ROOTED IN NATURE
As executive chef of The Ritz-carlton, Hong Kong, Peter Find has been focusing on fresh cooking by staying true to his philosophy of using seasonal and quality ingredients. And, as the German-born chef reveals, both he and his food are anything but bland.
Peter Find has come a long way from his tiny German village of just 800 people and its many vegetable plots and small farms. The sense of fresh and local produce is something he now brings to his work as executive chef of The Ritz-carlton, Hong Kong.
The interview with Find commences on a Friday afternoon in a private Chef's Table room at The RitzCarlton, Hong Kong. As soon as he enters, Find is engaged and proactive, enthusiastically introducing himself and asking how we want him to pose for the photograph. It's unusual to find someone with this much energy after a morning full of meetings. Find lays out a piece of paper displaying his decidedly full schedule for the day. “Here, look at this,” he says. “I'm too busy, but I like it.”
Clearly, Find has a wide range of duties and responsibilities. His role involves managing six restaurants and bars – Tosca, Tin Lung Heen, Ozone, Café 103, The Lounge & Bar and Almas Caviar Bar, as well as in-room dining, banqueting, and catering. On top of this already very full plate of responsibility, he also manages about 130 staff. Asked what it's like to manage this many people, Find gives a candid, assured retort. “It's like babysitting. Some can work independently, while others need a little supervision. There are always one or two prima donnas, who are usually the senior ones. Those who complain a lot, I try to put them back into reality. As a chef, you have to be fair to everyone; you cannot prioritise anybody.”
Find has been with The Ritz-carlton, Hong Kong since its pre-opening in June 2010. Prior to the hotel's official launch in March 2011, Find says he was faced with the most challenging time of his career, when he was tasked with finding candidates to staff each restaurant. Luckily enough, he says, his connections in the industry allowed him to realise the task in time.
Being part of the hotel's opening and training chefs are just two of Find's proudest moments. During his six-year tenure, two of the hotel's restaurants have earned Michelin stars; Cantonese restaurant Tin Lung Heen achieved its first Michelin star within six months of opening, before gaining a second in 2012. Italian restaurant Tosca gained a star in 2014. As Find puts it, earning these stars is “quite an achievement”.
Find has also received a few accolades himself to stow under his culinary belt. In 2011, he was nominated for the Award of Culinary Excellence Asia Pacific Chef of the Year. In 2013, he won the prestigious Chef Hotelier of the Year award at the first Hotelier Awards China.
The professional accomplishments Find has achieved over the years not only reflect on his leadership skills but also his quest for excellent food. While other hotel chefs focus heavily on presentation, Find focuses his attention on quality ingredients and seasonal produce. For example, the John Dory he serves is sourced in New Zealand, and the lamb is sourced in France.
Find has also signed up to the ever-popular mission for sustainability. For him, using sustainable ingredients “helps the environment and supports farmers, as well as promotes health”. He adds they also simply taste better – 60 per cent of vegetables served at the hotel come from Eco Farm, located in Jiangxi province, southeast China.
“The vegetables there [at Eco Farm] have more texture because they grow in a mountainous area where there's a cool climate and red soil,” Find explains. “When I went there early last year, they didn't have enough produce. Since I find their products good, I told the farmers what specific items I need for the next six months, so they can grow them for me.”
At The Lounge & Bar's colourful salad bar, Find makes use of these vegetables: beetroots the size of a tennis ball, 10 types of lettuce, seven types of tomatoes, and three types of cauliflower – yellow, purple and white. As autumn approaches, Find is adding pumpkin, squash, mushroom and cabbage to the menu. Grains and seeds like quinoa, teff and freekeh, meanwhile, are sourced from the Red Mill Farm in the US.
Dishes at the hotel's restaurants are frequently served with a vegetable garnish, a trick Find picked up when working at the Altes Badhaus Hotel in Eberback, Germany, from 1989 to 1990. Now with such an abundant supply of ingredients, the chef lets his creativity run free.
Find favours the sweetness of the onions, as well as celery, leek, potatoes and corn. He is also fond of using vanilla to flavour dishes like angel hair pasta with lobster. “I have an expensive taste,” he jokes, pointing out that vanilla is one of the world's most expensive ingredients. “If you understand the [ingredient] well, you can actually make many dishes with it.”