A Day in the Life: Chef Bobby Retnakumar Geetha

A published author, blogger, MasterChef UK quarter finalist and consultant who has worked with some of Europe’s Michelin starred culinary greats, Chef Bobby isn’t your average 9-5 guy. We spent a day with him in his new role as corporate chef for Asha’s Restaurants

It’s 4.30am and my alarm buzzes persistently, jolting me out of a deep sleep. I have every intention of getting up and getting a head start on the day, but the temptation to hit the snooze button is too great and before I know it, it’s 7.30am.

Despite the unexpected lie-in I’m excited to get up, as in my new role as corporate chef for Asha’s Restaurants I have a million and one thoughts and ideas constantly whizzing around inside my head.

Seeing the sun rise over the city skyline is a welcomed change from misty London (although Aditi, my eldest daughter, who has already left for school, says that Dubai feels like living in an oven).

Mornings always begin with a conscious effort to pause for a moment and be grateful for all the blessings in my life, and to visualize an amazing day ahead.

It’s back to reality though and I spend some quality time with my 2½-year-old daughter. I love these precious moments of daddy-daughter time – a rare treat for a professional chef.

But it’s 8am and work beckons, so I go through my emails to clear the decks and reply to any urgent messages from the bosses. It’s also a good time to review guest feedback from the different Asha’s Restaurants across the region, and overseas, and see how we did yesterday in terms of sales.

One of the many perks of joining the team is getting to work with amazingly talented people like our brand chef, Chef Navin. I consider him a great mentor and I fire off a quick email to him with some ideas for discussion later. Being part of a multinational success story like Asha’s comes with many responsibilities but I’m diving in head first and extremely proud to be part of its future.

A big part of being a chef is keeping on top of international trends and new culinary developments, as well as checking out what some of the other international chefs I follow are up to, so I take a quick peek at my Twitter and Instagram feeds for my daily dose of inspiration.

8.30am and it’s time to hit the ground running – literally – and I either head to the gym, swim or go for a jog, which gives me a physical boost and a few extra moments to map out the day in my head while I work out.

Because I’m fairly new to Dubai, I cab it to Asha’s, taking in the city’s crazy skyline on the drive to work. I do miss London and the daily people-watching journey on the tube, but a different city means new horizons and my commute nowadays can sometimes mean a plane trip to our restaurants in Kuwait, Bahrain or Manchester.

The first job of the day when I reach Asha’s Restaurant at Wafi is to go through the kitchen from top to bottom to check on stocks and to see if any issues need addressing before we start our 9.30am morning briefing.

I love technology and when I’m not working I am always available online, so I use up a few seconds to send good morning messages to my head chef and sous chef team via our private Whatsapp group. Of course, once everyone arrives I do the same thing in person – plus a handshake for good measure.

The nitty gritty of the briefing takes up quite a bit of time as we check our bookings for the day, see which VIPs or celebrities are coming in for dinner and plan out any food trials or tastings (one of my favourite parts of the job!).

It’s noon and we are live in the kitchen. My job today is to stand at the pass to taste dishes before they go out and make sure they are prepared and presented to Asha ji’s own exacting standards.

I’m not a shouty kind of chef; I want the team to enjoy the service while keeping a tight rein on standards. Kitchens need to be fun places to work, after all the hours are long enough and your work colleagues are like extended family.

I forget to eat lunch….again. If I do remember, which is rare, then I make it a point to eat with the team and cook something with them as we all need to eat good food, not just serve it!

3.30- 6pm: I love the afternoons as this is when I get my creative juices going, researching new development ideas and recipes. Today I have a conference call with our Manchester team for a general update and then I oversee a photo shoot for a local magazine. The level of detail required to get just three pictures is exhausting, but our dishes look amazing.

It’s groundhog day from 6pm through to late evening as we tackle the dinner service. The restaurant is full tonight so I barely have a second to breathe, but happy diners make happy chefs and the atmosphere in the kitchen is upbeat all the way.

10pm and I grab a quick bite; normally a missi roti and small portion of some kind of protein cooked in the tandoor. I try to eat healthily as I have a small pot belly, which I hate. How I’d love to have a six pack; even a ‘two pack’ would make me happy!

I thank the team, wrap up the day and head home at 11pm to find my family already tucked up in bed. I freshen up but am still not quite done with work, and spend a couple of hours going through emails and pushing through with any priority assignments.

1am and it’s bedtime at last. Tomorrow is going to be another amazing day…it always is when you love what you do, and working at Asha’s really is the dream.