Deepak Mallya's 12-Year Culinary Journey: From Apprentice to Executive Sous Chef at The Ritz Hotel

The Staff Canteen

Considered one of the most iconic and prestigious hotels in London and in the world, MICHELIN-STARRED The Ritz stands as a beacon of culinary excellence and timeless elegance.

Behind its prestigious reputation lies a dedicated team of culinary experts, including Executive Sous Chef Deepak Mallya, whose journey from apprentice to leader spans over a decade within the walls of this iconic establishment.

Deepak Mallya's 12-Year Journey at The Ritz hotel

"I just celebrated my 12-year anniversary on the 9th of January when I walked through the doors as an apprentice from Bournemouth and Poole College, part of the Royal Academy program," reflects Deepak, tracing the beginnings of his remarkable tenure at The Ritz.

Deepak's journey represents the ethos of continuous learning and growth established within The Ritz's culinary culture. "The biggest benefit from staying here for 12 years is mastering your craft," he remarks, underscoring the importance of patience and perseverance in honing one's skills.

“I started in the bar section doing sandwiches and salads, which I now think is probably the best place I could have started because it gave me a great respect for what you might not see as important,” he reveals. “The most important thing to me was making those sandwiches the best I could make them, making that salad the best I could make it, and that's followed me all the way through to ensure that even now the bar is equally as good, in terms of quality, as what we are doing in the restaurant.”

Once Deepak finished his apprenticeship, and after learning more from the larder and vegetable sections, he was moved to the sauce section to learn how to cook the meat. “People don't quite understand that here you don't really cook the proteins for a year and a half, two years, simply because of the vast size of the business: we have the banqueting, the private dining, the restaurant, the room service” he explains.

A few months after his promotion to Demi Chef de Partie, he became Chef de Partie of the sauce section, which was his initial goal when he set out his journey. “At that point, I thought my time was up here at the Ritz,” he admits. “I had done what I thought I wanted to achieve, and I wanted to go see something else.

"But, two days before I was due to leave, Chef John Williams MBE took me in the office and said, ‘I'm thinking of your future here. You have a lot more things that you can learn.’ When someone like Chef tells you that, I thought I could do it.”

Central to his development is the mentorship of Chef John Williams MBE, whose expertise extends beyond culinary prowess to encompass invaluable lessons in management and professionalism. "He's like a father figure to me and one of the greatest hotel chefs that there is," Deepak shares, highlighting the profound impact of Williams' guidance on his career trajectory. “When you have a fountain of knowledge, you just want to keep learning until it stops giving, and 12 years later it's still giving.”

Deepak became Premier Chef de Partie and within six months he was promoted Sous Chef, which he did for four years. In 2020 he became Premier Sous Chef, and just four months ago, he was promoted to Executive Sous Chef where he is now.  His role as Executive Sous Chef encompasses a myriad of responsibilities, from overseeing daily operations to budgeting, menu development and staff management, “and obviously cooking," he laughs.


Evolution of Excellence

The kitchen was opened by Auguste Escoffier in 1906 along with Caesar Ritz, one of the most renowned hoteliers of all times. Over the years, The Ritz's culinary offerings have undergone a subtle evolution, marrying classical roots with refined elegance.

"The food is still grounded in its classical roots, but the refinement and finesse have elevated," Deepak explains, attributing this evolution to a keen focus on quality and attention to detail. “Costumers have also changed, what they want and their tastes, so we've had to evolve with that as well.”

The Ritz has seen amazing chefs come through the ranks and leave their mark. The pinnacle of this journey was achieved with the attainment of a Michelin star in 2016.


Reflecting on his tenure since 2012, Deepak notes a discernible elevation in the quality of cuisine. "We've continued to refine our approach," he explains, emphasizing a meticulous process of deconstruction and revaluation. This involves scrutinizing each dish to assess whether additional elements enhance its essence or detract from its purity.

Among the signature dishes that better represent The Ritz's culinary finesse is the Dorset crab with creme fraiche and imperial caviar—a luxurious symphony of flavours that epitomizes the essence of fine dining.

Similarly, the chocolate soufflé with vanilla Chantilly stands as a timeless favourite, showcasing the pastry team's mastery of classic desserts. “For me, it's a showstopper,” Deepak reveals. “When it comes in the room, you can smell it first, then you see it and it's risen in the beautiful silver mold. For me, there's no there's no better dessert.”


Elegance Beyond Architecture

The hotel's architecture is a stunning example of Belle Époque grandeur, featuring opulent interiors adorned with marble, crystal chandeliers, and ornate furnishings. The lavish Louis XVI-style Palm Court is particularly famous for its exquisite afternoon tea service.

But for Deepak Mallya there is something that is even more special: “the staff, especially the front of house,” he continues. “They do an amazing job, from the table theatre, how they greet the guests, when they're wearing their tails. I think that's super special.”

The table theatre involves the meticulous and artful presentation of dishes, beverages, and services to guests and is primarily executed by the front-of-house staff, including waiters and sommeliers. These individuals are trained to deliver impeccable service with grace, precision, and attention to detail.

At The Ritz, traditional service techniques may include tableside preparation of dishes, such as carving meats or flambéing desserts, as well as the presentation of specialty items like the duck press for Canard à la Presse or the crepe pan for Crepes Suzette.

“I don't mean to sound biased,” Deepak adds. “But, these are things that you don't see very often, and we do them here daily.”


Deepak’s Recipe for Success

When asked about advice for aspiring young chefs, Deepak reflects on the importance of being a sponge, absorbing all facets of kitchen life. He remarks, "Be a sponge and just absorb absolutely everything - even the negatives - from everybody."

Deepak emphasizes the value of learning from mistakes, both one's own and those of others, to refine skills and avoid repeating errors. “Eventually you'll pinpoint and pick the things you like from different chefs, and you amalgamate them together, to create your own style, your own way of doing things.”

Furthermore, Deepak stresses the importance of dining out to gain insights into different cuisines and approaches, stating, "I think eating out is super important." He believes that experiencing diverse culinary perspectives can inspire creativity and lead to valuable reflections on one's own culinary practices.

Lastly, Deepak advises aspiring chefs to understand that mistakes are part of the learning process and not to take criticism personally. He encourages resilience and growth, urging chefs to embrace each new service as an opportunity for improvement.

Deepak reflects, "The next day is the next day, the next service is the next service."


Embracing the Future with Optimism

Reflecting on his journey at The Ritz, Deepak acknowledges the privilege of being part of such an esteemed establishment. He envisions his future intertwined with The Ritz, citing the invaluable mentorship of Chef John Williams MBE as a driving force behind his desire to continuously enhance his skills and expertise.

“It’s super important for me to keep honing my management skills with him and then for the Ritz to keep allowing me to develop and experiment with the food and to keep pushing it through,” Deepak reveals with aspirations towards the coveted accolades of two Michelin stars.

“I certainly don't see myself leaving anytime soon,” he concludes. “My future is here.”


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th February 2024

Deepak Mallya's 12-Year Culinary Journey: From Apprentice to Executive Sous Chef at The Ritz Hotel