Cesare Romani – Culinary Director at The Langham, Hong Kong
Cesare Romani is Culinary Director at the luxury hotel, The Langham, Hong Kong. He has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, working in hotels and resorts spanning Asia, the Middle East, Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Europe.
Chef Cesare specialises in Italian food, but at The Langham he oversees all Western restaurants, including Bostonian Seafood & Grill, The Food Gallery, Main St. Deli, Palm Court and Artesian bar.
We chat to Chef Cesare about cultural differences in the kitchen, using his time wisely, and the biggest culinary trends of 2019.
You’ve worked all over the world – what are the top 2 places you have worked, and why?
It’s my third time working in Hong Kong. The city has been a great place for me and my family. We felt at home since we first arrived in 2006 and loved the fact that in such a modern city, ancient Asian culture and tradition cross their paths along with advanced technologies. It is a cultural meeting point between Asia and the West, and a great place for food lovers and professionals.
The other city would be Abu Dhabi where I was in charge of the culinary department of Viceroy Hotel Abu Dhabi. It is a hotel that provided incredible professional satisfaction to me and my team, and I was very lucky to contribute to the planning and execution of Formula One World Championship final races event for four times. The city has brought me a lot of great memories.
Do you find that there are big cultural and culinary differences between the places you have worked?
Yes, food is always intrinsically related to a society’s cultures, histories and traditions. However I noticed an increasing globalisation of food trends, flavours and influences. There is also a re-discovery of ethnic cuisine, changing from the typical ingredients and traditions to a more micro-economy of food, due to the increasing awareness of carbon footprints and the hidden cost in the food chain. So I would say the differences between different culture and culinary are diminishing from a macro perspective.
What do you see as the big culinary trends of 2019?
Farm-to-table is a major factor affecting the culinary trend in 2019 and in the coming years, while ethnic cuisines such as Philippines, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Korean will continue to grow and remain a big trend in the close future.
Fine dining will be part of an ongoing transformative journey that redefines conventional understanding and perception of luxury. Less elitist, and more centered on emotional and sensorial connection, in this sense we may see more multisensory dining experiences, where technologies development influences the restaurant ambiance and atmosphere.
I expect a greater change to happen on hotel or restaurant level, which has been slow in respond to trends and always quite conservative.
Artisanal coffee culture and mixologist offers would continue to grow strong in Asia and the US.
You have just started at the Langham – what is your vision for the F&B at the hotel?
There is no difference between my vision at The Langham, Hong Kong kitchens and our company vision. We want to be “A global hospitality group that pursue excellence”.
I am deeply inspired by The Langham’s company culture, history and the strong traditions of a truly luxury hotel brand. But I also look to the future with an open mind and a desire to innovate.
The Langham represents a classic European tradition in luxury service, and my mission is to reinforce this with an accent on quality and the varieties of our offers. I always believe that quality development is a result of a great synergy between F&B service and Culinary Team pursuing an ongoing improvement. In joining The Langham I found a team of professionals who welcome me and provide me the trust and space to try and test ideas, methods and philosophy; first of all Mr Sumanth Das, our Director of Food and Beverage, whom I work side by side in a daily dialogue.
We want to offer a food experience that bring a level of engagement to the customers, in the way a menu or a dish are conceptualised and executed; and we want the quality of our ingredients and products to be the best that we can source.
The hotel has some big names in food and drink, particularly T’ang Court and Artesian Bar – how do you ensure a high standard is maintained at all times?
My responsibilities are confined to the Western kitchens in the hotel including Artesian, which is a large scope to uplift the F&B offers. I am very proud to work in an establishment with the three Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant T’ang Court, with an incredible team of professionals guided by Chinese Master Chef Kwong Wai Keung and Executive Chef Wong Chi Fai, who are in charge of our Chinese kitchen operations.
Do you get to spend any time in the kitchen these days? Do you miss it?
Yes I do, it will be unrealistic not to do so. My present position is a leading role of providing the right strategic thinking and helping the department to achieve its goals, as well as nurturing the team members to reach their career aspirations and life accomplishment. It won’t be successful if I do not have a clear sense of what is happening around me and on the floor, in the kitchens and at the pass where food is prepared and served. I need to know that processes are working, while the team is engaged and able to perform day in and day out. The team also needs to have the confidence that I am there for and with them in the journey.
However time is the more precious resource for any leader and is finite, thus it is necessary for me to prioritise and assign time to tasks where I can bring the most contribution and impact to the department and the company.
Thank you, Chef Cesare, for sharing your time with us here, and all the best for you for your third stay in Hong Kong. You want to see more from him? See his new recipe here.