The Big Climb: Nicolas de Visch
What attracted you to the position of executive chef at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah?
I have a special feeling in my heart for the Middle East, particularly for the UAE. I first came to the UAE in 1999 and returned in 2005 and 2012. I spent time in Asia in between.
During my visits, I had the opportunity to see the evolution of the region. I was always pleasantly surprised. I am very happy to see the tower where I lived in 1999 still standing on Sheikh Zayed Road. At this point in my career, I have the opportunity to be a bit more “choosey” on my next destination. With regards to WA RAK, the decision was made in 10 min collectively with my family - we all wanted to come back to the UAE. Coming from a luxury hotel background, it is impossible to decline an offer from a Waldorf Astoria property. This property is amazing on multiple elements. The main one for me is the restaurant offering, that is always what I look at first in terms of my next destination. I acquired a lot of experience in my career to be able to make an impact on the restaurant we have and what we want to create as a team.
How have your past experiences lent themselves to your expertise in this role?
After 25 years of cooking and traveling experiences around the world, I had the chance to nurture my taste and my love for ingredients. I spent a lot of time with master chefs in their own domain, this gave me the expertise to understand the taste profiles of dishes and when an ingredient is missing. Everywhere I’ve worked, I have spent a lot of time with different teams and cuisines. It does not mean that because you are an executive chef that you stop learning and developing yourself. I still ask my chefs a lot of questions about their specialty dishes and the ingredients that they use. This is a great way to exchange our culinary knowledge and experiences. For the team, food is a language and a form of communication. This approach creates a strong bond between us. That is why chefs are so special.
How do you intend to make the hotel’s concepts popular as well as profitable?
I do not like the “cut cost” approach when it comes to profitability. We are a luxury brand and need to act accordingly. Our guests are well-travelled and know the taste of international food and ingredients. Cutting corners will never be an option. I prefer attracting new guests to our outlets and creating new experiences around our venues. Our concept is already extremely popular and very well received by our guests. Nevertheless, I enjoy change and dislike being static. I love to engage my team in this sense too. Never stop trying new things, this is how we are keeping the job fun and creative. It is also very important to work on our food experience for groups of people. I am planning to work very closely with our conference and events team for this.
Is there anything you and Waldorf will be doing to improve sustainability?
Being extremely aware of the ecology and the preservation of our land and oceans, I am implicated on what needs to be done. Quality equipment throughout the kitchens is very important in order to control our energy consumption and reduce the usage on fossil fuel. Having our own garden here at the hotel helps us a lot on reducing our carbon footprint. Last year for example, 450kg of tomatoes were harvested in our gardens. I am looking forward to extending that. If the local product is good, there is no need to go further to find it.