In every situation, we believe that there are no insurmountable challenges, only opportunities for solutions.
With a remarkable 14-year tenure in the culinary world and an additional year of experience in restaurant management, Damien Le Bihan has garnered extensive expertise in the kitchen and operational aspects. Throughout his professional journey, he has embarked on various roles, honing his skills and knowledge within renowned establishments.
His culinary journey commenced with stints in several kitchens, ultimately leading him to a Parisian two-Michelin-star restaurant. In 2002, he joined the esteemed team at Guy Savoy, marking a pivotal moment in his career. Progressing through the ranks, he embraced the traditional trajectory, transitioning from a "hot starter preparer" to positions such as "pantry supervisor," "fish chef," and "meat chef."
As his journey unfolded, his role as an "expeditor" presented an invaluable opportunity to comprehend and master the intricate interplay between the kitchen and the dining room. Excelling in ensuring seamless service, his exceptional performance paved the way to assume the prestigious responsibility of managing the esteemed Guy Savoy restaurant in Singapore.
Now, Damien Le Bihan is located in a beautiful island of the Maldives at Soneva.
What inspired you to become a chef, and what led you to work in luxury resort kitchens?
When I was young, there were occasions when my sister and I had dinner together without our parents as they went out with their friends. Instead of settling for pre-packaged meals, we took it upon ourselves to cook our own food. We opted for simple yet delicious dishes like Croque Monsieur, Crepes, and baked fish. Meanwhile, I developed a deep affection for our family's garden, where I found joy in cultivating vegetables and fruits.
As time went on, my enthusiasm for school waned, leading my parents to consider alternative educational paths that would combine learning with practical skills. Intrigued by the idea, I decided to take entrance exams for cooking and gardening schools. Although I was accepted into both, the cooking school responded first, prompting me to choose the culinary path.
Throughout my career, I have always been surrounded by luxury. However, my definition of luxury does not revolve around material possessions like silver or gold. Instead, it centers on individuals who possess a genuine passion for their craft. It could be a dedicated farmer who diligently grows the exquisite vegetables we use in our daily cooking or the talented chefs who transform those ingredients into delectable dishes. Thirteen years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Chef Julien Royer, who, in my opinion, is one of the world's finest chefs. What sets him apart, though, is his humility, which I consider the epitome of luxury.
Thanks to Chef Julien, I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet Sonu and Eva, the visionary minds behind Soneva. Their incredible approach to food and beverage at Soneva, which began 27 years ago, left me utterly amazed. They have seamlessly integrated the connection between the soil and the plates by growing our own vegetables. As a chef, experiencing such a harmonious relationship between nature and cuisine is the epitome of luxury to me.
How do you approach menu planning and recipe development for the resort's restaurants, and what factors do you consider when designing dishes?
At Soneva, our menus are tailored to suit each unique destination. We offer a range of culinary concepts, including South Asian Kitchen, fine dining experiences, and seafood specialties. When creating these menus, our primary focus is to understand the preferences and desires of our guests, as well as considering the origins of our ingredients.
We prioritize sourcing local ingredients whenever possible, as we strive to minimize our carbon footprint. By supporting local suppliers and farmers, we not only contribute to the sustainability of the region but also ensure the freshness and quality of the produce we use. This commitment to local sourcing aligns with our goal of providing environmentally conscious dining experiences.
Furthermore, we are fortunate to collaborate with numerous guest chefs from around the world. Their culinary expertise and the dishes they serve to our guests serve as a constant inspiration for our own menu development. By embracing their diverse perspectives and innovative approaches to cooking, we continue to elevate the dining experiences we offer at Soneva.
What challenges do you face in your role, and how do you overcome them?
In every situation, we believe that there are no insurmountable challenges, only opportunities for solutions. Rather than being discouraged by difficulties, we view them as invitations to apply ourselves even more diligently in search of resolutions.
How do you ensure that your menu offerings are inclusive of dietary restrictions and preferences?
Prior to our guests' arrival at the resort, we take great care to familiarize ourselves with their preferences and any specific dietary restrictions they may have. Upon their arrival, our Executive Chef personally meets with each guest to thoroughly discuss their culinary requirements. Together with our dedicated team, the Executive Chef curates a completely personalized dining experience, customizing every dish throughout their entire stay to ensure the utmost satisfaction and enjoyment for our guests.
How do you manage and train your kitchen staff to deliver excellent dishes and provide a memorable dining experience for guests?'
Undoubtedly, training plays a significant role in culinary excellence. However, it is not the sole determining factor. What truly sets exceptional chefs apart is their unwavering passion and genuine love for the craft. When chefs approach cooking with ardor, they are driven by the desire to bring joy and satisfaction to their guests. This profound dedication, exemplified here at Soneva, transcends boundaries and makes anything possible in the realm of culinary excellence.