Kevin Marchetti arrived in Jakarta with a very colourful resume that spreads across three continents – including Africa. Bringing his rare experience and background to lead the culinary programme at Gran Meliá Jakarta as its executive chef, the Luxembourg native took time to talk with us.
E: Can you tell us about what attracts you into working in the culinary industry?
A: For me, it is very interesting to see all these different flavours, all these different condiments to different spices and it interests me to combine them all, you know. Especially since I travel quite a lot around the world, it’s very nice to discover new items, new products, new spices, and to just create new dishes from them.
E: What was the first dish that you learn to make? And can you still do it well today?
A: I’m from Luxembourg, so I would say it’s the crème brulee. The crème brulee is a French custard cream, which I learned to do at Léa Linster Restaurant, a Michelin-starred restaurant in my hometown of Frisange. So the very first dish that I did was actually a dessert, but it’s something that sticks in my head, and of course I still know how to do it.
E: Not a lot of chefs that we’ve interviewed have worked in Africa before. Can you tell us about the culinary world there?
A: Africa, in terms of culinary is very different. In Asia, we have a lot of spices, a lot of freshness, a lot of different condiments combined with each other. Africa is very much into good quality meat. They have a lot of heavy and grilled creations, and nice stews, as well. The diners there love a lot of proteins such as lamb, beef, chicken and fish – and by a lot, I mean both in variations and portion-wise. A basic plate of dish are usually cuts of protein, marinated nicely with simple condiments such as garlic, ginger, a little bit of lemon, and then we just put it on the grill or make skewers. It can be served with nice sweet potatoes, simply seasoned with a little bit of curry for the spice.
E: You were part of the opening team to two different properties, is there any memorable moment from the experience?
A: The two big openings that I did was one in Phú Quôc island in Vietnam, and the other one was in Arusha in Tanzania. Both were very, very interesting, but also very different. For Phú Quôc, the only challenge, being on an island, was getting the ingredients that I needed, since products takes time to arrive. And time is essential when you’re running on a pre-opening schedule. While in Africa, the challenge was that everything was very new to me. Especially when it comes to the people and the culture. I needed time to get used to, but it was in a good way. I recruited the team, I created the menus, I trained every one, I had the chance to really create the concepts.
E: Are there any exciting new plans that we can expect from the hotel’s dining outlets?
A: We are working on new concept right now, including tasting out on new presentations for our buffet offering and VIP dining. Of course, the taste will be there as well. So right now, the exciting ones can be found at our Japanese restaurant Yoshi Izakaya, then the Café Gran Via all day dining, we have the Chillin Pool Bar, which has light tapas and bites. Soon to be open is our Chinese restaurant, and then in the future there will be also a few new concepts which are still in the pipeline.
E: Can you tell us about the cuisine and the culinary scene in Luxembourg?
A: Well, being a small country, I would say we are very influenced by the nearby countries such as Germany, Belgium and France. So we have our traditional food, which is actually winter food. So, a lot of stews made out of beans, sausages and meat. A lot of rich items like potato cakes or dumplings with a bit of a cream sauce. There’s also a lot of meat, and a lot of smoked meat as well. It’s quite traditional, colder climate food. But then of course, we also have the fine dining scene, where I can say that Luxembourg have quite the spread. So the Michelin-starred restaurants, nice brasseries as well, and of course, a little bit of elevated, gastronomic cuisine, too.
E: Lastly, the one question that we always ask foreign chefs in Jakarta, what is your favourite restaurant in the city and your favourite dish there?
A: Well, you know, that’s very interesting, because just a few days ago was my very first interaction with local food. My friend, Krisna, who is also a chef, brought me to the Sunda Kelapa Mosque. Around it, they have a very nice street food market. I was very impressed by the food dishes that I had there, which was Sate Padang and also Tongseng Kambing – along with a bottle of local bottled iced tea. That was my first impression of the local food, and also, the best so far. Looking forward to try more during my time here.
Exquisite Taste Volume 40
Gran Meliá Jakarta
Jalan H.R. Rasuna Said
Jakarta 12950, Indonesia
T: (+62) 215268080