Passion, Persistence, and Patience
When Viraj Borkar ’10 was a young boy growing up in Pune, India, the thought of a future in the food industry was simply unfathomable. Suffering from stomach issues that required strict dietary restrictions, food would inevitably put Viraj on a roller coaster of emotions. Thankfully, his mother’s creativity in the kitchen enabled him to enjoy wonderful flavors while he slowly healed to a full recovery. “My family’s enjoyment of food inspired me to dive headlong into the culinary world the first chance I got,” say Viraj, founder, president, and chef of Project Sara in New York City.
But first, Viraj earned CIA food enthusiast classes and culinary boot camps his bachelor’s degree in hospitality from the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology, and Applied Nutrition in Mumbai. Then it was on to Hyde Park. “My admission reps made the application process easy to understand,” Viraj says. “The whole campus life and the atmosphere itself was the best experience.” He took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. Viraj became a chef’s assistant in the Continuing Education department for CIA food enthusiast classes and culinary boot camps; was the assistant to the winning team of James Kent and Tom Allen at the Bocuse d’Or USA finals in 2010; and was awarded the Nucci Scholarship for Culinary Innovation by the Produce Marketing Association Education Foundation.
Viraj would stage on weekends while juggling his course work. “I was able to do stages at Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges, and I was very fortunate to complete my externship at Tabla under Chef Floyd Cardoz,” Viraj explains. “Overall, the CIA really helped me get exposure to amazing kitchens and gain experience for my résumé. I was also able to build contacts.”
Project Sara, launched in December 2013 with co-founder Mangesh Elag, is a pop-up dining experience in New York City. The duo coordinate two events a month. “I am trying to connect adventurous diners to a unique experience based on a pop-up restaurant module while introducing them to young chefs who have a story and the passion to be in this industry,” he says.
Looking back Viraj is grateful for his CIA education and experience. “One of the main things about the CIA is certainly the culinary focus but the school offers so much more in the varied curriculum so you graduate with a well rounded education,” says Viraj. “If you have a chance to be a student at the CIA, be calm, know your passion, take in everything, grow your endurance and patience, and get involved. Every day you have an opportunity to make new connections. With passion, persistence, and patience you too can shape your dreams into reality.”