How I Got Here: Sunaina Sethi

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

JKS Restaurants Gymkhana Trishna director Sunaina Sethi on working with her bothers, making hospitality a more attractive career move, and her love...

Related tags: Sunaina Sethi, JKS Restaurants, Restaurant, Fine dining, Indian cuisine

The JKS Restaurants director on working with her bothers, making hospitality a more attractive career move, and her love of Eastenders.

Why restaurants?
We grew up as a family of five who loved dining out. We’d go out weekly on a Saturday or Sunday night from when we were quite young, and we’d always spend a long time debating where to go. Our parents also entertained regularly, and so hospitality is something that has been and is very much instilled in us.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
It’s ever changing! Depending on the occasion, A Wong, Brasserie Zedel and The Heron (for authentic Thai). There are a number of groups I have a huge amount of respect for such as Corbin & King and Hawksmoor, and I feel I am constantly learning from them.

What motivates you?
Making guests happy, creating experiences they won’t forget, and leaving a lasting impression by going over and above any expectations they might have.

What keeps you up at night?
Mostly the responsibility of our teams and ensuring they feel looked after, nurtured and are given every opportunity possible to thrive in their careers.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I feel people come into your lives from different backgrounds and help in a number of different ways. As with many restaurateurs, Danny Meyer’s approach to employees and the running of your organisation has had a big impact on me. This was particularly the case when I first joined the industry and read his book, not really having any idea what I was doing.

What's your best business decision?
Working with my brothers.

And you worst?
Working with my brothers.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
For us its always been about passion and obsession. It’s so important to love what you do in this industry, because you end up living and breathing it.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Don’t get me started on the current state of things at the moment. Aside from the corona-related issues, I have definitely seen change in the last 11 years but there is still work to be done on the perception of working in the hospitality industry. It is often seen as filling a gap in peoples careers rather than being a career itself. We have been trying to have more of a presence at career fairs in schools and universities so students start seeing us as a possible career with long term growth opportunities covering such a wide skill set.

What time do you wake up?
7.30am.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

How often do you check your email?
Constantly.

How do you let off steam?
I’ve no shame in admitting it – by watching Eastenders! It’s the ultimate brain switch off. Over lockdown we also started doing a lot of puzzles which was great.

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
It's 50:50. Both have a close place in my heart.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Chilli con carne.

Describe a typical Sunday
We usually have friends over. It’s a one meal kind of day, where we start eating at 2pm and finish around 7pm.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
I started working at Trishna straight after graduating from university and it was meant to be a temporary stint. I had started applying to management consultant roles, and after three days of being at Trishna, the applications went in the bin.

What's your favourite holiday destination?
New York.

What are you currently reading?
The Whole Brain Child​ – to try to deal with my toddler’s tantrums.

What boxset are you currently watching?
This Is Us.

What was your dream job growing up?
Teacher.

 

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