Tag Archives: Vikram Vij

Review: Wek and Vij bring new fire to Dragons’ Den

With nine seasons under its belt, you’d expect Dragons’ Den to be a little, well, long in the tooth. Less than fiery. Lacking bite. You would, however, be wrong.

The secret to the veteran CBC show’s success is its skill at being able to mix a feisty bunch of outsized Type-A personalities on its panel of Canadian entrepreneurs. I must admit that I was a little worried for the franchise after Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Croxon exited, the former to focus on Bell Media projects and ABC’s Shark Tank where he’s been doing double duty with former Canuck Dragon Robert Herjavec. O’Leary, the Simon Cowell of the reality show, would be hard to replace.

So producers didn’t bother trying to find someone to fill O’Leary’s expensive loafers with the same personality. They went glitzier. A little more rock ‘n’ roll. With hair. Enter financial whiz Michael Wekerle and celebrity chef Vikram Vij, who capably fill those empty spots on the panel. Wekerle–a.k.a. Wek–is a sight to behold. With his shiny, patterned suits, tattoos, blonde hair and gravelly voice, he commands attention in Wednesday’s first new episode. He’s quick with a quip and a comment and prefers to go last in his bids to budding entrepreneurs.

Vij brings a West Coast calm to the panel–the ying to Wekerle’s yang–but don’t let his soft demeanour and smooth tone fool you. This is a man who has built a culinary empire and isn’t afraid to let you know how he truly feels. Two dudes found that out the hard way when they attempted to get some cash for their new tablet-form energy drink.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Vij asked after reading the chemical ingredients. “If I had to drink this … I’d barf!”

The new duo get along just fine with veteran panelists David Chilton, Arlene Dickinson and Jim Treliving. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t take long for Wek to bond with Treliving over the energy drink pitch. Wek was worried the stuff would be bought by kids and mixed with booze and was vocal about it. Treliving admitted he hadn’t thought of that and backed out of the deal.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom with regard to pitches in Wednesday’s return. Everyone but Vij was tossing out offers to a woman who had come up with a mining outfit tailored specifically for females on the crew, a brilliant idea. Not so brilliant? A rake that refused to stand on-end as advertised and a pillow that wrapped around the wearer’s head like a fuzzy helmet so one could nap anywhere. The creator of that admitted he had been “really tired” when he came up with the idea.

Dragons’ Den airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.


Set Visit: Dragons’ Den is Vikram Vij’s new baby

Peering upon the Dragons’ Den chairs is almost like looking at Canada’s equivalent to the Iron Throne. Each of the five seats belongs to some of Canada’s most successful business moguls (including Jim Treliving, Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton), armed with the bank accounts, connections and real-world experience to change the lives of the everyday entrepreneur. With that knowledge, you can almost physically feel the power radiating from each chair.

It’s no surprise then that Vikram Vij, chef, restaurant giant and one of two new dragons joining the den for Season 9 (alongside Michael Wekerle), was too nervous to sleep the night before his first day, regardless of how much prep work he put in.

“I had studied hard, I had really done my homework, I had done so much other stuff to prepare, but it’s a little bit like child bearing,” Vij says. “This experience was like I had just given birth. I needed to go through the pains and the motions of learning how things are going to happen for me.”

Vij is no virgin to television gigs, serving as a judge on Recipe to Riches, Chopped and Top Chef Canada in the past. But what Dragons’ Den is giving Vij is an opportunity to show viewers that he’s much more than just a chef and restaurateur.

“I want to get away from the stigma of people thinking I’m a food guy only,” Vij says, listing his investments in computer apps as an example of some of his other business ventures. “At the end of the day I’m a businessman. I’m looking for great deals and I’m going to put money where the great deals are.”

What Recipe to Riches did do to help Vij, however, was give him a pre-established connection to Dragons’ Den through fellow Riches judge Arlene Dickinson, a Dragon since Season 2. Although the veteran gave her friend some tips, Dickinson doesn’t seem to have a problem flexing her seniority over Vij when it comes to the Den.

“She kind of said to me very nicely, ‘Just be yourself. Be silly if you have to be, and do what you need to do and just be yourself.’ Which also meant, ‘I will take you and ring you very nicely if I have to because I am the senior person on this show,'” Vij says with a smile.

“Initially a couple of times when I’m making a pitch or asking questions she will look over at me and say, ‘Really? You asked that question? Why would you ask that question?'” he says. “She comes from the experience like you should already know this.”

After filming a handful of pitches, Vij now refers to himself as more of an underdog rather than simply a rookie. It’s something he knows will continue to change as he discovers his individual place within the show’s pre-existing puzzle.

“I find that sometimes the pitches go automatically towards Arlene because they gravitate towards her, but that’s OK” Vij says. “I’m going to make my mark and keep focused at it.”

Dragons’ Den airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.