Today’s Chef in the Spotlight, is none other than an accomplished chef, with rugged good looks and a rather shiny C.V. to match. This is Chef Garth Welsh, The Westin Kuala Lumpur’s new Director of Kitchens. He oversees the overall kitchen operations and menu engineering of the six innovative restaurants of this swanky 5star hotel in the heart of Bukit Bintang.
Australian-born Welsh served as Executive Chef in charge of Food and Beverage at Amanpulo Resort managed by Aman Resorts Philippines – coveted the last two years running by Condé Naste Traveller as the Best for Holiday Locations and listed No 1 in the Zagat Survey’s World’s Top Hotels, Resorts and Spas. He started his career as an apprentice chef in Australia, graduating from the Hunter Institute of Technology and worked in some of the most prestigious establishments in the country, such as Hugos.
Garth’s culinary adventures have also taken him to Fiji with the Vatulele Island Resort by Six Senses, where he is especially well known as a master of developing menus that are unique in concept and creating food, which sets the trends of the day. Here is our interview with him.
1. What were your favorite foods growing up?
2. When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
Very early on, I was probably 8 or 9.
3. If you didn’t become a chef, what would you be?
A rock star.
4. What are your favorite culinary weapons in the kitchen?
A good quality sharp knife, a cryovac machine, digital scales and a combi oven.
5. What’s your favorite new ingredient?
It’s nothing new, but I love using good quality anchovies in my cooking and in salads. It’s a problem I have as no-one else seems to like them.
6. If I’m trying to watch my weight and I’m eating at your restaurant, what am I ordering to eat?
Any number of things. I like to serve food that is tasty, yet healthy. You could try our House-Cured Wild Salmon with Shaved Fennel or the Chilled Asparagus Soup with Olive Oil Ice-Cream or anything on our Superfoods menus.
7. If its my birthday and I am being super-indulgent and the sky’s the limit, what am I ordering to eat from your restaurant?
Well, you might want to start with some fresh Irish Oysters, followed by Lobster Macaroni – it’s like macaroni with cheese only the sauce is made from lobster bisque and it’s full of fresh Boston Lobster. Then you could finish with the Chocolate Tart, Chocolate Crème Brûlée, Chocolate Sorbet and Nutella Soil
8. What was the most challenging meal you had to make? Why?
It’s hard to single out one, there have been so many. Cooking professionally is nothing like Master Chef (although that does look quite stressful at times).
Recently we had a group of 16 very important guests staying at The Westin for 3 nights. We wanted to make sure that everything throughout their stay was perfect – every breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and of course dinner and even the snacks for turn down in their rooms at night and the snacks in the cars to and from the airport and the hotel.
For their last night we did a dinner for them in our Chairman’s suite on the 34th floor.
We don’t have a kitchen up there so I blocked the room next door and we removed all furniture, covered the floors and all walls and set up a temporary kitchen. We had a deep fryer in the toilet, an oven on top of the bath and we did a great 6 course dinner. It was very tough work for the chefs but it was also very rewarding as the dinner went well and we received tremendous feedback. It sounds corny, but when you have put in such hard work, it does make it worthwhile when you know that your guests have left happy.
9. What was your worst restaurant disaster?
Again, there have been many and I won’t mention some of the worst disasters – I might turn people off eating in restaurants. I do remember working in a restaurant in Sydney that had a great big open kitchen. We could have literally reached across the work bench and touched some of our guests. Opposite the kitchen was the bar, a very big, long bar. This particular night was a Saturday and we were packed. I had already been bitten that night by a live mud crab and screamed so loud that all of the guests in the restaurant had heard me.
Anyway, a little later in the evening the chef working next to me gave me a nudge and nodded towards the bar. I looked across and saw a huge rat slowly making his way along the bar top, just taking his time and sniffing things out. We watched, horrified, praying that none of the guests would notice. He had almost made it to the end of the bar and we thought we were safe, when suddenly a woman noticed the rat and let out an ear piercing squeal and then at the top of her voice screamed RAT!!!
Everybody in the restaurant stopped what they were doing and I swear, every single lady in the restaurant that night ran like Olympian sprinters out of the restaurant. Some came back in not long afterwards after being coaxed by their partners, some never returned.
10. What’s the best restaurant you ate at in 2011?
Bentley Restaurant and Bar in Sydney. I love those guys. It’s the perfect combination of a great sommelier and a great chef getting together and doing their own thing. It’s quite laid back but they have a beautiful wine list with some really interesting boutique wines and Brent Savage’s food which is creative, refined, fun and so clever. I think they’ve been open for about 7 or 8 years and they just keep getting better.
11. What are some recent dining and culinary trends you have been observing?
I think everybody is trying to source as much local produce as possible and really thinking about where their ingredients have come from. Chefs are going back to basics.
12. If you had one more day to live, what would your last meal be?
That’s a hard one, probably Chilli Crab or a great steak.
13. From whom would you most like to take a cooking class?
Another tough one. The obvious ones I think for most chefs would be Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal but I have a lot of Aussie chef heroes too that I would love to learn from such as Christine Manfield, Neil Perry, Peter Gilmore or Shannon Bennet.
14. If you lost your ability to cook, and were to be exiled to a remote island, but could bring one Chef with you, who would it be and why?
Maggie Beer because she would know what to do with all of the ingredients growing on the island and would prepare and cook them in a simple yet comforting manner.
15. Finally, what is your advice for all those new, up and coming Chefs out there?
Don’t be fooled by all of the television shows. Cooking is hard work and you need to be tough, strong willed and dedicated to survive and you have got to genuinely love food and cooking. You need to be able to stick it out at the bottom of the food chain where life is tough and the pay is poor and you must always be trying to learn more, whether it is from your head chef, the chefs around you or cookbooks. You can never think that you have made it and you know it all. There is always more that you can learn. That’s one of the things I love about my profession.
Photo credit - all photos courtesy of The Westin KLAdd: The Westin Kuala Lumpur,
199, Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur,
Phone: (60)(3) 2731 8333