Arjun Gopi’s Cayman Islands Tourism Association Stingray Award for Restaurant Manager of the Year 2011 was nothing short of recognition for a job well done.
“Winning the award was certainly an honour and a surprise,” Mr. Gopi said. “We have a very tight tourism community here and it was great to be part of that and part of the night. I’ve been doing events and banqueting here at Ritz-Carlton for the last two years having joined in 2006. Being involved in Cayman Cookout and what that drives for us in tourism, I headed up two of them, taking care of the various outdoor events.
“I’ve been involved in the planning and I guess that’s where it came about – it’s a tremendous honour to be recognised in that way,” he said.
The Cookout, a series of epicurean events based largely, but not exclusively, around The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, certainly keeps Mr. Gopi busy both in the planning stages and during the event itself. “The pre-planning, envisioning what the product is going to look like and the experience we’re creating for our guests, visiting dignitaries and celebrities is probably the biggest part,” he said. “It is a double edged sword because we have to work with the celebrity chefs, winemakers and restaurants on island. Also they want to hang around and cook with their friends as well so we take care of all of that. All these guys have become friends as part of the cookout. It’s an interesting dynamic.
“Planning starts in the July of the previous year based on feedback from guests and ideas then during the actual event I take care of delegating and executing the events,” Mr. Gopi said. “I am here from 6am to midnight running from one end of the hotel to the other overseeing events. And this is not a small hotel!”
The high-flying 28-year-old met his wife in Cayman – she’s a pastry chef in Blue.
“It’s a cross-cultural thing; she’s from Peru and I am from India, born in Chennai, and we moved up to Mumbai when I was 6 years old, which was my first connection with the wider world and the world of cooking.
India has such a diversity of languages and cultures, that it is almost incredible, he said.
“The American continent has a lot of geographical diversity and there are nuances of culture as you travel from East Coast to West Coast, but in India every 500,000 kilometres is completely different: the food they have, the beliefs they have, the gods they worship,” he said.
“Actually a lot of Indians travel within India to great success and also do well abroad because it’s in our psyche to be able to adjust to different languages, different conditions and different people. A lot in mine or my father’s generation had to leave our home towns to search for opportunities and jobs. So a lot of people travel and that makes us kind of easy to fit in which applies to the hospitality industry as much as anything else,” Mr. Gopi said.