Panchali Mahendra: Doing what she loves; loving what she does.

By Jojo Dass

“I get paid to eat and enjoy!” says Panchali Mahendra, managing director at Atelier House Hospitality (AHH) and the first women in the Food & Beverage (F&B) category to receive the Golden Visa from Dubai. 

“On a serious note,” she adds, “F&B is like doing multiple jobs at once, there is never a dull moment – finance, branding, creativity, interior designing, construction, cooking, guest relations and the fact that I get to meet and interact with hundreds of people every day. What is there not to love?”

Hailing from Indian, Panchali, who has been in Dubai for a decade, has had an amazing life. She was on her country’s national basketball team; she wanted to go modelling “but my father said a big ‘No,’” she said.

“I have always wanted something glamourous and fun and realized that hospitality was the way to go. But very soon I realized it wasn’t so glamourous as it required a lot of hard work and lot of strategic academics. However, I slowly started enjoying the process and received a gold medal for coming first in my class in the university,” Panchali said.

She was handpicked for a scholarship by the Oberoi Group to pursue a post-graduation course in Hospitality and that is how her wonderful journey started.

As to how she smashed the glass ceiling, Panchali explained: “The consulting aspect of Hospitality and F&B was new to many some 12 years back be it for men or women. 

“I was one of the few who chose this path. It was more of a chef- and operations-dominated industry before. Today yes, many consulting companies are opening up but back then it was easier to be noticed. I think my being one of the most experienced consultants and the number of projects I did from a very young age gave me that platform to shine and be visible compared to others to be given this outstanding chance.”

Mahendra has featured in Power 50 – the only Indian woman to ever make the list – and Power women list twice: 2020 and 2021.

She has likewise been nominated for various awards across different channels. She has conceptualized, operated, and opened over 55 restaurants regionally and internationally in her career. Some include Mohalla in D3 with 10 confirmed new openings of the homegrown brand in Saud Arabia, among others.

Furthermore, in only four years, as AHH managing  director, Panchali has bought internationally acclaimed Michelin star restaurant Marea to Dubai.

Looking at what is next in Dubai, Mahendra with Atelier House Hospitality is also partnering on a new and exciting unique concept called 11 Woodfire,  in collaboration with a celebrity chef, in late fall of 2021. 


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