Cheerful, hospitable and deeply passionate about cooking, Brazilian-born Chef Rafael Fernandes Gil loves sharing good food with friends and family as much as he enjoys cooking.
Chef Rafa joined Ozone at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong in 2015 bringing new energy to the highest bar in the world with his vibrant selection of avant-garde Spanish tapas. In addition to this is his brainchild Rafa’s Private Kitchen, a rare culinary experience found high up in the clouds on the 118th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. These intimate dinners offer panoramic night views over Victoria Harbour and are where Chef Rafa lets his imagination run free to create masterpieces for discerning gourmands.
Chef Rafa’s passion and skill saw him quickly move into world-class Michelin-rated restaurants, including three-starred Martin Berasategui restaurant in San Sebastián and one-starred EVO restaurant in Barcelona. He moved to Asia in 2012. Exquisite Taste talked to Chef Rafa about his journey, his cooking and the challenges.
E: You studied business management to go into your family’s business before realizing your passion for cooking. How did that realization come about?
Rafael: When I was a child, I used to help my father prepare the ingredients when he was cooking for the family and his friends. That was how I developed my interest in cooking. I had always wanted to get into culinary school, but it was a new idea in Brazil back then. So first I studied business at university to fulfill my parents’ expectations and went to culinary school after graduation.
E: Your culinary training only started 11 years ago, how did you attain this prestigious level so quickly?
R: It’s all about passion. If you are passionate enough, you will find a way to learn. My work experience in Europe helped a lot, as it was intensive and involved long hours.
E: You’ve worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in the past, what did you learn there that you have brought with you to Ozone?
R: My experience in Michelin-rated restaurants equipped me with the top cooking techniques, as well as a true understanding of fine dining.
E: I’ve been looking at some of the dishes you’ve presented at Rafa’s Private Kitchen, where do find the inspiration to create them?
R: I usually get my inspiration from reading books and keeping up to date with trends around the world.
E: Could you share any especially memorable events from your professional life?
R: It was an event in culinary school where the students cooked for their parents. It was the first time I had prepared a formal dinner for my parents and I was very excited. My mother was finally convinced of my decision to be a chef.
E: You left Europe for Asia in 2012, what made you take that move and what are your thoughts on Asia?
R: I was very eager to take up the challenge of moving to Asia as it was a good opportunity to learn about Asian food and ingredients. In Brazil, we mainly consume meat and the variety of ingredients is very limited. It was an eye-opening experience to try using vegetables and seafood that were all new to me.
E: What part of your job do you love the most?
R: I enjoy the interaction with guests. It is rewarding to know how they feel about my dishes and that they enjoyed the meal.
E: What are your plans for Ozone, your private kitchen offering and your future?
R: I intend to continue creating new experiences for guests with the introduction of new tapas menus for Ozone and new dishes at my Rafa’s Private Kitchen, as well as enhancing the menus with fine ingredients from around the world.
E: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
R: The first few months in Europe were challenging, as the working style was very different from Brazil. Hard work, long hours and a lack of respect made it difficult for me to adapt. Luckily, I overcame it and eventually learned a lot from the kitchens of those Michelin-rated restaurants.
SMOKED GREEN ASPARAGUS WITH SCALLOP AND CAVIAR
- 4 green asparagus
- Fresh mango
- 2 Hokkaido scallops
- Ikura roe
- Massago roe
- Sturgeon caviar
- micro herbs
- Cut small cubes of mango. Blend remaining mango to make a yellow sauce and reserve.
- Blend the chives with a little oil to make a green sauce. Reserve.
- Cut the asparagus to around 12cm long, peel. Use only the asparagus head and boil in salty water.
- Cut the scallops into 3-4 pieces, depending on size, and refrigerate.
- Place the asparagus in the centre of the plate.
- Decorate the plate with green and yellow sauce.
- Put the scallop on top of the asparagus.
- Scatter diced mango on the plate.
- Place the roes and caviar on top of the scallop.
- Decorate with flowers and micro herbs.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over the plate.