Interview: Chef Vijay Veena of Miami Beach’s Jaya
Vijay Veena, 35, is the executive chef of Jaya in the Setai Hotel in Miami Beach. He has a very distinguished background. He was schooled in Switzerland, the home to many distinguished chefs. His food is wonderful. I wished I could have eaten more of it. If you’re ever in Miami Beach and hungry, make your way to his restaurant. You’ll be delighted, I promise.
The Daily Meal: What or who inspired you to start cooking?
Vijay Veena:There are many influences to my cooking including my parents, mentors, and chefs that I've worked with. They've all helped me become the chef I am today.
What was your first real cooking gig like? How have you improved since then?
My first real 'gig' was actually working for my parents in their restaurant. But aside from working the family business, upon graduating culinary school in India I worked at JW Marriot. I was working in pastry. I've improved via real world experience and Swiss culinary school.
Do you have a specialty dish?
I'd have to say that any kind of curry shows me in the best light.
What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?
One that is very cooperative. I like getting everyone involved as a team. We all need to work together to create the best in quality, quantity and representation. Everyone is involved in the day-to-day aspects of the operation, and I also encourage and support good ideas.
How long have you been a chef at Jaya?
I’ve been here since 2008. I've spent a lot of time in this particular kitchen!
What’s the best dish to order at Jaya?
Peking Duck. I like the way the dish has kept its classic taste and preparation. With the pancakes, scallions, and plum sauce the "do it your own way" approach really helps guests interact with one another and underscores our family style dining philosophy.
Have you won any awards?
I suppose the best reward, especially after being here for so long, is the repeat guests, the discerning Setai client and resident. I also enter my tenth year with a recent promotion to Executive Chef, which is a reward in and of itself.
Have I missed anything significant that you would like to add? Is there anything in particular you'd like to highlight?
Although I specialize in Pan-Asian cuisine, we also offer one of Miami's best brunches in our weekly Sunday jazz brunch which is complimented with live jazz, free-flowing Roederer Champagne, rotisserie, seafood, Asian and dessert stations as well as outdoor seating in our newly renovated courtyard. We also offer light Mediterranean fare at our Ocean Grill restaurant, with one of the best views of the ocean to dine beside in Miami, with dishes crafted our custom wood-fire grill.