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.
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.