A Chef For All Seasons

Konstantinos Panou, Cluster Executive Chef for Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels, Al Najada Hotels, and Al Najada Hotel Apartments speaks management style and the importance of seasonality.

How long have you been in your current position and what attracted to you to come to Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels?
I have been in my current position for one year. What attracted me to this role was the unique blend of traditional Qatari hospitality and modern luxury that the hotels offer. The rich cultural heritage and the vibrant atmosphere of Souq Waqif itself were also significant factors. I was excited about the opportunity to work in a setting that celebrates local culture and provides an authentic experience to guests. My first project was introducing a restaurant with local traditional dishes at Al Terrace in Souq Waqif. Additionally, the company profile and the portfolio of hotels under its umbrella are all luxury boutique brands.

You oversee a huge operation across six buildings in the iconic souq and covering nine food and beverage outlets plus outside catering and banqueting. How do you keep on top of it all, there must be significant challenges maintaining harmony and quality?
Being inspiring, open-minded and patient have been proven to me to be the elements to create a great start within the team, alongside the following attributes which are essential in leading a multicultural widespread operation.
Strong Leadership and Delegation – Effective leadership and the ability to delegate responsibilities are crucial. I ensure that each department has competent chefs who understand their roles and can make informed decisions. Regular meetings with the outlet chefs help in staying updated and addressing any issues promptly.
Clear Communication – Transparent and consistent communication is key. I am always open, realistic and share all the operational information so all team members know where we stand, what we are planning and what, realistically, we can achieve,
Quality Control and Standards – Always trying to maintain consistency, which requires involvement in the operations and providing feedback so the team is aware of any necessary changes.
Technology Integration – Leveraging technology for operations management, reservations, inventory control and customer feedback helps in streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency.
Guest Feedback and Adaptation – Listening to guest feedback and making necessary adjustments is vital. We discuss the data we collect and analyse guest feedback, which helps in continuous improvement.
Team Harmony and Morale – Fostering a positive work environment and team spirit is crucial. Regular team-building activities, recognition programmes and open-door policies help in maintaining harmony and morale among staff.
By focusing on these areas, I strive to ensure that our operations run smoothly, maintaining the high standards of service and quality our guests expect and deserve.

Are there any upcoming openings, new menus or special offerings that our readers should be looking out for over the coming months?
We have planned new menus and concept refreshes for all the souq outlets, which we will start from September. We will also be opening a new outlet offering pure Greek traditional taverna food at Al Shurfa.

What is your signature dish, how was it developed and what makes it popular?
I cannot say there is a signature dish for any chef, all of our creations are signatures. I am trying to use more seasonal products as we did in two of our summer feature dishes, Peach Salad and Lemon Crust Salmon. June and July are the period for peaches, lemons and eggplant that are growing in Mediterranean yards and it is a good idea to try to follow the seasonality, something we are losing with globalisation and I am sure some of the new generation have no idea which month produce naturally grows. Each of our food and beverage outlets has a signature summer dish. ✤