Exclusive Interview with Savoy’s Executive Sous Chef Francisco Hernandez at Fairmont Jakarta
Francisco Hernandez, Executive Sous Chef at The Savoy, London, is originally from Santiago, Chile, where he completed his early education, English school and culinary studies. Following on from his first work experiences in Santiago Marriott Hotel and other hospitality environments in Chile, he moved to Sweden, in order to work at the Sheraton Stockholm. After 2 years he moved to London, where he has worked in many of the top five star hotels in London and specializing in modern British-European cuisine. Including The Langham Hotel, The Wyndham Grand Chelsea Harbour and The Connaught Hotel with Helen Darroze.
In 2012 Francisco spent two years in Italy, where he was asked to open and consult on a small family restaurant venture just outside of Rome. Here, he was able to learn and perfect both the local cuisine and language, and also be at the forefront of a brand new opening of his own creation.
Francisco decided to return to London, following the recession in Italy and from then he has worked his way up within the past 4 years at The Savoy Hotel to the position of Executive Sous Chef.
I had the chance to meet Chef Francisco when I flew into Jakarta for ‘When Jakarta Meets London’ event in August. It is his first time in Asia, yet he is adventurous when it comes to experimenting with local ingredients. He is a passionate chef, truly loves his work, the creation of new dishes and is totally committed to his workplace and his team.
During my stay at Fairmont Jakarta, we tried the special 5-course wine pairing dinner at VIEW Restaurant & Bar, specially prepared by Savoy’s Executive Sous Chef Francisco Hernandez. The menu includes Heritage Beetroot & Goat Cheese Roulade, Pan Seared Scallop, Duo of Barramundi & Sole, Traditional Beef Wellington and Peach Melba Legacy. Beetroot & Goat Cheese Roulade was a starter created at The Savoy for The Prince’s Trust, which is Prince Charles’ organization for charity. The lamb croquette is a favourite dish for Charlie Chaplin because he love lamb stew when he used to stay at The Savoy. He would order lamb stew and the only spicy food he used to have was curry, so The Savoy team created the lamb croquette.
One of the signature dishes of The Savoy is the Beef Wellington. This is a dish created to commemorate Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Waterloo. It’s an indulgent beef of beef, slathered with a mushroom and truffle, and baked in pastry. This is an iconic dish in the British culture. And there is the Duo of Barramundi & Sole which combines local and English ingredients together, such as fennel and asparagus. It’s contemporary-looking yet classic dish in Jakarta.
We managed to get Chef Francisco to sit down for a quick chat with us before he swings back to the kitchen.
(M: Miss Tam Chiak ; F: Chef Francisco)
M: It’s your first time in Asia?
F: Yeah, first time in Asia. I think it’s a really good opening to see another country as well, so I’m very happy that I was given the opportunity.
M: Any chances that you know something here in Jakarta has inspired you that you would go back and create a dish out of it?
F: Wow, that’s a good question. I think, one of the things I’ve tried was a satay, so I was thinking about the flavoUrs into combining the lamb croquette I did for that one. To do into a croquette with a nice, spicy peanut sauce. So, you can still cook the same flavors, like the whole lamb leg, brace it with the flavoUrs of the satay, and then finish it in the grill, and then you shred all that, and then you roll it into croquettes. So, I think it encapsulates the whole flavour in one bite.
M: Is there any chef who inspired you?
F: Well, I really like to work with Hélène Darroze, she’s a very good friend. I was trained by a French chef, so obviously a lot French techniques become my basis of cooking. However, British chefs like Jason Atherton, Tom Kerridge, chefs who work with local produce, I think that inspired me a lot to my cooking skills. Nowadays I try to work with local, and try to be a bit modern, but at the same time, don’t lose the classic. these chefs inspire me a lot.
M: Is there any particular ingredient that you like to use in the kitchen?
F: Olive oil. I need to have a really good olive oil in the kitchen. With all good olive oil I think sometimes I cannot, so it’s key for anything really.
M: So what do you like to eat when you’re at home?
F: That’s a good question because actually I spend a lot of time cooking actually. Many chefs try to eat easy, but when I’m at home, because my wife loves food, so I would buy oxtails, beef cheeks, ribs, and I love to slow cook. So, basically I get up in the morning. I do a stew with red wine, I leave that to cook, and then after six or four hours, I know it’s ready, with nice mashed potato.
M: So, being in the food service, what do you think will be the next be thing? Is there gonna be a coming trend?
F: What’s happening at London at the moment is a lack of chefs, and skill chefs. So, I think it might happen that maybe in five years, food wise it’s gonna be more kind of sharing platter or like, you’re gonna have lamb shanks, for example, for two people. And then you have side orders. I see that it’s more and more difficult to train more chefs in order to create the old dishes. So, obviously, now you need to start to go more down to earth with dishes. Before we used to do a lot of dots, and caviars etc, but I think it’s gonna be more simple the dish, really.
M: So what do you love most about your job as a chef?
F: I think, every day when I get up, you’re always gonna have a tough day. Every day is gonna be a challenge, and I love challenges, so for me, it is a passion, a challenge, and also you are there to give everything from your heart. Basically, you cannot just go and then say, “Well, I’m tired of cooking.” So, it’s better you go home and don’t do it anymore. If the day you say you are tired of cooking that means you need to shut down the curtain and goodbye, so I think it is about the passion first of all, and have the willingness to deal with all the issues. And at the end of the day, to have an amazing feedback and make the customer or the guests happy. For me, it’s about when we see a plate finish, even though if it’s a plate of pasta with bolognese sauce, that is comfort for me.
M: Is there a memorable kitchen memory?
F: I had the chance to go to the Langham Hotel in London and work in the kitchen. One of the French chef used to be one of the sous chef for Gordon Ramsay. So basically when I arrive to this kitchen, it was like seeing Gordon Ramsay running the pass. On the first month, I was crying every day, and I thought this wasn’t for me, but then I realized it was about understanding exactly what they wanted on the product. I think after that month, I realized what they wanted. From that time, my life changed and my confidence went to the other side.
M: You actually mentioned about the the last meal, so what would that be for you?
F: There is a dish in Italy, it’s so simple, it’s a Bucatini all’Amatriciana. So basically bucatini is like spaghetti. And I still remember the first time I went to Italy, my father-in-law prepared this bucatini with pork cheek. It’s cured in the same way as the parma ham, so it’s dry and aged. So, basically saucing has a little bit celery, carrot, parsley, tomato sauce with white wine, and fresh Pecorino. It’s so simple, but the flavors for me it was when I tried this, I’m like, “I think this will be my last dish.” It’s just insane.
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