UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
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.
C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta