Selasa, 18 Agustus 2009

Dine and dine.....

oscar’s dessert by flavour: violetteThe kitchens of St Regis are described as a playground, where Chefs and kitchen staff alike are encouraged to explore, to learn and to adventure into the imagination.

St Regis Executive Chef, Oscar Perez, describes himself as the spark and his team as the engine. He gets each of their inspiration, motivation, discipline and technique started, but it’s the members of his team that make the machine move. Although there are authority figures, each of the top chefs work along side the members of their team. There is no shouting or ordering about other people. Everyone knows what responsibilities they hold, and each are aware that they play an important role in the service engine of St Regis.

When I arrive at St Regis it’s 7 o’clock in the morning. Because this is just in time for Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, I wander over to Boneka, the a la minute breakfast venue of St Regis Resort Bali.

Many hotel restaurants offer the run of the mill, boring; help yourself buffet kind of breakfast. Not Boneka. Here you will find a delicious menu of out of the ordinary delights. Enjoy a duo of freshly shucked oysters or a serve of Wagyu beef tenderloin and fried egg with slowly baked cherry tomatoes and sautéed baby potatoes. A fine selection of Sashimi served with organic miso soup or a serve of dim sum, crispy fried potato cake with your choice of sausages or there is of course, the chance to try the famous Boneka Eggs Nouvelle, lobster ragout in an egg shell with parsley cream topped with salmon roe.

What is most apparent as you walk through the restaurant doors is the long kitchen bench that lies to the left. The bench is open and exposed, designed to allow closeness between the kitchen staff and the diners wandering in to see what their meal choices are. Breakfast at Boneka is intended as a breakfast experience rather than just a place to order food.

The members of the Boneka team are dressed immaculately in white jackets and tall chef hats. Each of them, quietly keep on with their work, whilst people stare, some of them look up and smile, ask if they can help or if the guest would like to try something that they are preparing.

They all arrived at 6am for the morning preparation, and will remain at Boneka until the morning service is finished, which is officially at eleven o’clock, but sometimes guests stay for longer.

The diners come in waves; the first one arrives at seven, has a quick breakfast and will be out by eight. The second crowd comes in at eight and usually stays until ten. They enjoy their time and take the opportunity to peruse the bar as well as try the food and drinks being passed around. It is mostly the latecomers, who are enjoying themselves until eleven. They arrive at 9 and are around for the full experience of the breakfast service. They look, they taste, they watch, and they take the time to enjoy.

As many guests are not familiar with the opportunity to order directly from the Chef, waiters act as middlemen, serving tastings and menu selections between chef and table. This Breakfast Bar also serves drinks with a difference. Collected by waiters carrying service trays, one particular St Regis specialty, known as the Bloody Mary, is offered around the room. The breakfast version, known as a Virgin Mary, is alcohol free, but offers guests an entertaining kick start to the day. Nothing about breakfast at Boneka is ordinary.

Each morning the St Regis baker’s rise and begin work at 2am. They, like the traditional bakers of the world, insist that the bread must be prepared and baked in time for the morning meal because the bread, croissants and other pastries are best served crunchy and fresh from the oven.

I watch as guests who move toward the bread cutting station, notice the delicious array of pastries that sit on the breakfast bar in front of a smiling chef. Some guests return nervously to cutting their bread and rush back to the safety of their tables. Others, allured by intrigue find themselves having their first interaction with the breakfast team.

Behind the Breakfast Bar, the chefs and their preparation of food are exposed and open. I imagine that it must be difficult to get used to at first, but the team, both at Boneka and elsewhere in St Regis, are encouraged to be proud of themselves and their work. It is explained to them that guests are not watching to be critical but admiring and enjoying the opportunity to watch a quality chef at work under such close conditions.

The same experience can be enjoyed at KayuPuti, the St Regis fine dining establishment that overlooks the beautiful Nusa Dua beach. Perhaps it is the breakfast experience that encourages guests to wander into the kitchen of KayuPuti to peruse the activities of the kitchen.

The KayuPuti staffs arrive at ten o’clock and begin their preparations for the day. As in most international standard kitchens, this usually begins with a quality check on products, temperature monitoring of the refrigeration equipment, and then the business of preparation begins.

From gold leaves and silver dust to Sturia, an Acipenser Baeri sturgeion caviar and MB7+ Wagyu beef, Alaskan king crab meat and Tasmanian salmon, the key to KayuPuti is no compromise on product. In a country where chefs may not have the financial resources to taste and experiment with expensive ingredients, Oscar encourages the members of his team to taste, try, and experiment. He encourages them to better themselves and their understanding and approach to ingredients.

Lunch is a more casual affair than dinner at KayuPuti. Many of the meals to prepare are classic pasta or seafood. I watch the meals prepared as I sit enjoying a meal perfectly positioned above and to the side of the kitchen.

Presentation and attention to detail is a high priority both for Oscar and at St Regis. Each plate, each meal, is cared for individually and each detail placed precisely in the right position. Each of the team members is encouraged to understand that consistency is key to quality. Each time a meal is prepared, it must be prepared to look and taste the same as the next, and it must stay this way.

As each plate receives these important finishing touches, a waiter waits patiently on the other side of the service bench. I imagine that for them, plate in hand, the time between kitchen and table must be nerve-racking, and the nerves would need to be calmed over time with an attention to building a confident arm.

Lunch service is steady until three, when just as lunch should be winding down, things get busy as guests wander in hungry from the beach.

Because of this daily wander in affect created by the beach, the time between lunch and dinner is short, meaning that there is no time for a break in between service. Lunch service doesn’t officially stop until five, and the KayuPuti kitchen and dining area must be ready to begin dinner service by six. This time in between service allows for a chance to clean and re-prep the kitchen and dining room in time for the evening guests.

As the light dims across the sky, the restaurant atmosphere transforms from a light bright casual but sophisticated venue into a warm ambience where wood floors, chairs contrast with white walls and cushions, tablecloths and crystal chandeliers. The night sky reflects the open kitchen environment of KayuPuti.

kitchen at kayuputiThis state of the art kitchen, larger than the inside dining room space of the restaurant, manages to create the warmth and intimacy between Chef and client, that can be so difficult to achieve in large restaurants.

Alongside the full set dinner menu, dinner offers guests the opportunity to try the special KayuPuti degustation menu. A daily changing experience for guests, that provides the kitchen staff the opportunity to experiment with flavour and technique in a manner that would not be possible on a set menu. Each of the meals are innovative, and are based on the highest quality of ingredients available to St Regis, but still base themselves on an element of conservative meals. Each of the team members have an opportunity to showcase their particular skill and passion within this menu. This is the St Regis kitchen playground that Oscar describes. The reason each of the staff love coming to work each day, the reason the kitchen will remain a passion for each one of them during their time at St Regis and into their careers. This is cooking.

When service calms for the evening, the faces of the kitchen begin to relax. The team begins to chatter and smile and I get the feeling that there is a sense of achievement, a pride shared between the team at the end of each day. Talk is about food, and about what will be on the menu in days to follow, but it is casual and it is inspiring. This conversation is passion and not work.

Sometime after 11 pm, the staff will gather for a drink around the bar, or outside for a smoke and a laugh. By twelve, most of them will be on their way home, tired, but looking forward to the days ahead. This is the St Regis service, and although tired, I too, left smiling.



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