Meet CBC Dragons’ Den’s New Fire-Breathers: Vikram Vij

It was a little disappointing when we found out that Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon were both leaving CBC Dragons’ Den after this season. Particularly O’Leary, who might well have lent the largest hand in the show’s popularity (or ire) with Canadian viewers.

Two new dragons have been invited onto the cast, in restaurant magnate, celebrity chef and entrepreneur Vikram Vij  and longtime Canadian finance man Michael Wekerle, who most recently headed up merchant banking firm Difference Capital.

Recently CBC released a few awesome video interviews with the two new dragons, and in this article we’ll feature Vij, who’s story has to come across as inspiring for anyone watching. Check it out:

While there might be an automatic assumption that both Vij and fellow newcomer Wekerle would try to fit the mould of the eccentric or outgoing O’Leary, it’s refreshing to see that both guys clearly sport their own style.

Vij’s story started in Austria when he left his home country of India at 20 to be a chef. As he explained in the video, the general manager of the Banff Springs Hotel was dining at the Austrian restaurant that Vij worked at. He told Vij, “Yo know, guys like you should come to this country because this is a young country, it gives entrepreneurs a lot of chances”.

“Literally, three weeks later I got an envelope with a one-way ticket and a visa for six months to come,” said Vij, who’s theatrical way of telling a story is sure to excite any listener. “He was so confident that once I came here that I would just fall in love with this country, and that’s exactly what happened.”

A certified sommelier, Vikram opened his first restaurant, Vij’s, in Vancouver in 1994, and a strict no reservations policy has led to a nightly never-ending lineup. He attributes the no-reservation policy to the teachings of Gandhi, explaining in the video that no one is above any one else in terms of seating. “Harrison Ford comes, he waits like everyone else. Gandhi said that we are all equal and at the end of the day we are all equal.”

On the show that he’s about to breath fire on, Vij said that “I think I’m really interested in seeing and helping out other entrepreneurs that are going to come to us the way someone gave me a lending hand,” he said. “I would love to give a lending hand to an entrepreneur who’s vision or goal is to be successful in what they do. It can be any aspect of it.” (If that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is).

“I love looking at entrepreneurs who have either had family businesses or have had their own passion and have turned this passion from a milk to a butter,” added Vij.

Interestingly, he also commented that he’ll be much different than Jim Treliving, the longest-serving dragon who built the Boston Pizza franchise to 95 locations in Western Canada by 1995. According to Vij, Treliving’s corporate franchisee background isn’t the same as his.

With a franchise like Boston Pizza, show somebody the money and theyll give you the brand name. But “unless you show me what you can do, I’m not going to give you my name…At the end of the day you never know who’s going to win the lottery.”

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