Rajesh Bhardwaj is an experienced entrepreneur and restaurant operator He is Owner and Founder of Junoon, an award-winning fine dining 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 eight consecutive years since opening in 2010.
After he earned his undergraduate degrees in Hospitality Management from the Institute of Hotel Management, Pusa, and Business Management from Delhi University (both in New Delhi, India), he earned his Masters degree in Hospitality Management from the International School of Tourism Sciences in Rome, Italy. Rajesh began his hospitality career in his native India with ITDC and Taj Hotels Group, where he worked as a Food & Beverage Manager.
He then moved to the United States in the early 90’s and opened his first venture, a small Indian restaurant in Queens, New York. Rajesh then co-founded the highly successful Café Spice restaurant group, which launched in 1997 and changed the landscape of Indian cuisine in the U.S. It realized his vision of introducing a modern bistro-style of Indian dining, which was unprecedented at the time, and ultimately expanded to 12 locations in the Northeast. Rajesh served as COO of Café Spice until 2009 when he left to develop his next venture, Junoon.
Since 2010, Rajesh has been the Founder and CEO of Junoon Restaurants. During this time, Rajesh has led Junoon to become an award-winning fine dining Indian restaurant.
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.
Executive Sous Chef
Chef Dheeraj Tomar is a native of New Delhi India and is currently the Executive Sous Chef of the first Michelin starred Indian restaurant in the US called Junoon in New York City. Junoon is epitome of Authenticity and quality Indian Food to cater to the ever-growing Food lovers in the USA.
Dheeraj’s professional journey dates back to year 2000 in India where he Graduated in culinary management training program from a renowned ITDC Hotel. He worked at famous kitchens of Indian restaurants in 5-star hotels in India including Intercontinental New Delhi. He then moved to Dubai where he worked with Hotel Marco Polo which was awarded as the Best Indian restaurant by Time Out. He returned back to India and started another stint at the Intercontinental, New Delhi.
During these years Dheeraj got numerous print media impressions where his recipes where published in newspapers etc. and was widely acknowledged as an expert at Innovating newer healthier trends in eating, He was often referred to as a connoisseur of food.
Dheeraj moved to New York City in 2011 where he was at the helm of affairs in Devi Group Ltd. Before moving to his current place of work, Junoon.
Dheeraj’s professional endeavors have dazzled the Indian food lovers in the US and that is evident from raving reviews his restaurant gets on social and professional platforms. Dheeraj’s cooking style includes both the pan cooking and tandoor cooking and is synonymous with North Indian cuisine.
His cuisine has been featured in numerous food festivals in NYC like City Harvest, Harvest in the Square etc. and is regularly featured in the forums and platforms likewise. Dheeraj’s pristine reputation is an asset for any culinary institution or a Food restaurant of repute.
Executive Pastry Chef
Gustavo Tzocx 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.
Marissa discovered a deep appreciation and interest in the way food and wine interact with each other during a month-long trip to Umbria, Italy. It was during this time that the concept of “what grows together goes together” began to take root in her.
Back in New York City, Marissa considers herself fortunate to have been mentored by Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn while they worked together at Chanterelle and Tocqueville restaurants. During this time she studied for and passed the first two levels of the Court of Master Sommeliers. Her wine education was augmented with travel to wine areas of France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and South Africa in order to learn from winemakers on their soil.
Marissa joined the wine team at SHO Sean Hergatt, a two-star Michelin restaurant, before a brief stint at Gotham Bar and Grill as a member of an all-female wine team, and then she moved to David Burke Kitchen Soho where she ran her own wine program. The program received a 2017 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence under her tenure.
In June 2019, Marissa joined the team at Junoon as Wine Buyer and Head Sommelier. Working collaboratively with Chef Akshay Bhardwaj she helps to create wine tasting pairings and glass offerings that are tailored to the spices and flavors of his kitchen. Respecting the artisans in the Junoon kitchen, Marissa seeks out wines for the list which are made by artisans who have a foundation in tradition and generational wine-making and for winemakers who are great stewards of the land and water. Helping guests navigate the wine list to find the perfect wine for their meal at Junoon is something she thoroughly enjoys.
Deepak (David) Shah
Deepak (David) 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 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.