Head Chef Stefan Goehcke – Chefing around the globe
Stefan Goehcke takes us with him on a culinary adventure around the world! From Germany to London, a cruiseship, Jordan, Vietnam and the caribbean. At present, he has returned to the Maldives as the Head Chef at Hotel Resort Six Senses Laamu.
When did your inner voice tell you to start cooking?
An inner voice? I wouldn’t put it exactly like that. However, as a child I traveled a lot with my parents and the atmosphere of hotels and everything that goes with it fascinated me from very early on, such as very luxurious hotels with tons of demanding guests from all over the world.
On top of that, we always cooked a lot at home, especially my grandmother and my father. The time and love they put into the food and the process left a huge impression on me. That early fascination, I believe, is what really was the driving force to start cooking.
On the topic of your education in Germany: At which schools did you study and in which companies did you train?
I apprenticed for three years at the Kempinski Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg and naturally they also sent me to vocational school. A fantastic hotel but the school was not exactly my thing. I wanted to cook and really get into the guest service. The things that someone learns in school, they can pick up on the job much better especially as in a First rate Hotel like the Atlantic. The apprenticeship in the “Weißen Schloss an der Alster” was very good and had literally opened the door to the world for me.
Personally and Technically: What were your most important lessons learned from those times that are still useful today?
Working with a purpose, and hard work really pay off in the end and take you places. In the Atlantic I learned just how complex a hotel can be and sometimes also how difficult. If someone can master that successfully, you can do anything.
Additionally, the 3-year training program was very diverse and you really master the basics as you go through it.
“Of course, it was an extrememly hard school, but I would not miss a single minute.” – Stefan Goehcke
After your apprenticeship in Hamburg came the Restaurant Margaux in Berlin, a gourmet restaurant from Michael Hoffmann (Star Chef, Head Chef, Corporate Executive Chef). Hand on your heart, as a young chef did you have a fear you wouldn’t meet the requirements and expectations?
Well… Herr Hoffmann was a pretty hardcore Chef, but I knew that going in. It’s precisely because of that, I had decided to take a job with him. Naturally there were scares, when someone burned something they would get a lot of flack but it was then forgotten. Herr Hoffmann is a big role model to me, his understanding of the basics, love and respect for the products is really unique. As a result, I still use a lot of basic elements and techniques from his kitchen today.
In 2005 you worked as Demi Chef de Partie in the Star restaurant VICTORIAN in Düsseldorf which has unfortunately closed down. What was your biggest culinary experience from that time that still benefits you to this day?
In those days the Victorian was always super busy. I worked between the Bistro and the Restaurant. What did I get from that? I learned to be flexible and above all the craftsmanship of Gardemanger in a classic kitchen.
2006 took you to London in The Capital Hotel as Chef de Partie. What were the big differences for you to work as a Chef in London?
London was an amazing year and a real experience. Eric Chavot in The Capital was probably the most influential Chef for me- always 110% and full of passion. He was always really spontaneous, emotional and it always revolved around getting the perfect taste. He was always hands-on and nothing that wasn’t perfect got past him. With Eric that was the way things were.
MS Europa and Seabourn – Your time as a Chef on a cruiseship: How did you end up there? The adventure, change of scenery, the money…?
Naturally, I wanted to see as much of the world as possible. The busy operations, logistics and the high hygienic standards interested me. It’s never about money for me; only the experience.
An experience, that someone should have as a chef?
There are so many, but perhaps I would recommend to all cooks if they haven’t yet, a trip to Japan. Go to the markets, sleep in a Ryokan, try everything possible in the different restaurants and watch how hard and with how much honor and care the people work with seasonal products.
In 2011 you worked for over a year in the Kempinski in Jordan. Which local specialties were new for you that are still a part of your style today?
Oh, that’s pretty clear, the many forms of the Arabian Mezze. That is still one of my favorite dishes. If you can do it right, frightfully tasty and has amazing culinary value. That’s really the thing, being able to incorporate great dishes when working internationally and for clients from around the world.
Now a question about your time as Executive Sous Chef/ Head Chef in The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam. Vietnamese cuisine is extremely trendy at the moment. Which local recipes/specialties are your favorites?
It’s true it’s trendy but in Magazines, recipes and T.V. it’s always about the same dishes the everyone already knows. When I hear over and over abput a new “trendy Vietnamese” restaurant opening in New York or Las Vegas I can only laugh. You won’t find really authentic Vietnamese cuisine outside the country and people wouldn’t really order traditional dishes.
My tips and favorite dishes: Cao Lao, Wok seared eel, Quang noodles and Tonkin & Jasmin blossoms.
Stefan Goehcke in the Caribbean
2016, Head Chef at Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain Resort on St. Lucia in the Caribbean, with its breathtaking scenic beauty. Does this dreamlike environment influence the work of a chef? Did it influence you?
Of course St. Lucia is a dream, but at the time I had a team of around 100 people between the two resorts and on top of all that is related to the service we didn’t have an F&B manager forma very long time. So there wasn’t much time available for the beautiful things.
What was more inspirational was the farm “Emerald Estate” on the other side of Soufriere, with everything you can imagine. That was a real inspiration and we changed the menu in every restaurant daily. There we had a REAL “Farm To Table” concept and we really cooked according to season and directly with the resorts own organic products. Including more than 2000 cacao trees that we made our own chocolate from.
After over 2 years as Executive Sous Chef at Gili Lankanfushi and another year as Head Chef in BAROS on the Maldives, you have returned to the Maldives as Head Chef of the Six Sense Hotel Resort. The guests on the Maldives come from all over the world, spend a lot of money and have high international culinary expectations. Not exactly an easy time of it for a Chef: What are you offering? International cuisine, based on your past experience?
What you say is exactly true. The typical guest on the Maldives has traveled a lot and is extremely demanding. Additionally the prices here are very high and there is a lot of competition between the resorts. The question isn’t easy to answer. On one hand you need to be able to do everything and have everything on offer, on the other hand you want a kitchen with a clear direction and its own accent. A while ago Six Senses sent out a clear signal. We call it “Eat with Six Senses”, which is part of our “Integrated Wellness Program”. Here we have a seamless connection between Spa, personal butlers and culinary.
It’s all about healthy food but without losing sight of creativity and flavor.
Our 3 pillars for this philosophy are “Natural ingredients”, “Local and sustainable” and “Less is more”.
How would you describe your culinary direction/ specialization today?
I’m totally realistic. Pretty much everything is available today.
More and more restaurants, and above all the First Class hotel groups, call this “intelligent luxury” or “emotional hospitality”, and that is exactly the point. It just has to always taste really good, be healthy and make sense. The guest stands in the forefront and that is what today’s chefs must always have on mind. They have to be very flexible, and know how to empathize with the guests. The reality is we don’t cook for ourselves and we don’t cook for other chefs. It’s more about the bigger picture and the senses at a certain moment.
I like to play with flavors and my strength is probably my sense of style, and optimally coordinating flavor components.
Thank You, Stefan Goehcke! That was a wonderful and lively insight into your life and work as a Head Chef around the world.