by Natalie Chen | October 11, 2015

Think comfort food and very likely, Jamie Oliver's rustic Italian dishes come to mind. Whether it's penne pomodoro, truffle tagliatelle or the British classic fish and chips, he whips it up with that homely touch we all love. Then there's Gordon Ramsey instilling fear in his protégés as he dumps yet another plate of overcooked scallops into the bin, giving us an idea of just how particular he is with cooking standards. With quality comes creativity, and chefs like Heston Blumenthal take it to new heights with dishes that become carefully curated performances. Food becomes a creative work of art on a plate with experimental chefs Andre Chiang and Ryan Clift, who present beautiful dishes that are too pretty to eat. Take all the above qualities, mix it well and you have the ideal sauce to whip up a dishy chef.

It's tough being a chef, especially in cities that have no lack of food critics. Chefs have to up the ante in delivering memorable culinary experiences. And the expectations are intensified for hotel chefs who have to serve up delectable feasts for events and meetings attended by discerning and fussy palates of all sorts. Food is a very appealing stimuli, and when the flavours hit home, our senses just tingle with delight.

M&C Asia talks to hotel chefs to sieve through their thoughts and get a whiff of what's cooking in their kitchens. 

Soren Lascelles, executive sous chef, Grand Hyatt Singapore says: "Food creates memories; it is something that the guest will take away from their experience with us. However, all the other elements for the event must also be flawless to create a lasting impression." Lascelles adds: "With that said, food, from its presentation down to the taste, can positively or negatively impact the experience of guests at an event, and ultimately affect their impressions of our hotel. Our goal is to make sure that every touch point, and every element to an event is a delight to every guest - and to keep them happy and coming back for more."

Hotels take exceptional care in their food preparation, from the ingredients sourced and the way they are prepared to the way dishes are presented. Dietary requirements of each delegate are taken into consideration. Every detail has been planned with clockwork precision and nothing is left to chance.

Customisation is quintessential in the current market as clients are now highly attuned to the nuances of excellent food, smooth service and a creative ambience.

Jerome Pagnier, assistant director of food & beverage (events), Grand Hyatt Singapore says:" There is an increase in market pricing awareness - Clients search for added value; they are more financially savvy. Clients will work out pros and cons of each proposal before committing. The negotiation process takes much longer than in the past. "With the increase in demand for customisation of menus and pricing, relying on standard packages is no longer an option. Every single detail that can be customised will be customised."

With the rising awareness of sustainability, meeting planners would also like to abide by CSR in their consideration for venues. And more hotels are extending the requirement for sustainability in their kitchens. Grand Hyatt Singapore was recently awarded Chain of Custody (CoC) certifications by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). It is well placed as one of the first hotels in Asia to achieve this traceability and segregation standard for seafood.

As an MSC and ASC CoC certified hotel, diners at Grand Hyatt Singapore's events can be assured that non-exploitative fishing and farming methods have been used to procure the seafood products used in the menus. This certification also comes at a time when diners are demanding better traceability and transparency behind the food they consume. Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes before a big event? It's exactly as you have seen in Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen with a little less drama.

Stefano Di Salvo, executive chef, JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul says: "Behind the scenes is what I call the Hot Zone, the preparation of the food. The final assembly for me is the most important thing and the organisation, coordination and planning defines what you want to achieve."

Great teamwork across departments and dedication to maintaining high standards is the recipe for success in any event, and meetings planners have an extensive menu from which to choose their daily specials and culinary experience of choice. Perhaps the only caveat for planners and guests would be that they might leave the event hungry with an insatiable appetite - and that raises the bar.

Whiz in the Kitchen

Soren Lascelles, Executive Sous Chef, Grand Hyatt Singapore

What is the X-factor of your food?
Premium ingredients, authentic cuisine, ethically produced food, HACCP and ISO22000 certified, a multicultural culinary events team, sustainable seafood, MSC and ASC CoC certified - all rolled into one.

What are your star dishes?
We do a great Australian slow-braised beef short rib, truffled mash, and sautéed mushrooms. Our palek paneer and buttered chicken for Indian events are amazing, while our Chinese event kitchen does a great Chilean cod braised in superior sauce with leek and shiitake mushrooms.

Our pastry team led by Chef Gottfried does artistic and elaborate dessert buffets, from intricately designed multi-tiered cakes to lavish dessert experiences chock-full of macaroons, pastries, truffles, chocolate fountains, pies, cakes and more.

Stefano Di Salvo, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul

What is the X-factor of your food?
We concentrate on the quality of the product - simple, skilfully crafted and cooked. Taste and presentation are most important.

What are your star dishes?
Each event is customised, so each has its own star dishes. My motto is: tradition and simplicity with a modern twist. My favourites are appetisers and seafood dishes.

 Alain Allaire, Culinary Director, W Hong Kong

What is the X-factor of your food?
Abandon the traditional use of meat stocks, creams and butter. Instead, make use of the intense flavours from vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths and herbal vinaigrettes.

For the brunch at our Kitchen restaurant, our green smoothie has asparagus, cucumber, spinach, chilli, lemon, mint and green apple. It gives you energy and you feel good about it.

What are your star dishes?
Gravalax herbs citrus salmon, coffee mustard, lemongrass coconut soup, chicken dumpling, soft-shell crab, papaya salad, ginger vinaigrette, Australian lamb rack, Thai chilli glaze, kimchi and asparagus.

Gary Lim, Executive Chef, Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur

What is the X-factor of your food?
The cultural aspects of our dishes are our X-factor. Malaysia is a melting pot of cultural backgrounds. Delegates have the opportunity of tasting authentic Malaysian dishes.

What are your star dishes?
Our local action dishes are always a crowd-pleaser. Some examples are roti canai, satay, char kway teow and noodles.
Che Omar, our teh tarik (pulled tea) expert will present the delicate art of tea-pulling. Our resident Chinese Tea Connoisseur will present the humble act of tea pouring by demonstrating tai chi moves with a metre-long-nose bronze tea kettle.

Alessandro Molini, Chef De Cuisine, Westin Bali

What is the X-factor of your food?
Great products, excellent execution, and passion, with every morsel lovingly and painstakingly prepared.

What are your star dishes?
The best feedback we frequently receive is for classic dishes such as lasagna because it is consistent in its preparation and tastes authentic.

Warren Brown, Executive Chef, Hilton Kuala Lumpur

What is the X-factor of your food?
Fresh produce is very important when preparing food - it is the key to simple and delicious food.

What are your star dishes?
We have many signature dishes as we are working with the best products and imported food from around the world. That's what makes us the best.