Stefan Vasic – Junior Sous Chef at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai
Stefan Vasic is the Junior Sous Chef at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Read here what he can tell us about the Emirates and the local cuisine. An exciting report.
After experiences in Belgrade and Ajman, today you work as Junior Sous Chef at the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Tell us the story of your career start as a chef. Why did you decide on cooking professionally?
My first job was in a small restaurant in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I had my first contact with the professional kitchen. My job there was to wash dishes, peel potatoes and to make some simple dishes. At the beginning, I was satisfied with that, but than I thought that I can do much more in the kitchen. One day, when I was in Belgrade, Serbia, I was walking next to the Hyatt Regency hotel, I told my friend, ”Can you imagine what kind of food they cook there and what would it be like to work for them?”. Shortly after that, I saw an advertisement that Hyatt is looking for commis. I applied immediately. A little bit of luck, my knife skills at the time and my wish to learn and grow, got me a job there.
At the beginning it was very difficult. I came from a small restaurant, there were some product and foods that I saw for the first time in the Hyatt but I had a good team, and a good Chef Milan, who taught me a lot. My first position as commis was in the banquet kitchen. During more than one year of my work in Hyatt Regency, I worked in different kitchens, from banqueting to the a la carte kitchen. There, I met Michael Kreiling, who was the executive chef. We had a good relationship and I learned a lot from him.
At the end of his contract with Hyatt, Michael went to work in Middle East for a big company, Kempinski. A few months later, I received an unexpected invitation to join his team in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, as Demi Chef de Partie. That was a big surprise for me and an opportunity of a lifetime. I had my skype interview with the people from the hotel, and one month later, I was on a plane to the UAE.
After 2 years in Ajman I got the opportunity to work in the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai with one of the best executive chefs in the Middle East, Sudqi Nadaf.
I accepted the invitation as Chef de Partie and an amazing adventure began for me one more time.
After one year of my joining the Kempinski Mall of the Emirates I was promoted to Junior Sous chef and I am now in charge of the European restaurant Aspen by Kempinski.
Which cooking school did you attend?
While I was still working in Ajman, Executive Chef Michael called me into the office and showed me that the government of the UAE announcement for a competition for a scholarship for one of the best colleges in Middle East, International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) in Dubai.
I applied, and after the interview I got the scholarship. It was difficult, the competition was enormous, but I did it.
The year that I spent in ICCA helped me improve a lot my skills as a chef and implement the knowledge I gained in my kitchen.
What surprised you most once you became a chef?
When I became a chef, what surprised me the most was how you can work with food with so many details. Food can become pure art in terms of taste and also as presentation.
What is the best part of being a chef?
The best part is that you will never get to know everything and no matter how much experience I get I will always be amazed of new recipes. Also You can travel the world, meet new cultures, new people…
What is the hardest part of the chef job?
Hardest part is that you spend a lot of time at work. Even when you are not in the kitchen you have to search for inspiration for new dishes.
How would you describe the work as a chef in Dubai in an international team?
Dubai is one multicultural environment with a lot of different nationalities, cultures and cuisines. Working in such an international environment is an amazing life experience. You can learn a lot from others and how they cook in their home countries, which spices they use, the way they are thinking, you get to meet some new friends.
Can you share your signature dish with us?
Since I am in charge of the European international restaurant, one dish with my signature is on the menu. It is salmon gravlax. For me, who comes from small place, it is really a privilege to have my own signature dish on the menu. It is made of 3 different ways of preparing gravlax. Parsley and mint, lime and lemon and strawberries and cranberries with a pumpkin sauce.
I made the dish for one of the competitions in the hotel, chef Sudqi liked it so he add it to the menu.
Can you share your very last creation with us?
One of my last creations was toacher cod with roasted baby carrots and fennel puree.
Which unique cooking technique have you mastered?
I am good with molecular cuisine and sauces.
What do you do if you want to treat yourself to something special?
On my day off I usually go to different restaurants with my wife. We always tend to go to different places in order to try as many different cuisines as possible.
Any place in the world you would like to work as chef one day?
I would love to work in Asia. I am very attracted to China and Japan, their way of preparing food, groceries they use and I am a big fan of Asian cuisine.
What does work mean for you?
For me it is a mixture of hard work and incredible pleasure where you put all your energy and creativity towards the food and satisfaction of the guest.
Thank you, Stefan! And all the best from our team at Cook Concern for a fantastic 2019!
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