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 an 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 learned 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 to 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.
Chef de Cuisine
Charlie Fuerte Charlie started cooking during college to help pay for tuition. He started at a small restaurant off of the beach as a dishwasher/prep cook/fry cook. He moved around and worked at other places in Hollywood and for a catering company for movie sets. Charlie graduated with a degree in health at California State University, Long Beach then moved to New York to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Junoon was his first job in New York as a pastry cook. He became the leader of the pastry department after a year. After a rapid assent in the kitchen Charlie was awarded
with the Chef de Cuisine position.
Executive Pastry Chef
Gustavo Tzocx Gustavo was born in Guatemala City. Moved to California at age 15 for high school and college at UC Davis. Later on he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.
During his studies, he earned an externship at Park Avenue Cafe where he learned the art of presentation in fine dining in a practical setting. After graduating from the CIA he went on to work at some venerable Manhattan kitchens like Union Square Cafe and David Burke & Donatella.
Tzoc was able to combine all of his experience at the celebrated davidburke restaurant corporation, where he held his first pastry chef position. Opening DavidBurke Townhouse and Fishtail. Here he was able to tap into his whimsical sensibilities and daring flavor combinations.
He was tapped by Chef Franklin Becker to open the first restaurant for the EMM corporation where he helped open Abe&Arthurs and Lexington Brass as the corporate pastry chef. Then he also helped reinvent the pastry menus of such places as Wallse, Blaue Gans, Bistro Promenade, New Leaf, Armani Ristorante on 5th Ave. He also help open Ralph Lauren’s The Polo Bar to critical acclaim.
After 15 years as a pastry chef, on 2017 he joined the team at Junoon Restaurant where his passion for spices and creativity can be use to full extent. Chef Tzoc is excited to become part of the Junoon family and future exciting projects to come.
Executive Sous Chef
Aurore Vuittenez Aurore Vuittenez was raised in the Jura region of France, a locale known for its distinctive and famous wines. Aurore attended art school in Paris, where she spent nearly ten years focusing on set design and construction – working on an array of film and commercial projects.
In 2010, Aurore moved to New York City and followed a different career path, securing server and bartender positions at renowned restaurants such as The Odeon, Balaboosta, Bar Boulud. Very quickly she discovered a passion for wine. She decided to dedicate herself to this passion and went on to earn certifications from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), as well as the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS).
Aurore’s first Sommelier position was with Terroir Tribeca in 2014. After some time, she went on to hold the title of Head Sommelier with Chefs Club in Nolita, with Alain Ducasse’s alum Didier Elena running the kitchen; and then briefly spent time with the Major Food Group at Dirty French. Ultimately, in May of 2018, the opportunity arose and Aurore was named Wine Director at Junoon, where she currently spearheads the outstanding wine program.
Aurore has a love for culinary arts and culture, with a deep-rooted understanding of the beverage industry. With each phase in her life – from her French upbringing, creative pursuits, and vast experience in the culinary industry – Aurore has established herself as a remarkable member of the staff and a critical asset to Junoon.
Deepak (David) Shah
Deepak (David) ShahDeepak Shah has extensive managing experience in fine dining establishments in NYC since 2000. He worked at Tamarind & Avoce and Del Posto before becoming an opening member of the Junoon team.
HEAD MIXOLOGIST/ BEVERAGE DIRECTOR
Hemant Pathak 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.
Rajesh Bhardwaj 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.