The 12th annual World Gourmet Festival gets underway on Monday, September 5 at the Four Seasons Bangkok, and such is the power of KohSpot’s readers that we were able to secure interviews with three of the featured chefs.
Drawing chefs from Italy, Switzerland, London, China, Toronto, Buenos Aires and New York, the event aims to give gourmands a sense of what’s percolating on menus around the globe as well as an opportunity to support a charity. For every dinner ticket sold, Four Seasons will donate 500 baht to Save a Child’s Life from AIDS, which focuses on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
While the story of the dishwasher who worked his way up to sous chef makes for better theatrics, there are plenty of others who knew their calling from an early age and fixated on how to advance in the profession. Guido Haverlock, who is from Germany, scratched that itch as a teenager and underwent apprentice work for three years. Adriano Cavagnini, from Italy, came from a culinary family and started working in his parents’ kitchen at 12, while Hari Nayak, from India, was making masala omelettes by 8.
The life of most chefs is peripatetic, and these guys certainly travelled plenty during their stints. “Learning new languages, learning new cuisines, you have to love that to work your way up the ladder in kitchens,” said Cavagnini.
But even as an executive chef, the amount of time spent in the kitchen can still vary greatly depending on the restaurant. Haverlock still spends the majority of his days there. Cavagnini spends less time there, spending more time concentrating on sourcing food and designing menus, noting if he put in full-time chef duties he’d be pulling 18-hour days. Nayak has so many other ventures including consulting that he has trained his three restaurants to run on auto-pilot so customers don’t miss him while he’s away.
Now to the advice from the kitchen. Most of us know by now, courtesy of Anthony Bourdain, not to order fish on Mondays, because restaurants typically buy their fish on Friday and Tuesday, meaning you’re getting three-day old seafood on a Monday. Cavagnini’s tip is if you order something off the menu or prepared a little bit differently, you can guarantee you will be getting a fresh dish, because the restaurant couldn’t have prepped it ahead of time. And fresh is what you want in most cases.
Nayak advised that most Indian restaurants are known for their afternoon buffets, but he refuses to serve them at his eateries because they usually just reheat whatever’s left over from last night. All his kitchens are designed with a minimum of freezer space because he wants the focus on fresh as well. And Haverlock explains that the maximum delay between courses should be about 15 minutes, because after about 20 minutes digestion starts and the diner won’t feel hungry anymore. So if you haven’t received your food by that interval, contact your waiter to complain.
Most of the dinners cost 5,700++, the lunches 1,500++, and there are wine tastings, a brunch and afternoon teas. See website below for more details and bookings. You’ll have to make a request from their website (loads of the dinner are already sold-out) and then wait for a confirmation email with credit card authorization forms for pre-payment of the meal. Even if the reservation process is a bit laborious, its definitely worth delighting your palate from these extraordinary chefs creative talents.
Haverlock is executive chef at i Portici in Bologna, Cavagnini is executive chef at Amaranto in the Four Seasons London, and Nayak is executive chef at Orissa in New York.
World Gourmet Festival
Location: Four Seasons Bangkok, on Rajdamri Road, across from Royal Bangkok Sports Club.
Mass transit: 30 seconds from BTS Rajdamri
Hours: Check website for festival sittings. Festival runs from Sept 5-11.
Phone: 02-126-8866 ext 1517