Saturday, 1 November 2014

Interview with Chef Rene Knudsen, Jala Restaurant, The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia

andaman, langkawi, jala restaurant
Chef Rene Knudsen

Interview with Chef Rene Knudsen - The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi


What is the best/worst part of your job?
I enjoy food and really get a kick out of going in depth with ingredients and searching for ways to trigger as many sensorial aspects in a dining experience. Food is far from just a flavour experience! You have to incorporate all five senses to maximize the overall guests’ experience and to ensure that it will become a memorable moment for them. Connecting with the guests after their meals is the best part of my job. The worst part is the obstacles we come across as part of being on the island. We face logistic problems that often slow processes down but I see this as a challenge and I find great joy in looking for solutions

What is one of the most outrageous things you've seen behind the scenes?
I have been privileged as I have not seen many outrageous things in my career but I have seen my former head chef in Denmark throw a mobile phone belonging to a steward over a building because the steward was texting during work. 

How do you select your ingredients and why?
I select my ingredients according to season to ensure quality. In addition, I always have in mind the five taste requirements which are – bitter, salty, sour, sweet and umami. There should always be different colour combinations and textures on the plate to please the eye. Nutritional values too are important so there should be a right balance between carbs, fat and protein. However, an important consideration for me is to always respect the ingredients I work with. Something as elegant and simple as a fresh carrot pulled up from the soil in the early summer, brushed gently and enjoyed raw can excite me! 

Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare…
Some of the dishes we make are reconstructions of existing dishes but in the way we view food. An example is the “Jalaksa” which is Jala’s version of the classic Malaysian Laksa. Laksa was one of the first dishes I tried when I came to Langkawi and I quickly learnt there was more than one variety. So I tasted all 13 variations of the Laksa and created a 14th variation at Jala using the best ingredients from the 13 which was better suited for a fine dining environment. What we ended up with was a marvellous starter which represents what Jala is about.

What's your personal favorite meal at Jala?
This is a tough question. Each dish in Jala is personal to me as I created them and they each offer an individual experience. If I really had to choose, the one dish I love for its flavours is the Poached Cod which is inspired from a Danish dish that’s consumed for New Year. In Denmark, the cod is boiled and served with condiments like capers, egg, horseradish, mustard, parsley and potato. 
Here at Jala we serve it as a main course using the same flavour components but in a different preparation. We serve the cod poached with baked beetroot with balsamic vinegar and sesame, beef bacon and mustard-horseradish hollandaise, deep-fried caperberry and seeds, soft boiled quail egg and parsley. There is a lot of complexity in the dish which will keep you occupied in your culinary exploration.

What's your view on the Langkawi restaurant/ bar scene?
Langkawi is an interesting place with a lot of potential. Sustainability is important for me personally and as a chef, it is part of  our duty to assist the local community in understanding the significance of sustainable resourcing. We need to adapt to the situation both as chefs and guests to be able to preserve the natural beauty of Langkawi without exhausting its natural resources.

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
There are a few exciting plans for Jala Restaurant in the upcoming months. We are introducing a new and improved menu this month which will feature the Chef’s selections with wine pairings so that our guests can enjoy a 360 gastronomic experience. We'll also introduce a menu which incorporates beef paired with wine where we will showcase the differences in cuts and variety of beef such as Black Angus Pure, Hereford, Wagyu and so on.  

What do you do for fun?
I love golf for the way it continuously challenges you whether you are playing by yourself or with your friends. Having the ELS Club Teluk Datai next to the resort gives me the opportunity to continuously challenge myself while having fun. Other than that, I like being in the quieter areas around the island where I can use my time researching on gastronomy. There are many ways to improve and learn as a chef whether it’s by browsing through the internet, dining at other restaurants, reading cookbooks or visiting the local markets to taste new ingredients. That gives me great pleasure. 

The perfect day off would be?
Traveling around Southeast Asia is fantastic! I love spending the day exploring and learning new cultures. Having the opportunity to indulge in a variety of different cultures and foods is a wonderful thing! My perfect day would start with a game of golf with my friends, dinner at a great restaurant and end with a good bottle of wine in a bar and lounge to discuss the challenges and victories of the day!




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