From Jordan to the Maldives and around the globe, Mexico’s Chef Lamberto has brought with him cooking skills, team management, and creative ideas. Now at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok as an Executive Chef, he pays homage to his Latin American roots at Bar.Yard, where guests can explore the spices of his home cuisine. He also shines the spotlight on homegrown ingredients at Stock.Room to support the concept of #EatDrinkLocal, and reminds us that it’s the little details that make travel memorable through Ms.Jigger’s bespoke cocktail creations. Chef Lamberto is a prominent figure in the culinary world, always with delicious ideas churning in his head.
What is your unique selling point at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok?
Our restaurants have a good value for money versus quality proposition, this creates customer loyalty. IHG Clean Promise through IHG Way of clean initiative, gives our customers peace of mind while going through this situation. We deliver good service, which at the end, is an important part of the culinary marriage between quality and service delivery.
Why is your food unique?
Our chef diversity along with their incredible culinary talent is what makes for the vibrant scene at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok. The Thai chef's we have are all individuals, with their own creative spin and all with varied experiences both local and international. We speak to Middle Eastern roots, and my Latin roots, so put that in a pot and you get what we have today. I'm proud of my background and where it's taken me, leading kitchens across the Americas and the Caribbean, to the Middle East and Maldives, as well as here in Southeast Asia. Danilo adds the Italian hat, so we really have the four corners, and it spurs on my creativity.
What challenges have you faced opening these outlets here in Bangkok despite the Covid-19 situation?
This has definitely been something nobody has dealt with before, and as such we have learned to adjust daily, weekly, monthly, and now yearly. We have opened each outlet as cautiously as possible while staying abreast of ever-changing information and regulations that stipulate what we can or cannot do. Everyone is in the same boat, those who diversify their offering, they will win. Bangkok is too competitive not to be everchanging in a restaurant/hotel's culinary offering. If it didn't work in the past, we changed it, we moved on, in line with the restrictions and the regulations.
What is your favorite cuisine that you cook at home?
Italian, Mexican, Nikkei and Indonesian.
Working in a kitchen is a lot of work; how do you manage your team?
Yes, it is lots of work and as well we have a very large team. However, my style of leadership, my philosophy is to hire the best chefs, the best talent, and let them do their job. Give them the room and flexibility to optimize their talents. I have a chef leader in each kitchen, 12 chefs in total, and it’s very important not to forget that we don't have a kitchen without a without a stewarding team which essentially the engine of every kitchen. We have meetings every morning to go over the plans and agendas for the day and what is on the horizon for the weeks or months to come, we synergize and plan new menus and workshop ideas, discuss suppliers and collaborations, and then we cook!
How do you work with other departments in the hotel?
We are one team, and we all work together in order to deliver the best for our guests. The Culinary team needs Marketing to promote our chefs, with their respective cuisines, and all our food products. The Sales team has to sell and then the Culinary team must deliver on the promise. We need the Service team to serve and provide the second part of the culinary experience. Then we need the Engineering team to keep our equipment running efficiently. We must all have one vision and all work as one team to achieve that goal.
What's your advice for young chefs aspiring to become successful?
The number one thought that always comes into my head when I get asked this question, is to have passion for the culinary field. I mean really long hours, lots of pressure, and forget about holidays and special occasions. When the rest of the world is having fun, chefs will most likely be part of delivering that experiential fun. My suggestion is always try to find a very good and extremely passionate chef to work for/alongside and give yourself at least two years under that direction/inspiration; then make the decision to continue with the craft or not. I have been doing it for over three decades now and I'm more passionate than ever. Do not expect to make lots of money when you finish your culinary school; you will start from the very bottom and do your time, but it’s all well worth the experience and the journey is great!
Visit Chef Lamberto Valdez Lara at Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok