Team

Akshay Bhardwaj
Executive Chef

Chef Akshay Bhardwaj was born in Queens and moved to Closter, New Jersey at a young age where he did his schooling. Homemade Indian food was a daily ritual prepared by his mother which exposed him to the vast array of spices and vegetables used in the cuisine. Akshay found himself drawn to the restaurant industry at an early age. While attending Fordham University Gabelli School of Business in 2012, Akshay started an apprenticeship in the kitchen of Junoon under Chef Adin Langille.

 

His culinary career has been exclusively within the Junoon family. He began as a intern and worked his way up to Lead Line Chef and Tournant/Roundsman. Following a stint at Junoon Dubai, he returned to Junoon in New York to become Junior Sous Chef and eventually Sous Chef in 2015. Along the way, he learnt French, Italian and even Japanese techniques working under various chefs, which he applies at Junoon to help push the boundaries of Indian cuisine. He was promoted as the Executive Chef in 2016. Chef Akshay’s cooking has a strong emotional component rooted in childhood food memories and how they made him feel.

 

In October 2017, Junoon was awarded a Michelin Star for the seventh year in a row. The restaurant has received one each year since its 2010 debut. Junoon now holds the title of the only Indian restaurant in New York City with a Michelin Star and Executive Chef Akshay Bhardwaj is one of the youngest Indian chefs to be recognized for this coveted award.

 

Prior to embarking on the culinary path Chef Akshay studied Business at Fordham University and is completing a Business degree at Baruch College in New York. His interests include football, basketball, soccer, playing the piano and spending time with family. He visits India regularly, where he enjoys his grandmother’s cooking.

RAJESH BHARDWAJ
Founder/CEO
Founder of Junoon Dubai, Rajesh Bhardwaj, began his venture in hospitality in 1982 at the Institude of Hotel Management IHM Pusa, New Delhi. He continued to expand his knowledge in management through work, until 1985 where he received a scholarship to the International School of Tourism Sciences in Rome, Italy. Upon receiving in Masters in Hospitality management he joined the Taj Group of Hotels as the Manager of Food and Beverages. This is where his career in hospitality really began. After 4 years if industry experience, Rajesh moved to New York in 1990, where he open up his first restaurant. He later sold the business in 1996. This was his first solo project, in the big city, earning him six years of International experience. However, his big break was when he co-founded Café Spice, a group of Indian bistros. Café Spice concept was critically acclaimed and captured the public’s attention and imagination with its lively and vibrant mainstream décor and broad appeal. It won numerous awards and it soon expanded to others cities to 16 locations. It was honored and awarded “The Hot Concept” by Nations Restaurant News in 2005. In 2006, Bhardwaj cofounded Zaika Flavours of India, a first of its kind all chilled, natural and organically packaged Indian cuisine for supermarkets and the food service industry. Currently, it stands as one of the leading brands in the world. Junoon was formed in 2010, and is a fine dining Modern Indian restaurant and the recipient of five consecutive Michelin Stars in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Additionally, it is the recipient of the Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator in four consecutive years, from 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. New York Times Top 100 New York Magazine rates it amongst the top 10 restaurants in New York.
Hemant Pathak
Head Mixologist/ Beverage Director
Hemant Pathak is the Mixologist/Bar Manager of Junoon, an award-winning restaurant in New York redefining Indian gastronomy and elevating it to unprecedented heights. Earning both a Michelin star and a Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence for five consecutive years since opening in 2010, it sets the gold standard of Progressive Indian cuisine by marrying the best of India’s culinary past with its worldly future. An acclaimed bartender and mixologist, Hemant is responsible for creating Junoon’s world-class cocktail, spirits, and beer programs, including all purchasing and inventory control, as well as staff training and education. Hemant holds court at Junoon’s high-end cocktail lounge, which he views as his stage for creating unique and contemporary quaffs that integrate rare herbs and spices of his native India that can be found at no other bar. His culinary-driven cocktails celebrate seasonal ingredients and respect the classic mixology canon while incorporating the latest techniques and thinking. By engaging in hours of conversation with Junoon’s chefs, tasting their dishes, and listening to their ideas and inspirations, Hemant creates striking and innovative libations, what he calls “glasses of experience,” that best complement Junoon’s culinary offerings. Previously, Hemant held mixologist and bar manager positions at The Flatiron Room, American Gymkhana, and Island Steak House as he sharpened his craft and deepened his knowledge. His introduction to crafting cocktails came while working as a Steward at the prestigious Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, India. There he found his real passion and set out to research the art, science, and history of mixology. Within a few months, he developed a new cocktail menu for the hotel’s restaurant, which quickly garnered acclaim, and by the end of that year, he had won his first cocktail competition, with more to follow. Hemant’s multiple accolades include winning the 2012 Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in India and representing his country in the global competition that year. This followed winning top honors at the 2011 Diageo World Class Global Competition in the “Classic Cocktail with a Twist” category. A Certified VITI 1 Sommelier from American Sommelier, Hemant also holds advanced certifications in Tequila and Bourbon. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel Management & Tourism from India’s National Institute of Hotel Management. Hemant resides with his wife, Himani, in Jersey City, N.J. He enjoys swimming, photography, exploring the world via the Internet and immersing himself in hospitality magazines. Born in the foothills of the Himalayas, Hemant begins each day with meditation and prayer. His favorite at-home cocktail is the Negroni.