Hailing from Hungary, JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta’s new executive chef Gyula Harangi brings with him a wealth of experience working in world-class establishments all over Europe and the Middle East. In the coming few months, Chef Gyula will unveil new culinary experiences as well as classic Hungarian fare that is set to delight the hotel’s visitors. We had the rare opportunity to catch up with him amidst his busy schedule.
E: How long have you been a chef and how did you end up at JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta?
Gyula: I’ve been working as a chef for 30 years and I’ve worked in many five-starred establishments previously. I started out in Budapest, Hungary, which is my hometown, and worked all across Europe and the Middle East before I decided that Jakarta was my next destination.
E: Why did you become a chef? Was it always your passion?
G: Being a chef is an acquired taste in itself. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and had an aptitude for it, but once I decided to commit to being a successful chef I knew the level of dedication and sacrifice required to be one. I love making new creations and delighting people with them, that’s the reward we get as chefs.
E: Over the course of your career, I’m sure you’ve visited many interesting countries. Which is your favourite and why?
G: So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to work in Hungary, Portugal, Kuwait and Dubai. I’ve enjoyed each of my experiences, which have been unique and insightful. However, my wife and I have always gravitated towards Asia, especially Indonesia, as we love the culture and hospitality here. We are diving enthusiasts and we love how we can dive in Indonesia’s beautiful islands on weekends.
E: In your opinion, what’s the most important quality for a chef to be successful?
G: You need to have an open mind and be creative. Food trends move so quickly nowadays – it’s important to stay up to date and constantly innovate to stand out as a chef. And of course you need to put in the hard work and be passionate about your job.
E: Who has been the biggest influence in your career?
G: It’s hard to pick one since my style is so eclectic. I am always studying and taking inspiration from famous chefs all over the world. I love studying their styles and techniques whether it’s for starters or desserts.
E: You’ve mastered many cuisines in the course of your career (including Western, Arabian, Mediterranean, French), which would you say is the most challenging to learn, and why?
G: If I have to pick one, I think the hardest cuisine to master is Asian. The personal challenge for me is working with so many new and exotic ingredients that I’d never used while working in Europe. It is very exciting though and I’m having lots of fun learning about Indonesian food every day.
E: What’s your specialty dish? Do you mind sharing with us the story behind it?
G: I come from Hungary where soup is practically our national dish. My comfort food is Hungarian goulash soup, which brings back fond memories of my childhood. I like to play with flavours and textures to make my own interpretations of classic dishes such as Cajun Seafood Gumbo, a Creole specialty.
E: On your days off, what activities do you do to unwind?
G: I love scuba diving. The mesmerising marine life and the calmness of the sea are amazing.
E: If you don’t mind sharing with our readers, are there any exciting future plans for the hotel’s restaurants we can look forward to in 2017?
G: Ah, a chef needs to have some secrets, but I’ll share with you that we are planning to launch a special regional Japanese delicacy that will only be available at JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta, a healthy brunch concept for our health-conscious diners and a brand new Chinese menu.
E: Hypothetically speaking, if you were not a chef, what would you see yourself doing?
G: That is a very interesting question. If you asked me that a couple years back I don’t think I would have a good answer for you. I mentioned previously that I love scuba diving, so I think I could see myself pursuing a career as an ocean photographer for Nat Geo or something! That would be a fun occupation.
Toro Tuna Tataki with cucumber textures, jalapeno mayo and ponzu
- 120g Toro tuna loin
- ½ lemon, zest
- ½ lemon, juice
- ¼ stalk lemongrass, white part only
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf in blender till smooth
- Marinate tuna in paste for 20 minutes
- Sear both sides of tuna in hot smoking pan, then immediately put in ice bath to cool
- Pat dry with paper towel
- Slice tuna into 10 even slices, approximately ½cm thick
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1½ tbsp dashi
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp mirin
Combine and whisk all ingredients together in a mixing bowl
- Plate the tuna neatly in the center of a serving plate
- Garnish with cucumber spaghetti, compressed cucumber, cucumber puree, jalapeno mayo, tempura nori, fresh radish, fresh jalapeno, coriander leaves and edamame beans
- Pour ponzu sauce over to finish and serve