It’s always interesting to see professionals at the top of their industry go on to excel in a completely unexpected field.
Careers are strange and often uncertain; they are pulled in strange directions at surprising times, and we can find ourselves drifting very far from where we initially set out.
One such exceptional story is that of Vidya Maharaj, an accomplished epidemiologist and clinical researcher who went on to become the executive chef at one of the hottest fusion restaurants in Miami Beach.
The Foundation for a Successful Career
Born in Trinidad, Maharaj moved to Florida with her family in the 1990s. She went on to attend Florida International University, graduating with a degree in Biological Sciences.
Throughout her undergraduate years, she aced her coursework and sought opportunities to develop valuable leadership and communication skills. Maharaj is a proud Founding Mother and the first president of Florida International’s chapter of the Delta Phi Omega sorority, the first-ever South Asian sorority in the United States.
Building a Career in Epidemiology
After deciding to pursue epidemiology in graduate school, Maharaj secured a position as an Adjunct Graduate Professor at Florida International. She claims this experience was one of the most important in the development of her career.
Her working career in epidemiology officially began when she became a clinical research guest researcher for the CDC’s Miami Quarantine Station in 2007. In 2016, she became a pioneer in the study of the Zika virus as the first on-the-ground contracted epidemiologist for the CDC’s Zika surveillance pilot program.
Maharaj is an expert in clinical research and highly knowledgeable in the processes and regulations of federal drug research, from protocol development through drug approval. This impressive set of skills has brought her some renown and bolstered her consulting career. For 12 years, she carried the long-winded title of Pharmaceutical Project Development Manager and Life Sciences Consultant, working with clinical research firms to guide their projects to FDA approval. To test and validate her expertise in project management, Maharaj earned a Green Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma techniques.
With her expertise in clinical trial designs, business development, and new study acquisitions, Maharaj has made a name for herself as a key figure in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Due to her accomplishments in these fields, she was honored to accept the position of regional project manager and lead clinical research epidemiologist for the CDC in 2016. She faithfully served in that role for two years before transitioning into the private sector. She is now the Vice President of Regenerative Outcomes, LLC.
A Surprising Career Pivot
Over the course of her long and accomplished career, she has risen through the corporate ranks, smashed through glass ceilings, and carved out her own path to success. Now, she’s taking on a new kind of challenge: running a successful family restaurant. Maharaj is working with her siblings to conquer the culinary fusion industry. Diya Miami, the Maharaj family’s acclaimed vegan Indian fusion restaurant, has become one of the trendiest restaurants in the Miami Beach area.
Diya Miami opened its doors during the difficult early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Against all odds, in the most adverse and unprecedented of circumstances, the one-of-a-kind fusion spot prospered. Vidya took on the role of Executive Chef, which she now considers to be her greatest passion and true calling.
Maharaj Brings Lab-Trained Precision into the Kitchen
Maharaj learned and perfected many skills over the course of her career as a scientist, and fortunately, many of them seem to have carried over into her new profession. With a laser-sharp sense of focus, patience, and dedication, she crafts dishes with thoughtful precision. With her extensive experience in the lab, she cultivates a kitchen environment characterized by persistence, awareness, cleanliness, efficiency, and care. This keeps the restaurant flowing smoothly, with little-to-no friction or frustrations.
Maharaj is a natural innovator, even in the kitchen. The restaurant is an outlet not only for her love of cooking, but for her creativity. She puts new spins on old favorites and concocts bold new dishes that tease the palate with the full spectrum of Indian vegetarian color and flavor. She loves trying new things and breaking new ground; with a healthy dose of culinary exploration, Diya Miami has made a name for itself as one of the boldest and most original flavor experiences in town.
Vidya Behind the Scenes
Outside of work, Vidya enjoys a vibrant personal life as a wife, a sister, a mother, and a loyal friend and role model to her community.
Check out Vidya Maharaj’s website and linktree to learn more about her accomplishments. Read about Diya Miami (or place an order) at https://diyamiami.com/.
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