With a background that starts in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and includes stints with the Qatar royal family and cooking for heads of state, Executive Chef Jocelyn Argaud is now ensconced at AYANA Midplaza, JAKARTA, where Exquisite Taste chatted to him about his career experiences and its challenges.
E: From the George V in Paris to California. What was the attraction?
Jocelyn: I had spent so many years in Paris working in Michelin-starred restaurants and I wanted to see something else. I heard about a restaurant opening in California and six weeks later I had my visa.
E: Was language an issue?
J: Yes, I couldn’t speak one word of English or Spanish. I will always remember on my second day in the States I went to buy coffee; it was very, very busy and there were so many people waiting behind me but it took me 30 minutes to order my coffee. That was the point when I decided French is not enough, I really need to learn English.
E: With a Michelin-star background, how was working in America?
J: Naturally I thought I would implement lots of things into my new job in California, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead I learned to understand and implement the reality of the restaurant business. My first chef de cuisine was from Toulouse and had been in the US a long time. He told me I don’t need a kitchen engineer, I need a chef, always remember we need to satisfy our guests.
E: That must have been quite a shock, how did you adapt?
J: The first few months were very hard, I really wasn’t sure what I was doing there and I also had to learn English and Spanish. The evening service started early and finished early, but you would turn up to 200 covers. In France, if we had 30 or 40 it was already considered a lot. I worked hard to adapt but there were many positives too, like learning about Mexican spices and cuisine from the locals.
E: So you enjoy exploring then?
J: Yes, you could call it my life journey. I’m a meticulous person and I enjoy learning about different types of cuisine and techniques. It has been both a personal and professional journey.
E: Speaking of journeys how did you end up cooking for royal families and heads of state?
J: I had returned to France and heard about an opening for a pastry chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Courchevel. While there I met a head-hunter who asked me to work on a private contract in Doha. I had no idea what it meant but when I arrived it was to work for the royal family.
E: That must have been a real culture shock.
J: Yes, one of the hardest things working for heads of state is that you have to learn the protocol. Dealing directly with ministers and heads of state is no problem, but working with the protocol entourage makes your head spin. In Qatar, I was involved in three magical royal weddings, but on a daily basis it’s quite hard, because when you’re cooking for the family every day; you have to cook based on their mood. As you start to know them, you begin to understand better and coordinate well with the personal assistants.
E: Any highlights?
J: When you travel with them it is luxury without limit. I was buying better quality produce for them than for a Michelin-starred restaurant. It is a really good experience, but you are on duty 24/7.
E: What’s it like cooking for the VVIPs? It must be very different from hotel and restaurant work.
J: Very different, for example when working for the Russian government there would be little notice of events and we had to be always ready with full logistics, from water to electricity, depending on where we were. You can’t make any mistakes. Then there is the security. During the G30 summit, for example, the security was so strict that eventually I didn’t even try leaving, I just stayed in the kitchen until it was over!
E: Why did you move back to normality?
J: I spent almost 15 years travelling around the world, and that was enough. However I joined a large hotel group so that I could still travel; the Maldives, Bali and now here at AYANA Midplaza, JAKARTA.
E: What has changed most in your years away?
J: Diners are a lot more demanding now, people see new trends coming up and they want to try them. You have to keep up and anticipate to stay relevant.
E: Do you have favourite restaurants in Bali and Jakarta?
J: In Bali, I like the concept and food of Locavore, modern interpretations of local ingredients. In Jakarta, I have had so little time to go out that I haven’t really explored yet.
E: Any advice for budding chefs?
J: Above all you need passion. It’s much more than a job. You have to love food, you need to be a social person and you have to want to live the chef’s life.
- 125g fresh mozzarella in one piece
- 125ml balsamic vinegar
- 50g honey
- 6 grape tomatoes
- 50g arugula leaves
- 20ml extra virgin olive oil
- Basil leaves
- Stir balsamic vinegar and honey together in a small saucepan and place over high heat.
- Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until the vinegar mixture has reduced to 1/3, about 10 minutes.
- Set the balsamic reduction aside to cool.
- Take the grape tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Cook in oven at 180C for 5 minutes.
- Cut the mozzarella in half.
- On a serving platter, arrange grape tomatoes and mozzarella decoratively with fresh arugula and basil leaves.
- Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
AYANA Midplaza, JAKARTA
Jalan Jenderal Sudirman,
Jakarta 10220, Indonesia
T: + (62) 212510888