Most executive chefs wish they could cook all day. ‘Routine chaos’ – is a term that perhaps most accurately describes the daily life of a chef.
An executive chef doesn’t just cook, but organises, orders, oversees, communicates and more. The actual cooking is the least of his problems.
We spent a day with the new Ole Sereni Executive Chef Torsten Schubert as he prepared a new dish that will soon be on the menu.
He describes himself as energetic and a seasoned executive chef with a strong combination of culinary experience, a passion for food, wine, and spirits and providing first-class service, and committed to creating memorable dining experiences for all guests.
But Schubert is far from that. He allowed us in one of the hotel's kitchens to taste and see what he does.
He starts by saying that his work is routine, as in doing prep, doing orders and cooking meals.
“But no day is like another. Unexpected things are happening every day, ranging from late deliveries and staff issues to special orders and late food. What happens if the sauce is running low just before dinnertime? The chef will have to deal with it – executive chefs are essentially firefighters,” he says.
Chef Schubert has over two decades of experience and will be leading Ole Sereni hotel's on-property restaurant and lounge. As the new executive chef, he says he will bring his vast knowledge of the industry and experience of international cuisine for a creative spin on this modern Kenyan restaurant.
For Schubert, cooking is a combination of three things—technology, ingredients, and expertise.
“Sometimes, people forget how important technology is in cooking. It not only helps make cooking more efficient but also allows us to create dishes that may not have been possible before.”
Ingredients are another important aspect of cooking—where you get your ingredients from and how you store them are crucial.
Schubert shows an example of the type of the new Red Snapper Fillet that he intends to introduce at the hotel’s restaurants. The fillet comes packaged in its bag with all the details of when it was processed, where, and when is it safe to consume.
“Almost all of the ingredients we procure are from high-quality brands. This is to ensure consistency when it comes to quality,” says Schubert.
Being a chef, and an executive chef at that is a multifaceted profession. The food not only has to taste good but it also has to look aesthetically pleasing and be healthy and nutritious.
“In many events, guests want to express their gratitude to the chef in person so I need to converse with them,” he says. “Conversing with the guests also allows me to get personal and sincere feedback about the quality of the food.”
Between the ceaseless meetings and discussions, Schubert seldom gets the chance to do what he loves most—cooking. “Passion over everything else,” he reflects upon his culinary journey.
“I have sacrificed many aspects of my life for my passion for cooking, and I have reached where I am today due to relentless struggle.”
His journey has now led him a bit farther away from the flames of the kitchen, but he is still deeply engrossed in the culinary world—the joy of watching customers relishing their meals still fuels his passion.
Born and raised in Germany, Schubert left his hometown when he was 19 and has never looked back. He only goes back for holidays. After he graduated from high school he studied business administration at Friedrich Schiller University. Before joining Ole Sereni, he was the Executive Chef at Pearl-Continental Hotel, Pakistan, before that he worked as the Regional Executive Chef at Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas in Mozambique and has also worked at Avani Hotels and Resorts in Sepang, Malaysia among others.
He says that the work of an executive chef is often compared to the tasks of an orchestra conductor, but simply more chaotic. The life of an executive chef is a fine balance between controlled precision work and the hectic juggling of fire.
“There is always one thing or the other to do—ingredient orders to be approved, menus to be designed, preparations to be managed and organised. Most of the time, my work ends at 9 pm, but it’s not unusual to return home at 12 pm or 1 am when there are special events,” he adds.
The erratic and long working hours are typical for a profession in the hospitality sector such as that of a chef. While diners and customers enjoy their meals, the chefs miss out on their family dinners.