Spanning a 25-year career in culinary arts, administration, and international consulting, Chef Olivier is thrilled to share his world-class experiences through AYANA’s distinctive collection of signature restaurants & bars. He earned by more than 10 years of hands-on culinary and directorial roles at 2- and 3-star Michelin restaurants in the UK, France and beyond, as well as 5 years creating award-winning outlets in renowned 5-star hotels including Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, The Dharmawangsa Hotel Jakarta, and The Langham Shenzen. We sat down with him to talk about his first experience of cooking and his plan with AYANA also in F&B industry.
Hi, Chef. Let me start with a simple question. What is your favorite breakfast?
Croissant and benedict eggs! But I don’t have them today, because I’m already too fat. Hahaha!
Love them too! Anyway, when did you know that you want to be a chef?
Since I was young. I was cooking at home when I was a kid because my Mom was working late. I was hungry, and I started to cook, and I enjoyed it. I learn how to cook by myself, anyway. Sausage and mashed potato is my first dish. It might seem simple, but when I was 10 years old, it was really complicated.
Did you learn in formal school, then?
So, when I was 16 years old, I was tired of school and start learning to cook more seriously. I wasn’t learning at a formal school, anyway. I learned by being an intern after school in a restaurant. For me, cooking is about practice, not learning in school. And then I took the practice more professionally by working in Michelin star restaurants for about 10 years. That’s what I’m calling my school, my study.
What is the most memorable moment when you’re working in those restaurants?
Its beautiful philosophy of work, courage, and technique. No bullshit. Hehehe…
You finally be a part of AYANA as Executive Chef. Do you have any particular reason by joining this hotel?
Before coming to Jakarta, I really enjoyed Indonesia. It is a country where I stayed for long. Usually, after living for 2 years in a certain country, I would move to another one. But here, I lived for five years. By the time I missed Indonesia, the opportunity came from AYANA. I was working with an Indonesian company before and I felt that I have freedom as a chef there. Because that is the most important thing for me, I accept the opportunity given by this hotel. And, I definitely find freedom as a chef here.
Do you have any significant goal with your team here?
To be number one!
You’ve traveled to many countries. Which one do you find the most charming?
I find Indonesia is a charming country as it has so many attractions. But in terms of cuisine, it’s Mauritius. I like a different kind of food and I like spicy. And in Mauritius, there are Indian immigrants, French, and also Chinese living there. And they lived for many, many years together. Then they developed the kitchen and whatever comes in that place into something really good.
Do you have any dish from Mauritius that you recommend people to try?
Actually, I have so much. The one that most memorable was, I was eating out like two to three times a week in this place. It was a beautiful restaurant by the beach. And a guy there was making a Tandoori Chicken with french fries. It was, ugh… so good! I came three times a week to its small bar, having drinks with friends, and it was so amazing. Other than that, Mauritius has so many fresh fish. I recommend people to try the curry de la mer or seafood curry there.
When you work in a certain country, how do you highlight the cuisine in that place?
The first priority for me, everywhere I work, is my own cuisine. First, I don’t usually cook local cuisine, because I don’t have knowledge of that. So, I focus on my creation with the help of local chefs’ ideas, of course.
Being in Indonesia for quite long, do you have any favorite Indonesian food?
I have one and I just had it today: Opor Ayam. Wow, it is really good. It wasn’t me who made it, by the way. Well, if I know the recipe, probably I could make one. But, why should I, if there is already a good chef to make it. I’ll leave it to the local chef.
How do you describe your cooking style or how you work in the kitchen?
I like to play with taste. Well, I actually don’t really have style. But as I’ve worked and learned at many countries with amazing chefs, for me it’s all about the technique. And in AYANA, we have many restaurants to developed the cooking technique, from JimBARan Lounge to Blue Terrace.
What do you think your best dish as a chef?
For me, it’s not about a dish, but it’s all about the experience. So, when I was in Mauritius, I made something for Christmas. I created a dinner by the beach where people have to come with no shoes, just dress as casual as possible. I served them the foods with no plate, on the banana and coconut leaves. They had to eat with their own fingers as well. I made a traditional Mauritian cuisine and they enjoyed it very much. The dish might taste good, but we need to add experience to them too.
When you’re designing a complete meal, what factors do you take into account?
Again for me, it’s all about the experience. I can give you good plating with good taste, but if the place is dirty, you wouldn’t enjoy it, right? I’m from fine dining, so I have to focus on what people want. The most important thing is giving the best experience as people go to eat fine dining for only twice a year. It has to be the whole concept, from the taste to the music. It could be the same dish, but in the end, which one gives the better experience.
What are your essential items in your kitchen?
Well, I mean you need a lot of things just to start to cook. But, I think I have to say my must-have item, or let’s say ingredient, in the kitchen is fish. Because I like to work on a whole fish. It’s just a good feeling. You really need to be very precise and respectful when it comes to fish.
Can you share your plan in the near future?
I want to focus more on being a consultant in the F&B industry. Of course, while still doing my job in hospitality. So, it’s like when people want to buy a restaurant, but they had no idea what to do. That was the time I gave my consultations. From designing the kitchen, designing the plate, the menus, etc. I did it before I came to Indonesia, actually.
How about releasing cookbook?
No, I have no passion in that! Hahaha… I mean, I need a good photographer for that. A cookbook is 90% about a good photography, right? Actually, the chef is not much needed, it’s the photographer. And if you look closely into a cookbook, none of the recipes are working, though.
Well, I second that, Chef! Anyway, thank you for a good chat. Good luck!