Friendly, humble and passionate are the best words to describe Chef Hartmut Kehm, the new executive chef at Grand Hyatt Jakarta. Although he just started in April this year, Jakarta is no stranger for this German chef as he had spent three years working in another Jakarta hotel in the 90’s. For Chef Hartmut, this city feels like home already, he loves its people, its diverse culture and of course its delightful food.
Chef Hartmut was busy preparing his special menus when we met him at C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant, one of the six F&B outlets operated by Grand Hyatt Jakarta. A marvellous fragrant aroma was instantly appreciated as we walked in the restaurant and how glad we were to know that he cooked his special dishes for us that afternoon! After indulging in his heavenly creations: Momotaro Tomato Salad, Seafood Platter, Sop Buntut and Tomahawk, we chatted with this charming chef about his love of fresh food and his plans with Grand Hyatt Jakarta.
How would you define your cooking style?
My style represents where I came from. I grew up in a farm where everything like vegetables, fruits, meat and fish were grown and produced ourselves. Everyday my mother cooked different comfort food using the freshest home grown ingredients so it really influenced my style. For me it is important to adapt the ‘farm-to-table’ concept into my cooking as I believe the freshest products create the most delicious food. In Grand Hyatt Jakarta, we cooperate with local farmers and producers to get the freshest products and sustainable seafood. We get our vegetables from farmers in Puncak and our fish comes from the Lombok sea, this way we also support local markets here.
What is your favourite type of food?
I suppose it is healthy western food. I like simple cooking which highlights the original flavor of the product, if you already have good product then you don’t need to mess that up with too much spice. For example, I enjoy a simple grilled fish with salad on the side; it’s very simple, healthy and nice. All I need to do just add some salt and pepper to enhance its flavor but the fresh fish itself is already tasteful so no need to use many seasonings.
Where do you get inspiration from?
Traveling! I love to go to new places because it gives me chance to taste the local cuisine, meet the local communities and learn about their unique culture. I like to explore my palate with different tastes as it inspires me to find new ideas. I also enjoy reading books and talking to guests to broaden my knowledge.
You’ve been working in different countries, what is your favourite flavor in the world?
This is a difficult question. Every country has its own uniqueness; it has a specific and distinctive blend of ingredients in their meals. When I lived in Japan, I adored the fresh yuzu with simple sashimi, but here in Indonesia, I love the rich spices inyour traditional food! I like the spiciness in combination with coconut milk but Sop Buntut is definitely my favourite.
What do you think is the most important things in cooking?
Fresh food and authenticity. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of fusion food. For me, it is important to maintain the original recipes and flavor in traditional cuisine, otherwise we ruin its real taste.
Tell us about your big plan for Grand Hyatt Jakarta?
My role is quite challenging as I oversee all the restaurants and the banqueting here. There are six F&B outlets at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta and each is different. The biggest change that will happen soon is the Grand Café renovation which will start early next year. We’re going to have Indonesian live cooking stations inside the restaurant where guests can find different kitchens like Javanese, Sundanese, and Balinese. As for banqueting, we are focusing on The Residence Onfive, the exclusive private space and service that guests can book for events. We ensure every single dish served here is authentic and delectable.
You have been in the culinary industry for decades, what is the biggest challenge you have faced so far?
Product consistency and staffing. Consistency is the key to success with any multi-unit, as guests demand the same experience regardless of the location. I see the relationship with our suppliers as a partnership in sourcing products that meet market needs, serving food and beverage items that are fresh and of the highest possible standard in each category and using locally available products in a creative way.
What advice would you give to young people in the culinary industry?
Be driven, but patient; learn how to work faster and with more precision than everyone around you; say “Yes Chef” in the early years of your career as your job is to work and learn; master the classics; and never stop learning.
Grand Hyatt Jakarta
Jl. M. H. Thamrin Kav. 28-30
P: (+62- 21) 2992 1234
F: (+62-21) 2992 1345
E: [email protected]