ROBERTO RIVEROS

• Chef de Cui­sine •

Exquisite Taste - - Up Close & Personal - By Chris­tian Gal­braith (ritzcarl­ton.com)

Hail­ing from Chile, Ozone’s new chef de cui­sine, Roberto Riveros, brings South Amer­i­can pas­sion and a wealth of culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence to this ex­cep­tional sky-high restau­rant. As Roberto em­barks on the next leg of his gas­tro­nomic ad­ven­ture, fol­low­ing stints in South Amer­ica and Europe, Ex­quis­ite Taste is ex­cited to pin him down for a chat about his in­flu­ences, ex­pe­ri­ences and fu­ture plans.

: This is your first culi­nary ven­ture into Asia, so what are your ini­tial im­pres­sions? R: My first im­pres­sion is that it is just an in­cred­i­ble and di­verse cul­ture. I have a lot to learn here, not only from Hong Kong, but from Asian so­ci­ety as a whole.

: San­ti­ago, Barcelona and now Hong Kong. What made you de­cide to join Ozone? R: Sim­ple, well I de­cided to join Ozone be­cause it’s a mod­ern and re­laxed place where I felt I could truly ex­press my style of cook­ing and creativ­ity. I think for guests Ozone is the right place to en­joy the in­cred­i­ble views of Hong Kong, it has first­class cock­tails and a kitchen that is loved by the palates of all who visit it.

: There will be un­usual chal­lenges – in­gre­di­ents and the lo­cal palate, for ex­am­ple. How do you plan to tackle them? R: Yes the lo­cal palate any­where can be a great chal­lenge. We’re not all the same, and we do not all like the same things. So I try to pro­duce a va­ri­ety of tastes in my kitchen, and for that, I trust in my team and let them try each of the dishes that I pre­pare. I need to know their opin­ion and, above all, lis­ten to them. Right now I am learn­ing about new in­gre­di­ents that, when com­bined cre­atively, can pro­duce unique flavours.

: Be hon­est. What kind of kitchen leader are you?

R: I’m an in­clu­sive leader, but I think a leader is made over time, with ex­pe­ri­ence and, above all, with re­spect. If you want to be a leader, you have to know who fol­lows you and direct each one in a dif­fer­ent way. For ex­am­ple, I like to teach my young chefs and give them op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­trib­ute ev­ery day to im­prove the dishes we make. Of course, the re­spon­si­bil­ity falls on me, but if I do not have a team or peo­ple to fol­low me, I am no longer a leader.

: When did you first dis­cover you had a pas­sion for cook­ing and how did that evolve? R: I have al­ways loved cook­ing since I was lit­tle, for the sim­ple fact that I like food and I am happy eat­ing, and in my fam­ily no­body is a cook. When I made the de­ci­sion to study cook­ing my fam­ily sup­ported me com­pletely and whilst the be­gin­ning was dif­fi­cult, I was clear about my goals and had the pas­sion to suc­ceed.

: In terms of ca­reer, who has in­flu­enced you the most?

R: For me, one of the great men­tors has been Martin Berasategui, with whom I worked for six years in his restau­rant in Barcelona. He taught me to take care of the prod­uct and the flavours, en­chant the guests and al­ways make those who try your restau­rant leave feel­ing happy. I be­lieve that I am a faith­ful fol­lower of the teach­ing that even out of the sim­plest prod­ucts a star dish can be made.

: So how did that shape your cook­ing and pre­sen­ta­tion style?

R: The way that each el­e­ment on the plate has to be good by it­self, I think is the clear ex­am­ple. It is not nec­es­sary to mix all the sauce with the fish and then put the gar­nish on top and then eat to know that the fish is good. If you cook a good fish at the right tem­per­a­ture and the sauce with the right flavours, you have a dish that will de­light.

: Where do you draw in­spi­ra­tion for your dishes from?

R: From ev­ery­where: the weather, the sea­sons, lo­cal cus­toms or just things that I like

: There seems to be a lot of South Amer­i­can-born chefs hit­ting the re­gion right now. Why do you think that is?

R: For South Amer­i­can chefs I think there is still a lot to dis­cover here, it is new and ex­cit­ing - new flavours, new in­gre­di­ents and new tech­niques, and at the same time, the in­flu­ence of South Amer­i­can cui­sine com­bined with the lo­cal flavours and in­gre­di­ents is pro­duc­ing some in­cred­i­ble re­sults.

: What do you love most about be­ing a chef?

R: For me the best thing about be­ing a chef is get­ting to know the dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents and cul­tures. Many so­ci­eties have evolved and been cul­ti­vated around the kitchen and from there you can learn about the peo­ple and their cus­toms. I see in this pro­fes­sion as a ca­reer with­out bor­ders, where the limit is your creativ­ity and pas­sion.

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