GM Aaron McGrath said you’re the best chef he’s ever worked with, did you gel together naturally?
We both clicked very well since I’ve come. Sometimes it’s meant to be, sometimes it’s not. It’s about people. We’re a people business so it’s about personality and understanding and having the same vision. Luckily the GM leave us free to express ourselves and just gives us direction based on the Six Senses philosophy which is very particular. And Zighy Bay is even more particular.
How are you finding Zighy Bay?
The place is fantastic. You have the sea, you have the mountains, it’s a very quiet and relaxing place. Wellness is very important and food is one of the keys. We’re so lucky to have the farm on the other side of the mountain and we’re using more and more ingredients here. I’m Italian so I get close to everyone and I talk too much, just this morning I received blue crab from the fishermen here. They come here with the blue crab because we buy a lot of fish, not only for the guests but also for the staff.
What inspired you to come here?
I’d been in Fiji previously and it was quite similar, you need to embrace the philosophy in the same way, the way they want you to do things, so I felt very comfortable. They leave us to do as much as possible as we can with the food – though obviously you need to bring results. I think this is why I chose to be here. The kitchen is also brand new which is a magical thing for a chef, plus there are plans and developing going on.
How do you plan to push on the F&B at Six Senses Zighy Bay?
The key is always to increase the quality and the consistency. How? Obviously you buy the best ingredients possible but the job of the chef is also numbers so you find a balance. That’s why you buy locally because it’s easier and cheaper, but it’s fresher.
We are also building a new team. When came the executive sous chef came also, a French guy. We’d never worked together before, in fact we were on the same boat when we came out but didn’t know each other which was funny. We agree on some things and the direction to everybody is very simple – quality, quality, quality. Creating a team where everybody can grow and love what they do and everything else will come by itself.
Can you tell us a bit about the team?
We have all different kinds of experience and so many different kinds of people. We have an Austrian pastry chef, we have an Arabic chef from Lebanon, another chef from Syria who is very good. There’s over 50 different people in the kitchens so different nationalities. Here we must offer worldwide cuisine as we are talking about traditional food but at the same time it’s very high quality and modern. At Sense on the Edge we have a Spanish chef who’s doing a modern degustation menu, 9/7/5 courses which is a little more fine, a little more careful on the plate, it’s very nice.
The guys are doing a good job and it’s my job to facilitate this as much as possible and guide them on their way to do it. I’m still cooking and doing a lot in the ktichen because I need to show them the way. Leadership is very important because on the one side you are the father, because I’m older than them, and the boss/leader, which is different. I think my management skill is very relaxed, it has to be. When you are stressed no creativity is coming out so it’s balancing that.
How important is the hotel’s farm?
The farm is fundamental for us. From the vegetables, to the herbs, to the milk, to the cheese, to the eggs, everything is a great help for us and we’re very proud to use all these things in Six Senses. I’m not sure how many people can do their own cheese? The guests are looking for things like this. As much as possible we use everything and whatever we don’t use goes to our staff canteen. We have 400 staff working in this place so we need to feed them nicely also.
What do your plans for the future hold?
I’m looking into any kind of food that is perhaps not always present. I’m discussing Moroccan food, we’re talking about Mexican food, typical Singaporean. Really, we can look into anything with the network we have. There’s always different people, different guests, different perceptions and different comments, and we’re looking for that because it keeps us alive, keeps us motivated. We are never satisfied, we are never 100%. That’s the way you grow the kitchen and you grow the mentality and the end result is in the food and on the plate and on the guest’s expression.