Love from the Kitchen

The Ex­ec­u­tive Chef at Grand Hy­att Jakarta, Rolf Knecht, talks to us about his life, ca­reer and his pas­sion for the culi­nary arts.

Maxx-M - - PROFILE - Text by Ti­motius | Pho­tos cour­tesy of Grand Hy­att Jakarta

How long have you been an Ex­ec­u­tive Chef? What made you first de­cide to be­come a chef?

I have been work­ing as an Ex­ec­u­tive Chef at Grand Hy­att Jakarta for around two and a half years now. Be­fore this, I worked in Canada, Ja­pan, China, and now in Jakarta. Well, the rea­son I de­cided to be­come a chef is be­cause I grew up in a fam­ily who works in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. My fa­ther was an ex­ec­u­tive chef in Hy­att. In fact, he opened most of the Hy­atts in Asia in the early ’60s. The same goes with the rest of my fam­ily. My grand­par­ents were both chefs, my sis­ter works in a ho­tel and my mother is in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. We are a dy­namic fam­ily!

How did you start your ca­reer?

When I fin­ished high school in Switzer­land, I wanted to en­ter a culi­nary school, but un­for­tu­nately there was no culi­nary school in Switzer­land at that time. So, I was of­fered two op­tions, to en­ter univer­sity or to have an ap­pren­tice­ship in a restau­rant, and me be­ing 15 at the time, I chose the lat­ter. I never looked back; it was the right de­ci­sion.

What is the most in­ter­est­ing thing about your job?

For me, the most in­ter­est­ing thing about be­ing a chef is that I get a chance to meet dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tures, ages and na­tion­al­i­ties ev­ery day. Also, I’m not only work­ing as a chef, but I’m also a man­ager, ac­coun­tant and in mar­ket­ing. If all I did was just cook­ing, I would be bored.

What do you think about In­done­sian food?

Per­son­ally,Ilike­spicy­food­sandIseethat­manyIn­done­sian dishes use strong spices and herbs. I am amazed that In­done­sia has so many dif­fer­ent kinds of sam­bal. But if you asked what my favourite food is, then it has to be gado-gado.

What is your per­sonal culi­nary style?

My style is sim­ple. I be­lieve that the most im­por­tant thing is to never change the ba­sic flavours. The toma­toes should taste like toma­toes, the pineap­ples should taste like pineap­ples. Don’t ever change the ba­sic flavour in a dras­tic man­ner, like chang­ing durian into a sweet candy.

What is your new con­cept for C’s Steak and Seafood?

The con­cept of C’s Steak and Seafood is not re­ally a new one; it’s the same with ev­ery other restau­rant serv­ing their prod­ucts. But what makes C’s Steak and Seafood dif­fer­ent is that we use lo­cal in­gre­di­ents for our menu as of­ten as we can, not be­cause I per­son­ally find the lo­cal prod­ucts to be unique, but I wanted to sup­port lo­cal farm­ers. Since last year, I started to use lo­cal honey and or­ganic toma­toes. The guests were scep­ti­cal at first, but when I asked them to try honey and toma­toes from here, they in­stantly loved it!

What kinds of con­cerns does Grand Hy­att Jakarta have when it comes to its restau­rants?

Grand Hy­att Jakarta is al­ways con­cerned about the qual­ity of the food and the in­gre­di­ents. Not only Grand Hy­att Jakarta, but all Hy­att ho­tels are con­cerned about this. As with other ho­tels, Hy­att is also en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious, such as pro­vid­ing healthy menus and help­ing those seek­ing health­ier di­ets to make their own menus.

What are the most ex­cit­ing and the most dif­fi­cult things about be­ing a chef in Grand Hy­att Jakarta?

The most ex­cit­ing thing as a chef in Grand Hy­att Jakarta is that as a com­pany and channel man­ager, Hy­att has sup­ported me to be in touch with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and has let me use lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. I con­vinced them that I’m buy­ing cheap in­gre­di­ents for a rea­son; it fits my re­quire­ments. Speak­ing of chal­lenges, my only prob­lem is In­done­sia’s strict rules about im­port­ing some in­gre­di­ents.

Whatad­vice­wouldy­ou­give­some­onewhowants to be a ho­tel chef?

Be­fore you make your de­ci­sion, I urge you to try and work in a restau­rant. You know, there is a big dif­fer­ence be­tween some­one who loves to cook and some­one who cooks for a liv­ing. A lot of peo­ple love cook­ing, but they don’t fancy be­ing a chef. But if you have the ex­pe­ri­ence and ac­tu­ally en­joy work­ing in a restau­rant, then you will have no trou­ble be­ing a chef in a ho­tel.

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