June 21, 2021 • By Sydney Charles
For Nevielle Panthaky EMBA ’22, restaurants and hotels are a second home. Growing up in India, Panthaky was immersed in his father’s world and heard the calling of the restaurant industry.
The Season’s Bounty
“My father was a hotelier, so I lived in hotels pretty much my whole life,” he said. “Right after high school I went into the hotel and restaurant industry, and when I moved to the states over 20 years ago, I started my career in fine dining in New York.”
In 2003, Panthaky graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and was ready to a make his mark in the culinary world. He was instantly drawn to the “ability to travel, learn and meet different people and experience their cultures while serving others.”
When cooking, he draws inspiration from memories, experiences, regional influences and “the season’s bounty.”
After graduating, Panthaky was able to gain valuable work experience through a growing reputation. “The community is close and well known, and by word of mouth I worked for brands like P.F. Chang’s, Panda Restaurant Group and most recently, Dine Brands.”
In 2018, Chipotle relocated its headquarters from Denver to Newport Beach—an opportunity that piqued Panthaky’s interest—to bring fresh, high-quality ingredients and classical cooking techniques to more people around the world.
“I was already in Southern California,” he explained and “Chipotle reorganized their leadership team and brought me on to lead culinary, menu innovation and product development.”
As vice president of culinary and menu development, his current role is to work alongside teams of chefs, culinarians and cross functional experts to create fresh items from scratch. Once a new product passes the initial validation stages, it goes through a pilot process for national introduction.
Let Food Be Thy Medicine
In September 2020, Panthaky decided to expand his knowledge by applying to The UCI Paul Merage School of Business.
His goal? To understand food from a macro lens: “As Hippocrates said, ‘let food be thy medicine.’ My goal is to leverage an MBA, my experiences, and my network to work with people and brands looking to cultivate a better world. This encompasses the people who grow food, those who harvest it, the folks that prepare and serve it and those who enjoy them. The situation with our food supply, food waste, climate change, farming and other elements of the food and agriculture industry need stewardship from the farm to the end user. I intend to work with leaders and partners to find creative ways leveraging digital transformation to measure and manage progress in these arenas.”
Panthaky enjoys the flexibility of the Executive MBA program and his ability to “learn by night and apply by day” in his personal and professional life. However, like many students during the pandemic, balancing his competing responsibilities has required “focus and stamina.”
During his time as an EMBA student, he has also been able to utilize UCI’s Research Park by running a test kitchen called the Chipotle Cultivate Center. Here, Panthaky and his team are able to take creative license on developing new menu items for the company.
He explained: “We have an innovation kitchen where we have different tools and equipment which we’re always playing with to develop new menu items. We also have a full expression of a Chipotle restaurant inside the facility for training, restaurant design and commercial shoots.”
One of his favorite things about his role with Chipotle is the ability to form new connections with people of different backgrounds.
“I love meeting and being around people. I’m always in the restaurants travelling the country meeting our crew members and vendors and checking out new places to eat. I also love to travel to learn about other cultures and cuisines. Chipotle is an international brand with international locations, so meeting people from all over the world is one of the best parts of my job. When you have great people, great food and a higher purpose, what more do you need in life?”