UP CLOSE & PER­SONAL

Exquisite Taste - - Contents - By Steven Jauw Waludin

In the spirit of get­ting fa­mil­iar with some culi­nary wizards, we talked to chefs Hugo Ber­tolini from Grand Hy­att Jakarta, Rey­naldo DELUNA II from The Seminyak Beach Re­sort & Spa, Ash­ley Garvey from Starfish Bloo at W Bali – Seminyak and Leong Chee Yeng from Jade restau­rant at The Fuller­ton Ho­tel Sin­ga­pore.

Ihad the priv­i­lege of en­joy­ing a light lunch with Chef Hugo and dis­cussed his hum­ble be­gin­nings, the chal­lenges he has faced in his ca­reer and what drives him as a pro­fes­sional chef.

: Af­ter a few months liv­ing with the day-to-day hus­tle and bus­tle, how are you cop­ing with Jakarta?

Hugo: It’s ok ac­tu­ally, I live in the ho­tel so the traf­fic is not such a big deal for me. In fact I’ve only been here a few months and I don’t know too much about In­done­sia so I usu­ally go out with my col­leagues just to ex­plore the city’s sights and its res­tau­rants.

An Ar­gen­tinian with an Ital­ian her­itage, Chef Hugo Ber­tolini worked in kitchens across South Amer­ica, Spain and Asia be­fore ar­riv­ing in In­done­sia. With a fiery pas­sion for food and a belly full of de­ter­mi­na­tion, Chef Hugo has worked his way up from his hum­ble be­gin­nings as a kitchen hand in Spain to his new role as chef de

cui­sine at Grand Hy­att Jakarta’s famed C’s Steak and Seafood Restau­rant.

: So why here, why now?

H: When I started work­ing in ho­tels, one of my first jobs was with Park Hy­att Men­doza, so it’s some­thing close to my heart and it’s al­ways been my dream to re­turn to the ho­tel group in a more se­nior role. Last year when I was in Sin­ga­pore the Grand Hy­att Jakarta en­quired about me and when they said they had a po­si­tion open, I didn’t need to think twice, so here I am.

: You moved from Ar­gentina to work and study in Spain as a young man, a brave move, so what was the mo­ti­va­tion?

H: Back then, my mother had just passed away and my older sis­ter was al­ready in Spain. She asked me to join her to fin­ish school and look for a job. I was just young and I didn’t know any­thing about the kitchens, but loved cook­ing and I started work­ing in a kitchen as a sum­mer job.

I guess when you look back, it might seem brave, but back then I just fol­lowed my in­stincts. It was my first trip, my first flight and my first job in a kitchen. It was hard work with long hours and I did ev­ery­thing from wash­ing dishes to clean­ing the toi­lets.

: Was it al­ways your pas­sion to work in a kitchen?

H: Yes, I think so; I’ve al­ways been in love with food and kitchens and grow­ing up, cook­ing was a whole fam­ily af­fair es­pe­cially

on week­ends - my mother and aunts would be pre­par­ing salad, my fa­ther at the grill and the kids do­ing the desserts, I re­ally loved the ex­pe­ri­ence.

When I was younger I was of­ten alone at home and loved to ex­per­i­ment in the kitchen. I even baked a cake once and my mother had a fit when she came home.

She told me how dan­ger­ous it was and how I could’ve blown up the house! She recog­nised my pas­sion and skills though and later when a culi­nary school opened in our city she wanted to send me to study, but it was re­ally ex­pen­sive so I could not go.

: Do you have a sig­na­ture dish or style? H: I’m an Ar­gen­tinian but I’m also Ital­ian by her­itage, so if I had to de­scribe my style it would be based around the fresh, home­made and rus­tic style of cuisines.

: Where else have you worked? H: I’ve worked in kitchens and ho­tels in Spain, Ar­gentina, Brazil, Bo­livia, Chile, Hong Kong and also Sin­ga­pore be­fore tak­ing this role.

: To date what would you say has been the high­light of your ca­reer?

H: I have had some ex­cit­ing times but pro­fes­sion­ally to date, work­ing here at C’s Steak and Seafood Restau­rant at the Grand Hy­att Jakarta as chef de cui­sine is def­i­nitely the high­light of my ca­reer.

: C’s Steak and Seafood Restau­rant at Grand Hy­att Jakarta has a top rep­u­ta­tion – how will you add to that?

H: It’s def­i­nitely not that easy since C’s clearly is known as a clas­sic in Jakarta. C’s al­ready has a great con­cept and that’s good. I like what C’s has to of­fer. Since I ar­rived there have been a few new dishes, such as the mus­sels parme­san and the fresh clam and seabass ce­viche, but mostly it’s the tech­niques I have been work­ing on.

So for now, it’s a per­sonal chal­lenge to show the own­ers and other staff what I can do. They are en­joy­ing the small changes

I’ve made, like the ce­viche and new ways to cook the steaks. What I’m ea­ger to work on is sourc­ing fresher or­ganic in­gre­di­ents for C’s farm-to-table con­cept and de­vel­op­ing and im­prov­ing the menu from that.

: In­deed one of the chal­lenges that chefs have in Jakarta is sourc­ing fresh prod­ucts day in and day out, how do you deal with that? H: Yes I agree, but we have to find ways to man­age it. For us, we find more sup­pli­ers so we have more op­tions and bet­ter qual­ity even though some might be more ex­pen­sive. Every­body has the same prob­lem, even in Bali. But then again, that’s why I’m here! It’s part of my job.

: In a line how would you de­scribe your­self ?

H: Fiery, tem­per­a­men­tal and re­ally pas­sion­ate about my cook­ing.

: The in­ter­na­tional scene in Jakarta is re­ally tak­ing off, how would you like to see lo­cal fine-din­ing cui­sine de­velop?

H: From my lim­ited ob­ser­va­tion it looks like In­done­sian cui­sine has maybe taken a back seat in the qual­ity din­ing scene. Look at many of the most tal­ented In­done­sian chefs in Jakarta and you will see they are cook­ing fan­tas­tic in­ter­na­tional dishes – the skillset and ex­pe­ri­ence is there. So I would like to see more chefs re­ally push­ing In­done­sian cui­sine and de­vel­op­ing a more global In­done­sian cui­sine for the global palate but main­tain­ing au­then­tic flavours.

: What ad­vice would you of­fer as­pir­ing chefs?

H: They have to be hon­est about what they want to do and re­ally un­der­stand what it means to be in this in­dus­try. Long hours are nor­mal but above all it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that we are not here for our­selves (even in our own res­tau­rants) we are here for the sat­is­fac­tion of our cus­tomers.

Seafood plat­ter

C’s Steak and Seafood Restau­rant at the Grand Hy­att Jakarta

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