What excites you most about cooking for The BMW Hotelier Awards China and what can guests expect?
I am very excited because I will be cooking for fellow hoteliers; these are people, who are not often recognised for their work and who will definitely appreciate and understand the sentiments my team and I will be trying to invoke with this dinner. At the same time, this only adds to the pressure, with all the guests being experienced professionals, there will definitely be no room for error and only the best will do.
Guests can expect a menu that will be seasonal, comforting, but also fun and with a few surprises. The inspiration is the festive season and using the treasures, which are at their peak during this period. My favourite dish of the night is the appetizer – lobster with caviar, heirloom beetroot and green apple. I really like this dish because it is playful, refreshing and beautiful all at the same time. We will use different textures of beetroot and apple to compliment the lobster, even including our special beetroot sherbet to offer a contrast of temperatures and a tangy wasabi crème to bring all of these elements together.
On the big night, we will have over 60 Chefs working on this dinner and the biggest challenge for me will definitely be to achieve the same level of detail, consistency and perfection for all 500 plates.
What first inspired you to become a Chef?
I do not think that I ever really chose to be a Chef; it was just something that happened very naturally. My family owned a restaurant, when I was growing up and you could always find me in the kitchen. I loved the excitement and experimenting with new flavours. I think the day that I really knew that I would become a Chef was when I was 14, I grabbed my mother’s recipe book and tried to make my favourite dessert, her Pineapple cake. It tasted fantastic and I was so proud, taking it around for everyone to try. That is what I love most about cooking, creating something that you can be proud of and sharing it with others, hopefully thereby creating a special moment for them.
After I completed culinary school, I went on to work at some of the best hotels in South Africa, before working and traveling through the UK, Portugal and Las Vegas. In 2007, I was asked to head up the catering for a very special event in Indonesia on behalf of the South African embassy for 2,000 esteemed guests. The event was a huge success and though it was my first time in Asia, I instantly loved it. A few weeks after that event, I accepted a job at MGM Macau, where I worked for seven years, before joining Conrad Macau as Executive Sous Chef and for the past year as the Executive Chef of the Parisian.
What has been your greatest culinary achievement?
The two achievements, which stand out the most for me, were captaining the South African National Culinary team to a Silver medal at the Junior World Championships in Dublin, Ireland in 2004; and cooking for Nelson Mandela. I was very lucky to have met him on a few occasions, whilst I was working at the Saxon Hotel, a very exclusive property in Johannesburg, which is where Nelson Mandela lived, whilst he was writing his autobiography. He was always very friendly, humble and an amazing leader, who could unite and inspire anyone. I do not doubt that my fellow hoteliers will be even greater critics than this inspirational man, but I look forward to delivering a mouth-watering affair for the prestigious BMW Hotelier Awards’ guests.