"At Shangri-La, we don't simply follow trends"

Uwe Opocensky is a seasoned chef with over 33 years of experience, currently overseeing the culinary offerings and daily operations of the Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong's seven outstanding restaurants. Before this, he owned and operated his own restaurant, UWE, and was involved with Beef and Liberty in China and Hong Kong. He also served as the executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong from 2007 to 2016. Uwe's career with the Shangri-La Group began in 2004, and he has held executive chef positions at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur and the Aberdeen Marina Club in Hong Kong. A significant milestone in his career was a six-month stage at the prestigious three-Michelin-starred El Bulli in Spain, a transformative experience that helped him realize his full potential as a chef.

Can you share with us your culinary philosophy and how your experiences have shaped your approach to cooking at Shangri-La Hong Kong?

My culinary philosophy is straightforward. For me, a great meal is not solely about the food and wine; it's an emotional experience. At Petrus, we aim to create an extraordinary dining journey by providing a beautiful setting and a caring staff who treat the restaurant as their own home. This approach has developed over my long career in this wonderful industry and defines how we approach dining at Petrus.

What do you consider your most significant achievements or defining moments that have led you to where you are today?

It's difficult to pinpoint just one significant achievement or defining moment as there have been many throughout my journey. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have experienced numerous milestones and continuous learning opportunities. However, there was a pivotal moment when I truly stepped into my own as a chef, cooking with unwavering confidence and belief in my abilities. This transformation occurred during my ownership of a restaurant in Hong Kong, where I discovered my true culinary identity and set the course for my present position.

In your view, what elements are crucial in creating an unforgettable dining experience for guests at Shangri-La, and how do you ensure these elements are consistently present?

At Shangri-La, we believe that creating an unforgettable dining experience hinges on understanding the individuality of each guest. To achieve this, we place great importance on gathering as much information as possible about our guests. Whether they are joining us for a special celebration or a business gathering, we aim to personalize their experience to perfection. We maintain a comprehensive "Guestpedia" where we meticulously record any comments or preferences shared by our guests. From their handedness to their water preferences, every detail matters. This allows us to anticipate their needs and ensure that their return visit is thoughtfully tailored to their preferences. Our goal is to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, treating our guests as if they were cherished friends welcomed into our own home.

What trends do you see shaping the future of fine dining, particularly in luxury hotels? How are you preparing to integrate these trends into the culinary offerings at Shangri-La?

Unfortunately, I don't have a crystal ball to foresee the future of fine dining, especially in luxury hotels. However, at Shangri-La, we don't simply follow trends. Instead, we strive to be trendsetters, creating our own distinct culinary offerings. By staying true to our vision and focusing on delivering timeless excellence, we are ready to embrace and adapt to whatever the future holds for the world of fine dining.

What is your advice for someone who wants to become a successful chef in a luxury establishment ?

If you want to become a successful chef in a luxury establishment, my advice is straightforward. First, stay humble and down-to-earth. Second, build a strong and talented team around you. Lastly, be like a sponge and absorb as much knowledge and experience as you can. Our purpose as chefs is to bring happiness to people, allowing them to escape from their daily lives and create cherished memories. It's as simple as that.

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