DUBAI // Rohit Manek is a chef at a five-star hotel, drives to work each day down Sheikh Zayed Road and recently zoomed up sand dunes in an off-roader. He is also hearing impaired.
His ambition is to open a restaurant in Dubai that will be run and managed by hearing impaired people, inspired by similar outlets in Bombay and San Francisco.
“Want to make my own restaurant, that is my future, saving money,” said Rohit, 25, who has profound hearing loss, wears a hearing aid and speaks slowly stretching out each word.
For now, he is focussed on learning his trade at Jumeirah Emirates Towers where he has been working full-time since 2013 after joining as an intern in 2010.
“I want (to be) a better chef, learn something new, learn pastry, cakes, chocolates,” said Rohit, who carefully lip reads to follow speech.
The challenge is not preparing a buffet banquet with his team for more than 300 people but operating in dynamic situations.
“The biggest thing is picking up environmental cues when people interact; they (deaf) are disconnected from verbal cues so for them to communicate requires that much more effort,” explained his father Kamlesh Manek.
Sabine El Deek, a speech and language therapist, said his job helps spread understanding.
“Rohit working in that place is important to educate staff members; it’ s good to spread more awareness,” said Ms El Deek who met with his team before Rohit joined to help them understand his hearing condition.
Along with hotel staff, she helped map out Rohit’s role, making sure his list of tasks was written on a white board instead of instructions being shouted.
Jumeirah Emirates Tower head chef Ewart Wardhaugh highlighted Rohit’s team spirit and focus on quality.
“If he sees something is wrong, he will mention it to his colleague or manager,” Mr Wardhaugh said.
“If he sees a chipped plate or if he thinks the quality of the fruit on the buffet or in an amenity bowl is not good enough, he will pose the question - is this ok or not. His drive and willingness to keep going, not to give up, his appetite towards life is a motivation to others.”
This attitude helped Rohit get his driver’s licence in 2011 after two years and eight tests. His parents met teachers to explain his impairment, request they speak loudly and use signs to supplement verbal directions.
Recently he took it up a notch participating in an off-road drive from Umm Al Quain to Ras Al Khaimah with around 100 other 4x4 enthusiasts.
Mohamed Al Shamsi, one of the founders of Almost 4x4, gave Rohit full marks.
“He was perfect, there were no issues at all,” Mr Al Shamsi said. “We are a family and take care of each other.”
While his own family were concerned since it was Rohit’s first dune drive accompanied by a friend who is also hearing impaired, he simply said: “Dunes were easy, not to worry. Only 50 per cent dunes difficult.”
Rohit also has clear plans for his restaurant.
Waving aside any suggestion of fine dining, he lists the menu,
"Fast food," he said slowly. "Vada pau (a famous Bombay spicy potato street snack), sea food burgers, kebabs."