We sit down with the Kempinski Hotel Muscat’s Executive Chef Guillaume Joly to talk about his passion for food, which ingredients he can’t live without, and how time is relative.
If you’ve ever dined out at the Kempinski Hotel Muscat and were left thinking about the meal you had for the rest of the week – there’s a reason for that. And his name is Chef Guillaume Joly. As the hotel’s Executive Chef, he’s the culinary talent who leads the Kempinski’s Food & Beverage teams to push the envelope and tantalise our taste-buds.
He’s also recently been nominated for ‘Executive Chef of the Year’ at the Middle East Chef Excellence Awards 2019. In a stellar career spanning 25 years, he has worked for some of the industry’s top French chefs such as Georges Blanc and Alain Dutournier, and has cooked for the three-Michelin-starred French restaurant Troisgros.
Chef Guillaume’s culinary journey has taken him across the globe from Moscow to the UAE.
Here, we find out what makes him tick in the kitchen.
Y: You’ve been leading the Kempinski Hotel Muscat’s culinary team since its pre-opening stage. That’s no small assignment! What have been some of the highlights and challenges?
GJ: The opening of a hotel in itself is a big challenge, let alone ten restaurants and lounges. During the first period of opening, my main goal was to provide training for the team members as per the standard for each outlet, in terms of food taste and plating. We also had to source high-quality products from a variety of suppliers, which is crucial to the guest experience. With all this in place, the next phase was to ensure that guests are satisfied with their dining experience, and evolve our style to ensure the authenticity of each outlet while tweaking our dishes to satisfy the diner. In that sense, the culinary team has succeeded in its aim to provide our guests with authentic dishes that translate across a variety of palates, which I believe is a great highlight.
Y: How do you find new ways to integrate the culinary heritage of Oman within the hotel’s F&B offerings?
GJ: We source many products locally as much as possible – such as Omani rock lobster, shrimps, and oysters. Our eggs are locally-sourced and free-range, and an amazing variety of micro-herbs used in our dishes can be found in Oman. Last but certainly not least, all our dates are Omani.
Y: What excites you most about the achievement of your nomination for ‘Executive Chef of the Year’ at the Middle East Chef Excellence Awards 2019?
GJ: Being nominated is truly an honour to be part of a select group of my peers from across the region and I aim to share my passion for cooking with guests and fellow chefs alike. Being the only Executive Chef from Oman in this category, I hope to come out with a win with the support of the community – as the winners are based on votes.
Y: Tell us a little bit about the recipes you’re sharing here – what makes them stand-out dishes?
GJ: The Omani Rock Lobster Salad found at Zale pays tribute to Oman’s rich marine life, adding a twist with fresh citrus and pomegranate, and brought together with olive oil.
The Wadi Cheese Cake is the hotel’s signature dessert, using local ingredients such as dates, coconuts and goat cheese to infuse what is typically a Western dessert.
Y: Now for the cookery lightning round! Olive oil or butter – and why?
GJ: Ideally both! Olive oil for fish, starters, and salads while butter is for meat – especially beef. I sometimes use a combination of both. However, olive oil is the healthy option.
Y: What’s your favourite late-night snack?
GJ: A nice piece of French cheese.
Y: What’s your favourite kitchen tool – and why?
GJ: Without a good knife, a chef cannot be precise.
Y: Finally, we hear you’re an amateur horologist – someone who collects timepieces – and you’ve got over 45 from 1950 to 1980. How did you stumble upon such a unique hobby in your spare time?
GJ: My passion for watches started 15 years ago while I was in Moscow collecting vintage watches. I love the design and the tremendous craftsmanship put in to produce these watches and I believe it has a connection with cooking. When you look at a watch, it’s hard to imagine all the work put into something so small. Similarly, years of dedication and passion go into a dish served in restaurant – no matter how simple the dish may seem.