Viet Nam News
Seref Ozalp, executive chef of the Lotte Hotel Hanoi, has almost 30 years of experience in cooking and working at 5-star hotels. He spoke with Việt Nam News about food inspiration.
Ozalp started his culinary career at the age of 13. He has been the executive chef at nine hotels around the world. The talented British chef has been awarded more than 40 times in the United Kingdom, before he started work at the Lotte Hotel Hanoi.
Inner Sanctum: Why did you decide to become a chef? Please tell us about the process. How long does it take and how hard is it to become an executive chef?
I decided to become a chef when I was 13. Cooking has been the family profession – my mom is a chef and so are my four brothers. My family is the inspiration and the motivation behind my first steps in this direction.
To become an executive chef, it takes a lot of time and effort. It took me 20 years of learning and working in every department, including pastry, cold kitchen, butchery and the hot kitchen. Even till today, although I have been an executive chef for 10 years, I still learn something new each day.
Inner Sanctum: What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from painting and from nature. Painting and the act of blending colours always give me new ideas, while nature with its colourful hues excites me immensely. Nature’s unique palette with its seamless transition makes me want to present these colours in my dishes.
Inner Sanctum: In your opinion, what virtues and qualities must a chef have?
A chef should have the following characteristics -- patience, discipline, motivation, creativity and artistic quality. Discipline helps the chef work effectively under pressure, especially in a team, while motivation and patience encourage the person to move forward and keep learning. Creativity and artistic personality are essential for the chef to make unique dishes and bring new experiences to the guests.
Inner Sanctum: What do you offer to the guests at the Lotte Hotel Hanoi restaurants?
Lotte Hotel Hanoi offers its guests a unique dining experience with special concepts and a panoramic view of the city. Grill 63 is home to premium steak and wine, Red River offers authentic Chinese cuisine, while Tim Ho Wan brings Hong Kong’s world-famous dim sum house to Hà Nội.
Inner Sanctum: As the lead chef of the Lotte Hotel, what do you do to create a hallmark for the restaurants and make them different from others?
As the executive chef of the Lotte Hotel Hanoi, I created the unique concept for our signature restaurants based on multiple aspects, such as atmosphere, décor and customer needs. With my inspiration and knowledge of ingredients, I developed the signature menus at inexpensive prices. The result -- a combination of food, drink and atmosphere --- will bring an unparalleled experience to our customers.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think of Vietnamese cuisine?
In my opinion, Vietnamese cuisine has a lot to offer to gourmets -- fresh ingredients, special spices, herbs, distinctive taste and beautiful presentation with a combination of many colours in one dish. The taste of Vietnamese food is very well-balanced, not too spicy or too mild. VNS