A visit to C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant at Grand Hyatt Jakarta is always a pleasant experience. Its welcoming atmosphere invites you to linger while the appetizing aroma from the open kitchen will tempt you to gobble the delicious food. The winner of Best Steak & Grill Restaurant of NOW! Jakarta’s BRBCA 2016 recently welcomed Chef Hugo Bertolini to helm the restaurant and infuse it with his special touch.
Born and raised in Argentina, Chef Hugo did not experience any difficulties in adjusting to life in Jakarta. For him, this busy city and its vibrant dining scene instantly felt like home, and he is keen to explore the local cuisine to enrich his palates. We sat down with this friendly chef to talk about his culinary journey and his plans for C’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant.
Welcome to Jakarta, Chef! How have you adapted to living in Jakarta so far?
I really enjoy my time here. I think Jakarta has many resemblances with Argentina; its busy traffic, fast-paced life and its friendly people remind me of home. I haven’t had many chances to explore the city, but I went to Kuningan, Senayan and Kemang to try out some restaurants and bars. I love that Jakarta has many options when it comes to entertainment and food. But sometimes many options can result in a restaurant losing its ‘soul’, which I found at some places here where the flavour consistency was questionable despite a wide selection of food. But other than that, I think Jakarta is never boring; I’d love to explore more of what this city has to offer!
When did you start cooking? Did you always know that you wanted be a chef when you grow up?
I learned to cook at very young ago, it was a hobby that I shared with my sister. Culinary schools were not really popular in Argentina back then, so I went to Spain to learn how to cook by working in a local eatery. I started from the bottom, being a dishwasher first, then a waiter. I observed how professional cooks work and practiced it by myself. I knew that even though kitchen life was tough, I still wanted to be a chef one day. So I was saving money and ready to enter a culinary school at the age of 19 when a cooking job offer came. I took the opportunity and started working in restaurants, cafes and bistros and attended school after working hours. It was not easy, but I had fun. I fell in love with this industry right away and enjoyed every process it takes to make my dream comes true.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I am a very romantic person and I like to keep my memories alive. In creating new food, I always add special flavours that I discovered from traveling or other memorable occasions in the past. When I visit new places, I like to explore local herbs, spices and vegetables and combine them with my original recipes to create a surprising twist - and that is what I’m trying to do at C’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant now.
Are you planning to recreate the whole menu?
Well, for now my focus is to be connected to what is happening in this restaurant and in the city. I don’t think that I will change many things as this restaurant is already working and quite popular as well. What I like about Grand Hyatt Jakarta is that the hotel pays special attention to food which I think is very important. So I will regularly present new dishes to our customers, maybe something familiar but of course with my signature touches that cannot be found anywhere else to keep the spark alive.
Besides cooking skills, what does it take to be a great chef?
You’ve got to love what you do, be curious and be courageous. The cooking skills are not difficult to learn, as I believe anyone can chop, or stew or fry after three weeks of practicing. What is more important is to understand what is happening in the food industry and pour your whole heart and soul in it. For me, being a chef means that I have to be brave enough to take chances and be fully committed to what I do. Working in the kitchen can be very demanding sometimes; the working hours can be very long. Chances are, you will lose your personal life because if you want to get married one day, your partner has to be married to your profession as well. So if you don’t have a passion for cooking, it will be really difficult to survive in this industry.
Do you have any personal philosophy in the kitchen?
Be honest to yourself and to your customers, don’t take anything out of its proportion. I also like to go out and explore my surroundings to pick up new ideas and get inspiration.
What is your biggest dream?
I am fulfilling my dream right now. To become a Chef de Cuisine for a premium restaurant like C’s Steak and Seafood has always been my dream and I’m glad to be able to say that I accomplished one of my biggest goals in life.