Having worked with respected chef Alain Ducasse’s brand for years, Guillaume Katola recently headed to Hong Kong to helm Rech by Alain Ducasse. He talks to Exquisite Taste about his kitchen life and philosophy.
E: Who or what have been your biggest influences and inspirations in the culinary world?
G: The long-standing tradition of culinary excellence and innovation in France inspires and motivates me on a daily basis. The beauty and simplicity of local produce are also a great inspiration when setting out to create a dish. Finally, the joy that is felt around a table of people sharing in a great culinary experience and the privilege of playing a part in that moment are great inspirations.
E: What are the most important factors or philosophies that you apply to your career and in the kitchen?
G: Having worked with Ducasse Paris for over a decade, I am inspired by Alain Ducasse. I incorporate his philosophy and approach in the kitchen, which is seasonal – using the freshest produce to create dishes that reflect the time of year. I’ve learned to always keep the ingredients true to their original state, bringing out their best flavour without taking away from their natural beauty. I’m also mindful in the kitchen of the ever-evolving world and work with respect for the environment in everything I do.
E: Your journey in the culinary industry has been long and colourful, what is the most memorable/rewarding experience in your career so far?
G: I have worked with Ducasse Paris for over a decade, including two years as executive chef at Grill at the Dorchester in London and three years as executive chef at Salon La Première Air France, the restaurant in Air France’s First Class Lounge in Roissy, France operated by Ducasse Paris. Every day is rewarding and exciting when you look forward to going in to work and collaborating with your team. A few standout moments would have to be my first position as chef; being given the opportunity to travel the world in order to do what I love; meeting my wife in the kitchens of the restaurant where we were both working in Paris; and most notably, arriving at a stage in my career where I find myself interacting and collaborating with the chefs that I once idolised as a boy is both surreal and validating.
E: What are your professional and personal goals?
G: I am excited to discover this new culinary world in Hong Kong and Asia and to dive into a new culture and a different way of working. I look forward to integrating new techniques and ingredients into my existing skill set to further refine the cuisine I can offer. Of course, I hope to maintain our Michelin star and the excellent standard of InterContinental Hong Kong, and at the same time continue to strive to be better and better.
E: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve come across in your career so far, and how did you overcome it?
G: Each challenge with which we are presented in life is an opportunity to learn and grow – should we choose to see it as that. Taking part in numerous restaurant openings for Ducasse Paris has been challenging, demanding and difficult. I chose to focus however on how enriching an experience it was, rather than the difficulty of the situation, and each time it became an incredibly rewarding and informative experience for me.
E: You recently moved to Hong Kong to helm Rech by Alain Ducasse. What do you think of the regional culinary scene and what do you hope to bring to the table?
G: I have immensely enjoyed discovering the new tastes, smells and flavours that the Hong Kong culinary scene has to offer. It has been a real treat to be surprised time and time again by what is put in front of me and to ask myself the question, “How do they do that?!” I hope to learn as much as I can from the culinary traditions here and to find ways to weave them into my own cuisine at Rech by Alain Ducasse. At the end of the day, all cuisine stems from a desire to please and inspire the person who will eat it. There are no borders or nationalities, and so beautiful harmonious marriages can be created using a mix of different techniques and flavours.
E: Can you explain what Rech by Alain Ducasse is all about to those who are not yet familiar with the restaurant?
G: Rech by Alain Ducasse is the first international outpost of Paris’ most famous seafood restaurant. Rech was founded in 1925 by Adrien Rech and reborn by Alain Ducasse in 2007. We offer an authentically French seafood experience with the finest seasonal fish and oysters and contemporary French cuisine.
E: What tips could you share with anyone looking to break into the culinary industry?
G: Be prepared to work very hard, to push yourself, to listen. This industry is filled with people who have so much knowledge and passion to share, but you must be willing to learn and be receptive to it all. It is not an industry that is to be entered into lightly, as it is very demanding both physically and mentally. You must absolutely love it or you risk giving up on those hard days. When those hard days do come along, never forget the passion, curiosity and drive that inspired you to pursue this path in the first place.
Club Crab and Mango
- 200g crab meat
- 5 boiled eggs
- 1pc romaine lettuce
- 1 mango, diced
- 1 green mango, julienned
- 150g dried bacon
- 4 crab claws
- 1 red chilli, julienned
- 1 bunch chives, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 8 slices bread
- 500g yellow mango
- Lemon juice
- 20ml olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 egg yolk
- 15cl grape seed oil
- 50g ginger
- 10g Dijon mustard
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ½ bunch of basil
- Salt and pepper
- Cherry vinegar
- Peel and chop the mango. Place in a hot casserole and add salt. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stir regularly. Let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 140 degrees. Cut the dried bacon into 1mm thick slices and arrange on baking paper between two baking trays. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Cook the eggs in boiling water for 10 minutes, cool in iced water and chop.
- Finely chop the romaine heart and mix it in a salad bowl with two soup spoons of mayonnaise.
- In another bowl, mix the crab meat with chives and two soup spoons of mayonnaise.
- Sauté the mango in olive oil with salt and pepper. Deglaze with lemon juice.
- Cook until the mango is very soft then blend and keep cold.
- Place egg yolk and mustard in a bowl, mix. Add the olive oil little by little and mix with a whisk. Peel and chop the ginger very finely, chop the basil then add lemon juice, salt and pepper generously. Add a little cherry vinegar.
- Slice bread, cut into triangles, and butter. Arrange on baking paper between two baking trays. Bake in oven until brown – around seven minutes at 140 degrees.
- Mix the chopped romaine lettuce with mayonnaise and chopped bacon.
- Mix diced egg yolk with mayonnaise and seasoning.
Mix crab meat, mayonnaise, chopped chilli, ginger and chives and season.
- Place the shredded romaine in the centre of the plate. Top with crab meat, egg mix and toast. Repeat twice.
- Garnish with egg mimosa, julienne chilli, julienne mango, bacon powder. Arrange the romaine, mango purée and the reduction.
Exquisite Taste June – August 2019