After hours with... Sandeep Bhalla

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Related tags: Hotel, Burj al arab

Sandeep Bhalla
Sandeep Bhalla
The India-born director of food and beverage at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge has worked in some of the world’s top class hotels. In his current position he has overseen the transformation of Petrus into Marcus Wareing’s eponymous restaurant, and the return of Pierre Koffmann to the hotel.

How I got here:

I studied at an Institute for Hotel Management in India, which is a government-run school, for three years, before being recruited by the Taj Hotel Group. I knew from my first year of training at school that I wanted to excel in F&B, and so undertook a management training programme at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. Once I had finished my training in 1995, I moved onto another Taj hotel to help open it from the events side.

After a year or so I moved onto working at the Orient Express as restaurant manager . That restaurant was incredible, and at the time was the only one in India to be on the list of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World.

I decided to move to Dubai in 1999 to help open the Burj al Arab. I knew it would be a special experience so I took a step down to be assistant restaurant manager. Eventually I was promoted to restaurant manager of the hotel’s second restaurant on the top floor, but soon I was given the chance to be assistant F&B manager, and then F&B manager.

I stayed at the same hotel in Dubai for eight years, but my wife, who is originally from Holland, was eager to move back to Europe. It was then that I came across a position at The Berkeley and I took the chance to move to London as director of F&B.

Moving to London:

It was one of the best decisions I made coming to The Berkeley. Because I’ve always worked in hotels I never wanted to move anywhere where I’d feel I would do injustice to all my years, so I’d always look for opportunities that were better or similar to my current position. I took a step up coming to the Berkeley.

My first year here was quite difficult, coming from eight years in a huge hotel in Dubai where service standards and operations are so different. At the Burj al Arab I had more people on my staff than we have in the entire Berkeley hotel.

Working with Wareing and Koffmann:

The two restaurant openings at the hotel have been a blessing for me, as they were only announced after I joined.

It was a great experience for me when Marcus moved away from GRH in 2008, and Petrus turned into Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley. That was a great experience. And then in April the Boxwood Cafe moved out of the hotel and we worked to reopen Koffmanns. It’s great to have him back, he’s a great chef - there’s nothing he needs to prove anymore. It was a great experience working with him from the start and setting up a new kitchen too.

Most important experience:

The best training ground I ever had was at the Orient Express. Being Indian I never had a much exposure to French food, so I learned so much from working there. Not only in terms of food style but service skills, wine, carving on tables, flambéing as well.

My greatest achievement:

I feel like I have many great achievements, like being able to work at the Orient Express, for example, which I owe a lot to myself today. I’m also achieving high scores in our current staff engagement surveys which is fantastic.

The future:

I would quite like to work as hotel manager some day, but I’d like to gain more knowledge of the rooms side of the business first. The day I start feeling bad about coming to work is the day I stop working. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Hotels, Career Profile

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Comment on excellence

Posted by Talal,

I remember , this man sandeep bhalla walks and works like a lady. And he is very obnoxious.

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Great Achievements

Posted by Narinder Singh Sawhney Awards winner,

I was so eagerly reading about you.It looks you have good back ground.
Your sincere dedication will bring you more sucess.
We are in London for last 45 years and now retired but our two sons Sukhinder and Rajbir are in whisky business.

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