From picking fresh produce at the local vendors to managing quality and cost, Ashiana’s new Chef de Cuisine at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel and Towers, Joseph Yohannan says keeping a balance is the biggest challenge in today’s industry.
Quality does not always come at a cost, but when in the food and beverage industry, ensuring guests are served the best leaves no place for compromise. With a growing and competitive market, costs are bound to increase while on the other hand, consumers become price sensitive according to Chef Joseph Yohannan.
“The biggest challenge being a Chef today has to be getting the right quality ingredients at the desired cost. Guests are becoming more and more price sensitive and hikes in ingredients costs are not helping the cause,” he says.
“Every chef wants to produce quality products for his/her guests while also making sure that they feel they have got their money’s worth. It’s an on-going battle and quite frankly, the one that keeps us on our toes all the time.”
Starting his career in 2001, Chef Josephs oldest memory of food dates back to his childhood days when he would go ingredient shopping.
“My love for cooking started from watching my mother,” the Chef explains.
“She would take me to the vegetable market every day to buy the freshest ingredients as she believed in cooking just enough for the day. Each day would be fresh start and a new adventure for me, identifying and picking fresh produce from the local vendors was something I soon excelled in.
“The passion and love with which she cooked, made me understand that it’s not what you cook, but how you cook that makes all the difference,” he adds.
After completing a graduate program in culinary arts, Chef Joseph was appointed as commis one at a hotel in Kochi, India, “During my three years there, I learned a lot from the most experienced hands in the industry. Apart from the technical skills in the kitchen, methodology and kitchen management, I developed a pure passion for the job and took pride in what I did,” Chef Joseph says.
“As clichéd as it may sound – the fact that we are able to touch people’s heart is the part of my job that I enjoy the most. A well-cooked meal can instantly put you in the right mood.
“People go to restaurants for an experience, excellent food with warm service, pleasant décor and some form of entertainment that pulls them out of their routine life. It is our responsibility to make sure we deliver this,” he adds.
No stranger to the food scene in the UAE, having been here for over eight years, the multi-cultural environment is the biggest contributing factor to the ever-growing industry, according to Chef.
“The Middle East has become home to many expatriates and the versatility can be experienced by the cuisines that are being offered these days. It’s wonderful to see numerous restaurants offering fusion cuisine, mixing and matching the ingredients and cooking styles,” he says.
And to keep up with and ever-growing industry you need to ensure it is in the hands of the right people, which is why Chef Joseph wants young chefs entering the industry to ‘pay their dues’.
“Getting a degree from a reputed university is important but getting on-job experience is equally crucial. They need to be patient,” he says.
“Try your hand at everything – work in the cold section, pastry section, and desert section along with hardcore cooking. Work for the banquets, try all sorts of things before claiming your niche. This industry demands time, hard work and a lot of heart.”
- February 2014 – Present: Sous Chef in charge, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Dubai.
- May 2011 – January 2014: Chef Tournant, Westin Mina Seyahi & Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Dubai
- March 2010 – April 2011: Senior Chef de Partie, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Dubai
- February 2009 – March 2010: Chef de Partie, Movenpick Resort & Spa, Yemen