Oscar Perez – the highly acclaimed chef who serves as director of culinary and service at both The St. Regis Resort, Bali and The Laguna Luxury Collection is busily packing his bags to move on to his next career challenge.
Before he dashed to the airport, Oscar made time for the following farewell interview with the editor of Bali Update, J.M. Daniels
The Interview: Chef Oscar Perez – Director of Culinary & Service St. Regis Bali and The Laguna Luxury Collection
Balidiscovery.com: Oscar, tell us about yourself and your life’s journey to date.
Oscar Perez: I describe myself as Danish with a Filipino accent. I’ve travelled to many places and enjoy learning about different cultures and their cuisines. Thanks must go to my parents who were very supportive in allowing me to travel on my own.
I worked as an apprentice chef under the wings of Claus Christensen in Denmark who taught me his exquisite cuisine. His philosophy: Let the fine ingredients gently simmer until they reach the right texture and only serve the best fresh ingredients – then you are half way there. The other half comes from knowledge and one’s passion to express yourself. Fail to do this and it is like stealing from your customers; better not serve anything at all. That was what I always remember from Claus.
Then I moved to work with Lars Kyllesbech who taught me how to deconstruct and refine food. He tutored me on how to look at a dish from a different angle and give it a new life. Consistency is the key: Preparing each day the dish the same way to achieve the same taste and texture.
At that period in my career, nouvelle cuisine was hot and rest was not. Lars and Restaurant Nouvelle, which was awarded a star in the Michelin,Guide, became my life. I abandoned all only to spend most of my time in the kitchen together with Lars pushing nouvelle cuisine to the edge. Fed by pure adrenalin and hungry to see the satisfaction of our customers each and every single day – that was our only reward.
Still eager to live outside my comfort zone while learning more and meeting new people, I decided to move back to Asia. An opportunity came up in Bali and I grabbed it without hesitation. I saw Bali as a place where I could further develop my cuisine while introducing my style of cooking to a place I never visited before. I joined The St Regis Bali as part of the preopening team at the first St Regis Resort in Southeast Asia.
The St. Regis was, in fact, my second ‘opening’ experience following a previous pre-opening at the W Retreat and Spa, Maldives.
Balidiscovery.com: What’s your next role? How will your many Balinese friends and fans find you in the future?
Oscar Perez: After 5 wonderful years in Bali, Singapore is the next chapter in my life. In Singapore I will be the executive assistant manager in charge of food and beverage, tasked to take The St Regis Singapore to the next level.
Balidisocvery.com: What was your most memorable Bali moment?
Oscar Perez: My most memorable time was during the preopening period of the hotel spending time with the team I was privileged to work with. The team I selected is still with The St Regis today, basking in what we have managed to achieve by working together. Back then, we were in my apartment in Nusa Dua, brain storming on how we would showcase and execute the creation of a true ‘St Regis experience’ that none had seen before. The team was truly committed and I can only thank them for their hard work.
Balidisocvery.com: You spent much of your time under the legendary Frank Beck who has now moved onto a larger role with St. Regis in Singapore. What was you most memorable Frank Beck Moment?
Oscar Perez: Frank Beck has big dreams and great visions - goals that are sometimes hard to put into words. Franks expects great things and expects them to have been done yesterday.
During my 5 years with him since opening of the St Regis Resort and later, while working with The Laguna Luxury Collection, I can only thank him for who I have become today. He taught me well and has changed my way of doing business and leading a team, particularly during difficult situations.
Balidiscovery.com: With the coming 2015 implementation of AFTA that will allow ASEAN nationals free movement in terms of employment, what will be the impact on Indonesia? Will the current quality of Indonesian chefs and culinary staff mean that the region will come to Bali and the rest of Indonesia to recruit staff?
Oscar Perez: Indonesia and Bali are still growing and lots of new establishments are opening.
What I saw of service and cuisine level when I came here and what you can see today have changed much over the years. I hope more foreign chefs will continue to "grow" the Balinese chefs towards an international level and I must say that a few Indonesian chefs are already making names for themselves. There are many good Balinese chefs out there and they need to be exposed. You have Agung Ardiawan, who is today the executive chef of The St Regis, and his executive sous chef and chef de cuisine, Agung Gede at Kayuputi Restaurant – both Balinese who are good examples of the local chefs now working to the highest international standards. I hope there’s more to come.
Balidiscovery.com: Imagine it’s Saturday night and you’ve just brought a DVD. What’s you favorite comfort food?
Oscar Perez: Balinese Sate – take my scooter to my favorite sate stall and bring some home to enjoy.
Balidiscovery.com: For a single course only, what ‘s your perfect food and wine paring?
Oscar Perez: House-smoked salmon with sauce simple and Sturia Caviar - with this dish a nice chilled Duval LeRoy Femme Champagne.
Balidiscovery.com: What your favorite Indonesian dish?
Oscar Perez: Drive to Ubud and enjoy the famous Ibu Oka's Babi Guling - roast suckling pig. It is the journey and experience that awaits in Ubud makes the journey worthwhile.
It’s also a great escape from Nusa Dua
[Send Oscar Perez an Email]
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