Growing up in a culinary-centric family, destiny has taken Eric on a gastronomic journey in France, where he honed his skills at two- and three- Michelin starred restaurants. After a respected stint in Morocco, Eric is now helming The Apurva Kempinski Bali, overseeing a number of outstanding dining destinations. He talks to Exquisite Taste about his inspiration and dreams.
E: How did you first get into the culinary industry?
Eric: My first dream was to work in aeronautics. However, I grew up in a culinary family; my uncle was a chef, my grandmother was a talented cook, my father was a pastry chef, and somehow they gave me a way to reach my future career. I helped my father when I was little, cleaning the chocolate moulds and all. During the holidays, I cooked with my uncle and grandmother. So, although I didn’t think I would become a chef, for me it was just something natural.
E: Where do you find your inspiration to cook?
Eric: Asia. I have been interested in Asian culture since I was little, having grown up close to a Vietnamese family who would introduce me to their food; my father and I also enjoyed going to a Vietnamese restaurant. I liked to read books like Shogun and was fascinated by Asian martial arts. When I was still in France, one of the chefs I worked for had worked for the queen of Thailand, and he taught me all about Asian flavours. Since the 1990s, the European culinary scene has started incorporating flavours from Asia, like lemongrass and ginger. I believe in destiny and I think all these things developed a strong passion for Asia in me.
E: It’s nice that you’re finally here in Asia.
Eric: I dreamed a long time ago about coming to this continent, and I’m finally here. I wasn’t familiar with Bali before, but now I really enjoy being here. I’m just really lucky that my wife and my sons always support my dreams, and that they always push me to keep pursuing my dreams.
E: What is the most important philosophy that you apply to your career or in the kitchen?
Eric: Lead, teach and share. I spent most of my career in France, and coming here, I want to do more than just teach, do more than only give the knowledge that I know and apply it here. I want to share, learning about the different cultures and making this work in Bali. I also need to continue to learn, especially on the human side of work. When we first started with this project in Bali, we were under a lot of stress, but there are two kinds of stress, the type that can turn into negativity, and the one that can enforce positivity. We had the positive stress, that builds a solid team where we find solutions together. It’s okay to not agree with one another, but you work together to get the results. The support from the chefs, our colleagues, the owners, the general manager, my family and everyone I’ve ever met in my life plays an important part in my work.
E: What is the biggest challenge you’ve come across in your profession, and how did you overcome it?
Eric: Consistency. We need to target excellence, and consistency is an important part of this. Sometimes, when you’re really passionate about what you’re doing it can be difficult to see and accept when you’re doing something wrong. But how can you maintain consistency if you don’t want to learn from your mistakes? It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you don’t have any problem in admitting them and apologising. Afterwards, we can discuss things and hopefully make them better. Discussion is important. I always think a good chef cannot be successful without a good team.
E: What is your goal for The Apurva Kempinski Bali?
Eric: To make it the best and most unique venue in Indonesia and get the international recognition that it deserves. Everything about the hotel, the craftsmanship, the products, is amazing. The owners gave us good tools for success, but now the team has to transform the dream into great results. It’s a long job, and it’s not finished yet, but the goal is to be one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.
E: Is there any future project with The Apurva Kempinski Bali that you’d like to share?
Eric: Everyday there’s a new project. We work together with a local school where we give selected students the chance to intern at The Apurva Kempinski Bali. This year, we want to celebrate diversity, in addition to celebrating the fact that now we are finally fully open. In terms of F&B, we want to highlight the resort’s culinary diversity, be it at Izakaya by OKU, or Koral, we want to elevate all the Indonesian aspects with five-star presentation throughout the dining venues. We also celebrate the talent behind it, namely the culinary team.
E: What advice could you share with anyone looking to break into the culinary industry?
Eric: Because of TV shows and whatnot, more and more people want to be in the kitchen industry. It’s okay to dream, but never forget the reality. The job requires sacrifices, it takes a lot of your time and you won’t have any time left to spend during the weekends to party, to go to events, and more. You have to have the passion and the endurance, otherwise you won’t make it.
The Apurva Kempinski Bali
Jalan Raya Nusa Dua Selatan
Bali 80361, Indonesia
T: (+62) 3612092288
Exquisite Taste March – May 2020