Chef Tobias Schwarzendorfer has an extensive 15 years of experience in the kitchens around the world, from hotels to Michelin 3-Star restaurants.
Chef Tobias is the Executive Chef at the SO Sofitel Hua Hin hotel where he showcases his culinary creativity. He loves to experiment with different combinations of ingredients and techniques and right now, they have three signature dishes on offer that showcase his talent.
What makes your food unique?
Since when I was a young boy, I have been fascinated by food and cooking. The smells, the flavors, the colors and all of the different products which you can magically turn indo dishes made me want to become a chef.
Throughout my career I have worked in different Hotels and Restaurants where I have been able to collect different cooking methods and knowlege in regard to flavors, spices and how to use them. My learning has extended way beyond my work too - I have traveled extensively around the world with family and friends which has helped me shape a much better vision of what it is that I want to do.
I like to focus on the main product of each dish, and keep the flavor strong and intense, then fill out the plate with light tastes, textures and garnish.
I might contrast something smooth with something crip, then complement it with a rich sauce and some gorgeous spices or fresh herbs from all over the world. The goal is to constantly stimulate your tongue into experiencing new tastes and sensations. One of my signature dishes is a good example of this. I take fresh long line caught seabass and add lemon cauliflower cream, crunchy snow peas and watercress. Combining this with a chorizo-salad into one dish is pure happiness.
My philosophy is to always look to create a memorable experience.
What's the most important factor in being a successful chef?
Believe in yourself and never give up.
Leading and teaching will make your team and yourself stronger. Accept criticism and focus on bad reviews more than on the positive to improve yourself. Learn from your mistakes and don't make them twice. If you fall, get up and try it again.
We all know becoming a chef is the result of hard work and hours after hours being in the kitchen. There is not much space for private life, friends or party. But as long as you love what you do you will be good and successful. Being a successful chef means that you have to be organized and resistant to stress. You need to always be tracking food trends and follow them to be able to create new fantastic dishes for your guests.
What's the difference between being a chef in a stand-alone restaurant vs. a hotel?
Well technically not much. I would say that it always depends how you set your priorities. A well managed kitchen is a lot of work in a standalone restaurant, just the same as in a hotel restaurant. Calculations, team management, food quality control, price negotiations with suppliers and obviously cooking is part of both concepts.
However being a chef in a hotel means that you have to control and oversee more than just one kitchen. Different restaurants and bars, in-room dining, banquets and weddings are normally the big difference compared to a chef in a standalone restaurant. Usually you have more than one team and you need to bond and be a strong leader for all of them. You need to be able to trust your team 100% because you cannot be everywhere at the same time.
What's the biggest issue that chefs face today?
I think being a chef has always traditionally been a tough and stressful job. Obviously some of the problems that chefs face have changed over time. One example is the competition within the world of gastronomy. Not only for the city in which you are working, but also amongst the web to which you are getting compared with. You need to look at places that have the same type of branding or restaurant. I feel a constant pressure at my neck driving me to try to be the best in what are I'm doing. Secondly, I would say the guest expectations are much higher than before.
With increasingly demanding and rigorous customers expecting more and more from restaurants, it is crucial that chefs focus on providing a fantastic customer service and dining experience.
What's your advice for those who want to become a successful chef?
I have 2 big pieces of advice:
Number 1: Learning by doing
You won't be able to be a successful chef just by studying copious amounts of cook books. Get your chef jacket on, wrap your apron around your waist and get ready to rock the stove. Year after year you will become more confident and stronger in your cooking methods. By spending time in the kitchen together with your team you will see that you become a kind of family and you can make the impossible possible.
Number 2: Write it down
There is not much more to say on this one. I am lucky that I learned this really important lesson from the beginning of my career. If you have learnt a great recipe in your past and you haven't written it down, it will be gone forever. You won't be able to remember it, nor will you be able to contact your former colleague to get the recipe again.
Have always a notebook with you - or these days, you can use your phone to save whatever you want to remember.
Being a successful chef is not an easy achievement, but if you do your job with love and passion and you change 'the job' into your hobby, then there is nothing more beautiful than spending time in the kitchen together with your team. That's success.