Daniel Evangelista is an executive chef of the 5 star Hotel Palm Camayenne at Conakry. He told us everything about fine dining. Read here.

 

You currently work as Executive Chef of the 5 star Hotel Palm Camayenne at Conakry, Guine. Tell us about how you got started as a chef. Why did you decide on cooking professionally?

It wasn’t exactly my decision, but the result of a dispute with my mother when I was 13. She didn’t want to let me study chemistry, photography or enter in the Academy of “Belle Arti” for be a painter. During that time we were living in a very bad economy situation, so she tried to show me a smart and rewarding way towards a short period of study in a field with many job opportunities. For the first years of my working life I was pretty depressed over it, but now I can say that it was the best decision of my life, cause with this job I am also a chemist, a photographer and a painter, plus many other unbelievable things.

 

Which culinary school did you attend? 

I started with a European Community project in a 2 year program, it was difficult, studying laws of hygiene, microbiology, etc.

 

What will you never forget about your first year as a chef? 

That I could for the first time in my life, express my wishes. Turn ideas into reality.

 

Every career starts with hard moments when you think about giving up. Were there such moments in your career, and how did you overcome them? 

I never gave up, but at one time for a year I worked nights, to be able to follow a dream of being a successful rock singer, and I was succsessful with my band the “Presagio”, we also made concerts for 3000 people, a song in an album, then when time came to sign a contract with Sony Music everything was destroyed by internal egos.

 

What is the best part of being a chef? 

If you’re good, nobody tells you what to do. If you are good, you are free to think and express yourself. If you’re good, you’re one who always studies without ever stopping. With each new answer you find yourself having many other questions. The best thing about being a Chef is that if you’re good, you almost feel like a God. People eat and get excited eating all your materialized thoughts from your hands.

 

What is the most difficult aspect to be a professional chef? 

Concentration, memory, discipline and knowledge. Mastering these qualities takes time and effort, but if you like it, it will be a walk.

 

For several years you have been the owner and Executive Chef, of the well-known, first fine-dining restaurant “Peperoncino” in Ankara, Turkey. Why did you stop operating this restaurant? 

It was due to the war in Syria, the bombs set off by the government itself or by the PKK terrorists, the Russian ambassador shot dead in the face during a visit to an exhibition, the Russian plane shot down by the Turks in Syria, the serious economic crisis, the true or fake attempted coup; these are just some of the difficulties that have pushed me to sell two companies and go back to traveling: I had 3 restaurants, a catering company that worked with military barracks, a factory of fresh / dried pasta and smoked products, one of my programs on television in the state network but also the fact that at that time I decided to separate from my wife lead to the sale.

 

You gained as well several chef TV experiences such as on the national channel and YouTube. What did you learn out of this TV experience? 

I have always had direct contact with customers and some TV and journalists were interested in me from the point of view of my career. The second season of my television program was canceled for political reasons but the first series is still on air. My daughters sometimes call me to tell me I’m on television. YouTube, on the other hand, is the first successful experiment in Ankara, when no one knew how to do it.

You gained as well experience as chef for the Royal family of the United Arab Emirates. Without telling any secrets; how was this time?

The thing that excites me the most was that for reasons of national security you never knew before 2 hours, when and how many would have come aboard the yacht. So it was a continuous preparation and keeping in line a series of exceptional dishes in terms of cost and quality.

 

In 2015, you did win the “World Pasta Champion”. What was your winning creation? 

I cooked a dry pasta directly in its sauce, as if I made a risotto, bathing it with a herbal tea and fresh herbs. The dish was completed with ricotta cheese made at the moment in front of everyone.

 

Today you work as Executive Chef of the 5 star Hotel Palm Camayenne at Conakry, Guinea.  “Where is Conakry, Guinea.”?

Yes, correct. Here we have two main working mother lines which are the classic French and the African one. I have a project about African cuisine which is still in an embryonic state compared to the world market but which has some interesting potential, especially at an industrial level.

 

What is your culinary impression of Guinea/ what are the local specialities?  

This is a very difficult country to work in, the local workforce is not used to our standards of concentration and learning but they are a very happy people and teaching them new work patterns and learning techniques stimulates me. The hygienic situation in this country requires an unparalleled level of control and attention in comparison to my previous work experiences, but I carry it out successfully and the work done in this first month has already given excellent results, so much that the Hotel management decided to increase the budget regarding this for us.

 

How would you describe your own culinary style today? 

Amazing with simplicity, effective and flavorful.

 

What are some of the lesser known spices and vegetables you use? 

The Baobab powder and the banane plantain.

 

Which unique cooking technique have you mastered? 

The cooking in “Delta T” is certainly the technique that I learned best and that gives me exceptional results with meat but also fish.

 

What are the current trends / developments you see in the international 5 star hotel culinary?

Efficiency and standardization of basic work. The increasing use of intelligent ovens that save labor and headaches to the Chefs, because the programs are taught to the machine and the cook becomes more and more a skilled worker in preparing food on trays and pressing a button. But the difference between standards and quality will always be determined by the Chef. I ask myself only one question, if the machine cancels out the cook, how will the Chefs of the future be formed?

 

 

What does work mean for you? 

Learning. Because knowledge is the only thing that makes you free.

 

As a chef, you never stop learning: Curse or blessing? 

Blessing.

 

The Slow Food Movement is a very good idea, but it can often not be implemented in larger restaurants/hotels, because time is always pressing for the guests, or there are simply too many guests. Do you see a “solution” in the middle? 

No, because one is the antithesis of the other. That is, if the hotel is built to earn money, selling a mountain of food is its goal; if instead of giving food is the end, with an approach that is not tied to the mere gain, then you can do very well already now, because we eat too much, we should make 1 or at most 2 small meals but rich in ingredients for be able to stay healthy. These things have been widely tried but as long as we live in a system dominated by money, this information will never be conveyed. This is why I say that knowledge makes you free.

 

The profession as a cook today offers more opportunities than ever before. But unfortunately fewer young people want to become chefs. What can you do to make this great profession even more interesting? 

Delete the titles. If you do not have titles, you do not have the excitement of being titled Chef by your ego but you can use the ego’s enthusiasm to be better than others and that’s it. I have always seen people who stick to their “status quo” of Chef because they do not feel safe, they would never risk to get involved and lose their luster, this means that they tend to crush the motivations of the chefs who are under , sometimes ruining their career.

 

The kitchen has become so international and is always bringing new trends, themes… to the fore. Hand on heart; how do you always get along as a chef with this? 

AHAHAHAH I sometimes feel like a chicken running around headless. You can not learn everything that exists on food, 5 lives are not enough to learn, but it’s nice to choose what we like best, differences create wealth.

 

What motto do you have for your work as a chef? 

When better is possible, good it’s not enough.

 

What situations have helped you the most in your development as a chef? 

Live only around the world. It helped me to focus only on the work that allowed me to survive.

 

There are lots of trends in the international culinary world. What are the real important developments you see and would like to become more important? 

The Vegan world without a doubt.

 

As an innovative chef you need honest and hard feedback. Where do you get it from?  

From everything that surrounds me, I am like a sponge impregnated with energy.

 

 

Looking back at your career as a chef so far, do you see any regrets, and would you do anything different? 

Certainly not. I am the sum of all I have done good and bad. If I changed something of the past I would be different from now and I would not want to be.

 

What makes you happy? 

The sincere appreciation of the work I do from the people around me and from clients, but especially when I learn something new or when I discover something new.

 

Did your career as a chef change you as a person and if so, how? 

Yes, this career forms you in character, in the body and in the spirit.

 

What do people often misunderstand about the job of a chef? 

They think we live like a “Master Chefs” style television program.

 

Any place in the world you would like to work as chef one day? 

Siberia, Antarctica, India, Brazil, the Caribbean and Iceland.

 

If you would have the time to write a cookbook, what would it be about? 

Recipes written as a poem. I wrote some recipe songs with the guitar and they are really cute.

 

Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to mention? 

Yes, to do one thing well, one must love it.

 

Thanks Daniel!

 

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