Hyatt is known for their food & beverage philosophy: Food, thoughtfully sourced, carefully served that pays great respect to people, planet, and communities. To continue this philosophy, Grand Hyatt Jakarta appointed a new Executive Chef from Poland, Adam Tomasz Szczechura (we know, it’s difficult to pronounce his last name, we gave up after a few attempts). Chef Adam grew up in Warsaw, Poland, where his parents owned a free-standing restaurant called Staropolska, meaning “Old Poland”. The idea is to bring back the old and authentic taste of Polish cuisine.
“I never thought of working in another industry because I always knew that I will be a Chef,” said Adam. With over 25 years of cooking experience Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, he had joined various Hyatt properties such as Hyatt Regency Warsaw, Hyatt Regency Kiev, Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi, Park Hyatt Maldives, Hyatt Regency Gurgaon and Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi. Exclusively to Passion Media, the Chef share his knowledge of Polish food, seafood, and his cooking philosophy.
So, Indonesia is your first Asian country to work?
Apart from India, I would say yes, but India is a little bit different. So, yes, definitely it’s my first time to visit and work in Indonesia.
What makes you interested to work here?
I’ve been here for only 3 months, so it’s a very difficult question. But I’m sure the culinary scene, and the passion for food in Indonesia is very regional as well, you can find lots of diversity.
Have you been travelling around the country?
I’ve been only to Bali, but for a very short visit, and that was a mistake, because there’s a lot to see, it’s a huge country after all, with lot of diversity. Today, it’s very difficult to manage my trip because of the distances and so on.
Do you consider yourself as generalist or specialist?
Generalist. I think it’s the job requirement. I think the entire world is changing every day, so you can’t be stubborn; you have to be more open minded. Culinary is very creative, it changes constantly so you have to be very flexible and use lot of different techniques.
Do you have any special interest on certain cuisine?
Not anymore? Please elaborate!
We shouldn’t be considered as specialist in particular cuisine because everyone’s taking bits and pieces from many other cuisines, different cooking techniques. Only mother food is constant, everything else is changing. So, people are adapting and it drives your guests behind you because you constantly change yourself, so that’s the thing.
Please explain a bit about the traditional food in your hometown!
It’s very different than Indonesian food, we’re a country of potato, four seasons throughout the year. It’s all about simple food, you know. Of course, it’s changing throughout the year because all millennial are coming on the stage and those simple things become more complicated on the plate, while each one of us trying to capture the basic flavors in different ways.
We have lots of simple food because Polish people, and the cuisine are very humble and simple, nothing complicated. Four seasons give you lots of fruits, vegetables, we also have mountain, sea, and forest. We need to preserve some food for winter and autumn, such as marmalade, preserved juices, and pickles. Because when it’s winter, nothing grows, except for some snowmen on the yard (laugh)!
How about the traditional seafood dishes?
We have river, lakes, and seas, so it’s pretty much elaborated as well. It’s very seasonal, sustainable and protected, we have many different preparation method to preserve. We can pickle, smoke it, sometimes we eat it fresh. We also have some fish like halibut and trout that’s totally different than what we have here. That’s why I said Polish cuisine is very regional, it’s different for each region.
Any difficulties in adapting to local supplies?
Not at all, I’ve been travelling for many years, so it shouldn’t be difficult. As a Chef, basically you know different approach based on market fish or catch of the day, which is always fresh. We all know salmon, but we have different salmon from all around the world, like from Tasmania, for example. However, the local species is the most unique ones because they’re fresh.
We source our fish locally from Lombok. We still try to promote the “Catch of the Day” as much as we can because of its freshness. Seafood is all about freshness. That’s the main point, not the complicated cooking techniques, it’s the freshness, the natural flavor of the fish. Everybody knows how good fish tastes like, how the older one tastes like. From chef perspective, yes, that’s the biggest enjoyment, we have constant access to fresh fish and seafood.
Any personal favorite seafood item to work with?
No, it depends on the mood. I tell you like this, it’s a little bit different after so many years of cooking, you enjoy many different parameters, freshness is my favorite. You learn as well how the flesh behaves, different bone structures, you have to know how to cook it. As long as its fresh I think everyone can enjoy it. I haven’t found any major issues in dealing with seafood because when you respect the product, you treat it the way you feel on daily basis. Like this dish I’m serving, it has local influence like coconut, sweet, lemoney, and light tasting.
So, tell us about the dish please!
The dish is Lobster Tail Poached in Vanilla Olive Oil. It’s basically just slow cooked lobster, infused with vanilla pod and olive oil. I apply sous vide technique with 56o C very gently for 45 minutes so the flesh doesn’t get stressed and it will be infused with the vanilla in a way that’s not too aggressive nor sweet, because the lobster is already sweet, so the vanilla will give it additional kick. We also have some coriander emulsion, coconut cream, and lemon gel to give a touch of bitterness, sourness, and combine everything altogether. I love sous vide for the respect of the cooking and the product. By cooking very slowly, the aroma and the juice stays inside.
Where does the recipe originates from?
I don’t know. You can say it’s my own creation. Because, normally chefs are not cooking things they’re not eating. I like light food. That’s why I said I’m not a specialist in any cuisines, I just collect the techniques, flavors from the past onto my own palate. That’s was kind of signature dish, I would say, that’s what it’s all about. Of course, it’s a very difficult choice as well, because by cooking for more than 20 years, it’s very difficult to choose this single one dish. That’s why I said, it’s based on the mood.
If you say you love light dish, most of Indonesian dishes is quite heavy. Did you have a hard time adapting?
Not at all, I also love spicy food, in my previous hotel we also had Indonesian restaurant. I’ve worked in India, which has very rich cuisine as well. As a chef, I think it’s the secret of pleasure of being a chef. Because you travel a lot, you tasted different food, you are exposed to many products, very unique ones that will give you opportunity to use them in the future.
Do you have any favorite dishes?
Honestly, many of them. But the biggest challenge is consistency, always. I like Sop Buntut, I like Soto Ayam, I eat them nearly everyday, the simple, homey food. Not complicated, as I have enough complication on the plate, basically, I’m a simple man. By the way, Nasi Goreng is the best dish I ever eat, until now. So yeah, Nasi Goreng, simple food, but good!
How about the food you dislike, do you have any? Durian maybe?
Actually, I like durian. Basically, people don’t like what they don’t know. As a chef, I’ve tasted durian a long, long time ago. But back then, I didn’t like oyster, or any seafood when I was 20-25, because I was never exposed to those ingredients. I didn’t even like lobster as well back then.
If there’s anything I dislike, I don’t like shortcuts. Sometimes people want to make it fast, so they do many shortcuts, and that steals the entire flavor. You know, now they have some sort of magic powder, but our mothers don’t cook like that, definitely! Now, millennials are cooking with powder, which I hate. I think, cooking is not about easy or hard, it’s about passion. That’s the difference between good food and other food. Because, after the powder everything tastes the same, I hate it.