As The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur opens its doors to guests, the hotel also embraces a new Executive Chef, Keith Hooker, who has worked under world-renowned chefs Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton and Michel Roux Jr. in London.
His 20 years culinary journey has been an exciting process due to working with different types of individuals, and in various countries and kitchen settings. Having worked at the one Michelin Star City Social in London and the JW Marriott Hong Kong in the past, one of his most memorable moments would be successfully curating flavourful three-course meals during a job interview for influential Chef Jason Atherton.
Since his arrival he is reviewing the hotel’s entire food and dining experience, and he is determined to make it more approachable and appealing to all ages. “I am thrilled to be in Malaysia! I am looking forward to exploring the country’s incredible culinary heritage and introducing exquisite new dining experiences and menus to Kuala Lumpur.”
Here, Chef Keith Hooker talks to us about his new journey working in Malaysia in the midst of a pandemic. The Brasserie’s Brunch Box menu was his debut for the hotel.
What is the inspiration for The Brasserie’s Brunch Box menu?
It’s all about family affairs; bringing people together, where comfort and love can be found in the form of food. It is important for me that every guest enjoys their dining experience––whether it’s at the hotel or at home––even for just a short moment in time. I want to create something that a family or a group of friends or whoever could put down on their dining table at home and have a massive spread of dishes and everyone gets involved.
The inspiration is trying to come out with something that can actually give people an experience in the pandemic. And, trying to be creative around giving people an element of joy when they open the box. There are so many places here that do takeaways, we are just trying to give people something different.
What is your favourite dish from the brunch box?
My personal favourite would be the roast Australian Black Angus Tenderloin with Yorkshire puddings.
Even though the brunch box centres around a British theme, Chef Keith Hooker takes full consideration by incorporating Asian flavours into his menu. If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll enjoy the Griddled Tiger Prawns served with parsley, garlic and squid ink aioli, and Salmon Wellington served with lobster and scallop mousse. Other dishes to indulge include Fougasse and Lavosh, Foie Gras Doughnut, Aged Comté, and Avocado Toast, to name a few.
How has the pandemic changed the dining experience indelibly forever?
Yes, it has changed the dining experience forever in a couple of ways. I think people are now more open to eating at home for a start, whether it’s cooking for your family or actually ordering takeaways. It has brought family together.
Other than that, hygiene is a big factor and people will only book the restaurants now if they know about the staff who have been fully vaccinated, the sanitisation process, the appropriate distance between tables and more.
Also, I don’t think takeaway is disappearing for high-end restaurants and hotels.
Any valuable lessons you’ve learned during this pandemic?
It has made me change how I look at food in a completely different manner. From that perspective, for personal gain, it has been great!
We were so focused on putting a perfect meal on a plate, getting it out of the kitchen and serving it at the right time with the right temperature, but now it’s a whole different process of trying to get food to people. We want to make something suitable for being transported and still give people the wow factor. Having to work with the current team, and try to come up with easy instructions and videos for the end user’s benefit.
Therefore, we would come up with a dish, and mimic the whole takeaway process. We would pack it and leave it outside for a few hours at a normal temperature and then put it back in the fridge, to see the end result. Once everything has been completed, we would come up with an easy instruction and give it to a non-chef to follow accordingly. Finally, we would consider all the details before making the dish as part of the menu. It’s been a very interesting process!
Talking about working in kitchens, from Hong Kong to Malaysia, does your kitchen follow the famous line “Chef, Yes Chef!” as to how they are portrayed on TV?
Yes, it’s all about communication. During a service, there will be a focal point, which could be me or any senior chefs. When instructions are given out about the service, you would need a “Yes, Chef!” back, to know that everyone understood about what’s going on. The system you’ve seen in the Hell’s Kitchen: Gordon Ramsay series is the same system used for all western kitchens.
Lastly, what can you tell us about your future plans for The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur?
The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur is in the process of overhauling every possible detail until the middle of 2022. The transformation plans include relaunching The Brasserie’s menu by changing it every three to four months to include a fresher and modern take; revamping The Crystal Bar with a new concept; launching breakfast at The Drawing Room; and elevating the overall dining experience to be more interactive. So, watch this space!