- Jean Paul Naquin
Age - 38
Resume - After his first apprenticeship, he
joined La Pyramide (3 Michelin Star) in Vienne, this
would be the first of many Michelin establishments -
Restaurant Jacqueline Fenix (1 Michelin Star), Michel
Guerard (3 Michelin Star), Hotel Le Gray DíAlbion (2
Michelin Star) in Cannes under the wings of Chef Jacques
Chibois. Then over seas beginning with a position in
St. Martin as Executive Chef at the Restaurant LíAventure
then to the Big Apple as Executive Sous Chef for the
opening of the Hotel Maximís de Paris in New York (now
the Peninsula New York). Next would be his first taste
of Asia with the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Hong Kong
then to China serving as Executive Sous Chef at the
Palace Hotel Beijing managed by the Peninsula Group.
In 1993, he took first Executive Chef position at the
Oberoi Hotel, Member of the Leading Hotels of the World,
in Bali. Later another move of country to become the
Executive Chef at the Shangri-La Hotel group's Jakarta
Property. When the big offer of Executive Chef/Director
of Culinary Operations at the Atlantis Resort, managed
by Sun International in the Bahamas came along it was
too good to resist. August 2000 saw chef Naquin return
to Asia. This time to Korea with the Ritz-Carlton, Seoul
as Executive Chef.
Why did you choose to work in Asia?
I love the culture, the Asian Hospitality and the food
I find fascinating.
you describe Korean cuisine?
It is probably the healthiest of all Asian cuisines
I have experienced over the past 12 years in Asia. Traditional
Korean home cooking incorporates a lot of vegetables
that change accordingly to the season. A lot of time
is spent preparing pastes and seasonings. The new generation
of Koreans however are purchasing those products off
the shelves of super markets, rather than making them
from scratch. When Koreans dine out, beef it is often
part of the meal as it represents value and celebration.
Main dishes are traditionally served with numerous condiments
called "namuls". These can be pretty mild to very fiery.
Meals are served on low tables while the guests are
seated on the floor.
Has it shaped or influenced your culinary style?
Every experience lived to the fullest, influences your
cooking style. For a period of time or forever. Life
is a learning process. Every culture, every cuisine
has great things to offer. Would I cook dog meat back
home, probably not but I have tried it.
How many outlets do you oversee, how large is your
banquet operation and how many covers do you produce
for over the year?
There are nine food outlets in the operation all are
attached to their own kitchens. There are also four
centralized kitchens that support the production for
the hotel. The banquet operation comprises of 8 function
rooms and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 600
people (seated). We serve 842,000 covers annually that
represents a daily average of 2300 guests.
How large is your brigade, how many sous chefs do you
have and are they all "expats"?
The team comprises 150 staff. It includes 33 management
employees. Mr. Park, my direct Assistant is Korean.
David Mollicone supervises all Western outlets and Thomas
Ruiz leads the pastry and baking team.
Communication - what is the language of your kitchen?
Efficient communication is critical to the success of
any organization. Ritz-Carlton has an excellent approach
in communicating with their staff. Within the property
the language barrier is some what of a challenge. A
new training center equipped with computers and English
programs are now available to all employees. English
classes are provided by the Human Resources Department
on a regular basis. The culinary line up (morning meeting)
that is conducted daily, is translated into Korean.
We recently focused on ways to reduce the time in these
meetings by more efficient communication as managers
were removed from the actual operation for too much
What is your budgeted food cost, do you use local
produce or do you import your ingredients?
The budgeted food cost is of 31.5% overall for the year.
The importation of specific products is subject to long
delays and import regulations. These force the team
to be more creative with the local products. Local seasonal
produce - seafood, shellfish, vegetables ...are very
acceptable. Korean beef is of excellent quality, tastier
than the US beef but less consistent in quality. Most
of the fruit and meat products are imported. All processed
meats, chocolates, ice creams, pastry and bakery items
are produced in-house.
Can you tell us about your life style both in work
(hours and amount of days you work, cultural challenges
and the structure of your working day) and out of work(social
life, where you live, the commute to work and how you
spend your days off)?
If I tell you that I work long hours, it will not be
of any surprise to any executive chef. I start my work
at 7.30am and work six days a week. It took me quite
some time to install proper follow up habits and processes
for the local staff. I love all kinds of art and do
collect antiques. I visit local markets on my day off
to find interesting items for my art collection. This
hobby forces me to learn about the history of the country
I work in. This helps me better understand some of the
unusual local customs and teaches me to respect the
culture of the people I work with. I exercise three
times a week and do not deviate from that. On the other
hand my day off I spend on spontaneously chosen topics.
How does working in Korea differ from working in
China or Bali?
The decision process is often slow due to the complicated
hierarchy in Korean society. The working environment
is very comparable to China.
Could you suggest a good recruitment company a fellow
chef could contact if they wish to work in Asia?
Recruiting agencies have varied opportunities in their
portfolio. It all depends very much on the relationship
and trust you develop with them over the years. Numerous
websites are now specializing in the recruiting process
but professional contacts are very helpful as they are
often the first ones who get to know the vacancies.
What questions should a chef ask during the interview
process and what should they make sure is included in
The position, duration of contract and annual income
are basic for any contract. Now there are numerous issues
that should be discussed such as relocation expenses,
housing, insurance, in-house benefits, financial incentives,
opportunities of growth within the company, areas of
responsibility... It is important that the candidate
possesses a fair knowledge of the cost of living in
the area that he is applying for prior to starting the
negotiation. Knowing how many applicants are being interviewed
for the position also helps. A visit of the property
and an interview with the key players of the organization
is also critical. The candidate has to know why and
what he is pursuing by knowing all the facts, and most
importantly to be comfortable with the final contents
of the contract.
A piece of advice to a chef wishing to work in Korea
or any other Asian country.......
2 words: Integration and adaptation. Those are the words
for success in Korea but I guess everywhere. The employees
are generally hard working and easy to manage. A top
down approach works well, but involving them in decisions
that affect them shows greater results.
Is there anything you would like to add ?
Keep learning, share your passion and enjoy life.