E: Which places have your career taken you to? Do you have a favourite?
Rafael: I’ve been to Brazil and Spain early in my career. In Asia, I’ve been to Singapore, Hong Kong and of course Indonesia! If I have to pick one, my favourite would be Barcelona. I love the city, food, lifestyle and the weather there.
E: You graduated with a business degree. Why did you become a chef?
R: Initially, when I started university, my parents wanted me to take business, which would be useful for my family business. I ran the family business after graduating, but I found that it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was then that I decided to go to culinary school to follow my passion.
E: How would you describe your cooking philosophy?
R: The most important thing about cooking is passion. You need to have passion for your guests like you are cooking for friends or family. Back in Brazil, family gatherings are always a big thing. We love spending time together and we look forward to these gatherings. Of course, food is an integral part of that!
E: In your opinion, what’s the most important quality for a chef?
R: You need to love the kitchen and be passionate about what you do. Cooking is hard work, you need to put in the hours and you need to be able to withstand the pressure. Your work will keep you away from time with family and friends. When I started out, I had no idea how tough it was to be a chef. However, the look on people’s faces when they eat the food I’ve prepared is worth the sacrifice. That’s the best part of being a chef.
E: Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced in your career, and how you dealt with it.
R: I can think of a few in fact. One challenge was when I first moved to Spain and worked at a Michelin-star restaurant. I found it hard initially to adapt to the culture. The hours were long and people weren’t exactly friendly towards a foreigner, because that was what I was. However, I appreciate my time there as I learnt and grew much from the experience.
Another challenge was when I moved to Asia. It took time for me to understand the culture. If I pushed people too much in the kitchen, they tended to leave. However, it was good experience for me to understand the differences in values and it taught me to lead my team better.
E: What part of your job do you love?
R: The eating is the best part! I’m half-kidding of course. I love talking to the guests and getting their feedback on the dishes I make. I appreciate all feedback whether it is positive or negative. Of course I would like all feedback to be positive, but I like continually learning about my guests’ preferences and what I can improve.
E: Where do you get inspiration for your dishes?
R: I get my inspiration from my experiences from working in different places. I pick up ways to utilise new ingredients and different techniques from different people. I like to combine different technique and flavours to continually delight my guests.
E: What’s your favourite comfort food?
R: If I have to pick, it would be a tough fight between my dad’s Feijoada and fruit compotes. My dad made them for me while I was growing up and I’ve seen him prepare them hundreds of times. Whenever I go back home to Brazil, I need to have these two dishes!
E: What do you do away from work?
R: A chef’s schedule is so demanding that any spare time is family time for me. I love travelling and spending time with my family.
E: Any exciting future plans we can look forward to in 2018?
R: I have learnt much in my travels all over the world and I am definitely looking forward to showcasing my culinary creations in Indonesia. I invite you to try Rafa’s Private Kitchen, which is a personalised seven-course menu tailored to the guest’s liking.
E: Any words of advice for those looking to work in the industry?
R: You need to be passionate about your product, value your team and continually delight your guests. Most importantly, you’ll be spending so many hours in the kitchen that you should try to enjoy the process. Have respect for the job and be professional.
E: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be working as now?
R: That’s easy, I would probably be running my family business in Battaguassu, my hometown in Brazil!
Tuna Tataki Saus Kacang Ponzu & Young Coconut Foam
- 150g sushi grade tuna
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs sesame oil
- Roll tuna in sesame seeds.
- Heat olive oil and sesame oil over high heat in pan, sear tuna for 15-20 seconds and set aside.
Peanut Ponzu sauce
- 240ml water
- 10g katsuobushi
- 10g dry kombu seaweed
- 50g yuzu juice
- 120ml soy sauce
- 20 ml peanut oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 bird’s eye chillies
- 60g peanut butter
- 100g red onion
- 230ml coconut milk
- 50g kecap manis
- 40g crushed peanuts
- Lime juice
- Infuse katsuobushi and kombu in boiled water for 10 minutes, add yuzu juice and soy sauce, set aside.
- Heat peanut oil over high medium heat, add garlic, onion and chillies and cook until onion is translucent.
- Reduce to medium heat, add peanut butter, coconut milk, kecap manis and soy sauce. Cook for 10 minutes while whisking.
- Add crushed peanuts and lime juice, simmer for two minutes. Cool and mix with reserved ponzu sauce.
- Cut tuna in thin slices, drizzle ponzu peanut sauce on top. Garnish with watermelon tartar, coconut foam, micro herbs and flowers.
Keraton at The Plaza, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta
Jalan M.H. Thamrin Kav. 15,
Jakarta 10350, Indonesia