at the Savoy. He shook my hand and we were chatting just like normal, and I had no idea it was him! It was the same with Tony Blair; he walked straight into the restaurant with no entourage! I just didn’t think it could be him. I’ve probably met half of Hollywood without even realising it!
When did you realise that this was to be your chosen career or was there a plan B or perhaps a childhood dream you once considered pursuing?
I come from a place called Kerala, South India. We are famous for being an exotic destination and hospitality is ingrained in our culture, I guess you could say that we are foodaholics. I think I must have been about 14 or 15 years of age when we had a careers day at school - there was a small group of people who spoke about the hospitality industry there. They were suited and booted and it appealed so much. After this talk I knew that this would be my chosen career, and from then on everything fell into place.
You can’t get culinary or hospitality knowledge of this kind anywhere else, especially to the depth that we reach.
How can you best describe what it’s like to work in a five-starred hotel and what is expected of you?
How can I put it? The pressure is immense, quoting Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. You can have as many dress rehearsals as you like, but it has to be right when you walk out on that platform. Pressure is high, and if you let it get to you then you’ll lose you fluidity - you really need to be calm and maturity needs to be balanced in this situation. In a five-star hotel the atmosphere and the people you’re standing in front of can be intimidating. Customers today are also seasoned, they are well travelled and know what to expect, so if you make a mistake, and of course it’s inevitable that you will one day, then it’s important to remember that it’s how you rectify these errors that matter.
After working in places such as the Dolder Grand and the Savoy what made Le Cordon Bleu appealing to you?
Le Cordon Bleu will always be special to me as I studied from the Le Cordon Bleu books, so it’s quite amazing to now be lecturing here. It’s a special place to be because it’s an institute of excellence. You can’t get culinary or hospitality knowledge of this kind anywhere else, especially to the depth that we reach.
Three words that would make the ideal person for the hospitality industry.
You need to be knowledgeable, an executer and tactful.
What type of person do you think the hospitality industry is looking for today?
They are looking for someone with passion, attention to detail, flexibility and superb organisational skills. As Daniel Meyer would say: "It’s about the person". You can teach someone all the knowledge they need when someone is eager to learn and perfect their role, but you can’t teach someone to have drive.
Do you have a top tip for your students on how to manage people in their future career?
I think the best way to manage is to master the art of understanding people. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes and their skill set. Once you know that, it becomes very easy.