Belgian chef Christoph Pouls grew up in a family of craft butchers with parents who had their own fine-dining restaurant. Naturally gravitating to the kitchen, he worked with his parents, trained at Michelin-starred restaurants and developed an interest in the international hotel industry. Exquisite Taste grabbed a moment of his time at InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah to chat about what he has learned and his plans.
E: You grew up surrounded by the food and hospitality industry. Did you ever want a career away from all this?
Christoph Pouls: The very short answer is no! I grew up in my grandparent’s butchery, so I was very involved with food from a young age. I chose to attend hotel school at the age of 14 where I studied to be an hotelier.
E: How did you decide to go into cooking?
C: Even as a young child I used to make myself meals, but aged 16 or 17, it could have gone another way – my wine knowledge, service skills and such like were pretty good, but I found the kitchen was my passion. It’s important to find something that drives you at work, hopefully also having fun, which the kitchen gives me.
E: Where do you get your inspiration to create new dishes?
C: Right now I’m dedicated to my Escoffier and thinking about what my grandmother used to make. I think what triggered this was an event I did in Hanoi where I was representing Belgian food to various ministers and VIPs, which took me back to my roots.
E: Previous positions have included both mid-sized boutique hotels and large five-star hotels with significant numbers of restaurants, events and catering; which do you prefer and why?
C: It’s not really a matter of preference, they are just different. In a boutique hotel, you know every guest by name, whereas in the larger hotels that just isn’t possible, but you have other challenges, like how can you serve breakfast for 1,000 people at a consistently high level and achieve guest satisfaction. It’s not easier or more difficult, it’s just a different challenge.
E: I’m sure working on a pre-opening team is very different from working in an established restaurant. Do you have a preference and why?
C: I’ve been involved in 14 openings now, either on the main or support team, and although each one was different, I enjoyed them all. It’s so diverse and you get to contribute beyond your professional role. On one occasion, I even had to decide on and order all the banqueting furniture. Even running an existing venue, you still have issues and make changes, so it’s kind of the same, but openings are probably a bit more complex.
E: Would you share your plans for InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah’s restaurants and event catering?
C: We want to be a leading venue here in our class, but of course we also want to represent our brand. It is already a given that any person who walks through our door must be happy with our service and our offerings, but beyond that we have to make sure we keep things interesting.
E: Will you be locally sourcing much of your ingredients and are there any unfamiliar ones that you are looking forward to exploring?
C: We try to source locally where we can, but some produce – like salmon – is still imported. I have some meetings with local farmers lined up and our coffee is locally grown, roasted and blended especially for the hotel.
As for unfamiliar ingredients, previously I did a durian promotion in Singapore that was very well received. It all started when I had a local durian pancake in a market and thought I could do it better by using a Belgian crispy waffle. My fascination with durian grew from there! I’m looking forward to doing something similar here. I’ve been using beef tongue recently, which the guests enjoy, but there is always more to discover and explore.
Tender Braised Beef Tongue, Curried Cauliflower Espuma, Beetroot jus
- 1 beef tongue
- 500g onion, celery, carrot, leek mirepoix
- 1 bouquet garni
- 400g demi-glace
- 300ml beetroot jus
- pepper and salt
- 60g butter
- 250g cauliflower florets
- 1 shallot
- 125 g cream
- 37g butter
- 5g curry powder
- 1g salt
- 1g pepper
- Seasonal vegetables
- Soak the beef tongue for 3-4 hours in 10% salted water.
- Bring to boil in salted water, simmer for 5 minutes.
- Take out and refresh under running cold water.
- Place in a clean pot with mirepoix, herbs and water, bring to soft boil and simmer for 3-4 hours.
- Check tenderness with fork, when tender, remove, cool and remove tissues and trim back.
- Slice when chilled, place on an oven tray with some veal jus and cover.
- Boil cauliflower.
- Sauté chopped shallot in butter with curry powder.
- Add cauliflower and cream, bring to boil and reduce slightly.
- Season with pepper and salt.
- Blend in mixer.
- Pass through sieve in 0.5l whipper. Close and charge once, shake vigorously.
- Keep warm in bain marie at max 75C.
- Reduce the beetroot jus, then add a few spoons of demi-glace and mix in with pieces of ice-cold butter for a smooth sauce.
- Place warmed beef tongue on a plate.
- Pipe a few dollops of espuma around the beef.
- Spoon sauce over the beef and garnish with seasonal vegetables.
InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah
Jalan Metro Pondok Indah
Jakarta 12310, Indonesia
Exquisite Taste March – May 2019