I enjoy crafting exciting cuisines, especially with Japanese influences; I suspect that is what makes us unique from others.
A native of The Netherlands, Sebastiaan Hoogewerf has had an extensive career, having worked at an array of five-star hotels, Michelin starred restaurants, renowned patisseries and as a chocolatier in both his homeland and Dubai. He moved to Thailand in 2010 and in 2013, joined The Okura Prestige Bangkok as the hotel's Executive Pastry Chef where he oversees the entire culinary operation across all outlets including their Michelin-starred restaurant 'Elements', the signature Japanese restaurant 'Yamazato', La Pâtisserie, Up & Above Restaurant as well as the famous afternoon tea sets that are served at their Up & Above Bar. He also puts his considerable knowledge and expertise to good use catering to the F&B requirements of corporate and private guests using the hotel's Grand Ballroom, and other events and facilities.
What's the most challenging thing in operating a kitchen here in Thailand? How do you overcome it?
I would say that there are a few challenges when you are new to the country and as a European, the first challenge would certainly be the culture difference. First of all, Thailand is very diverse and that is something quite fascinating for me. Secondly, it is quite uncommon for the team to have officially undergone culinary studies, where in Europe, t is very common for people in the business to have had taken at the very least, a basic culinary course.
Personally I see this as a great opportunity to challenge young individuals to grow and develop multiple skills while on the road to becoming professional chefs.
Understanding the culture and the team are my two greatest concerns and were my first priorities when I arrived. My recommendation would be to learn basic Thai which has helped me to overcome many of these challenges and has provided me with some great benefits.
How do you differentiate your offerings?
As a chef, I think we are urged to present and offer the best seasonal produce at its finest to our guests, where we can allow the produce to speak for itself through those dishes which we craft.
With a mixed culinary and patisserie background, I believe that I am offering a good variety, adding elements to the cuisine that are showcased throughout the hotel. I am always in search of new and interesting ingredients and produce, both local and imported; the hunts never stops!
I love working with local farmers and suppliers, and I learn something new every day, which is something that really brings me joy. I enjoy crafting exciting cuisines, especially with Japanese influences; I suspect that is what makes us unique from others.
At Yamazato, the signature restaurant of The Okura Prestige Bangkok, we offer three dining concepts that will savour your cravings all in one-stop. The three individual concepts highlight the exquisite 'Kaiseki Omakase' at the Omakase Counter by Yamazato, the 'Teppanyaki experience' at Sazanka by Yamazato and the exquisite Japanese fine-dining 'Kaiseki experience' at Yamazato. At the Omakase Counter by Yamazato, the seamless Kaiseki Omakase is depicted through 'the craftsmanship of the Kaiseki Omakase experience' with its finest seasonal produce showcasing at its prime which are carefully crafted by Chef Haruaki Matsuoka. Whilst, Sazanka Teppanyaki by Yamazato is a hidden gem located inside Yamazato, offering an extensive Wagyu beef selection and seasonal fresh fish from different prefectures grilled and cooked to order. It undoubtedly is 'the hidden gem of the Teppanyaki experience.' Completing the dining journey at Yamazato with Kaiseki cuisine features a set-course experience delicately handcrafted by Master Chef Shigeru Hagiwara to present the monthly seasonal highlights. The dining experience at Yamazato truly feels like an artistic journey; it is 'craftsmanship served on the plate'.
Elements, is inspired by Ciel Bleu, an award winning Michelin one-star restaurant that is well known for its fine-dining French cuisine prepared with premium produce and complimented by exquisite seasonal Japanese influences. Chef Gerard Villaret Horcajo, our Chef de Cuisine transferred to Bangkok from Ciel Bleu, the Michelin two-star restaurant -- a sister restaurant at Hotel Okura Amsterdam. His extensive know-how in fine-dining ensures that he will be delivering exquisite culinary experience for guests and visitors to Elements, inspired by Ciel Bleu. We offer a three tasting course journey crafted from the finest seasonal produce from Japan and Europe and paired perfectly with home-brewed Kombucha to complement the dining journey by Bella Sudarat our Beverage Ambassador.
Lastly Up & Above Restaurant and Bar, apart from serving daily breakfast, a la carte lunch and dinner, it is where we welcome guests and visitors for the all-time favourite afternoon tea, Yatai & Izakaya Saturday buffet dinner and the renowned scrumptious Sunday Brunch.
What drives you?
I continuously set my goals and standards high. As a chef it's a never-ending journey and quality is a race without a finish line. We continue to strive for a remarkable and mesmerizing culinary journey for our guests. We are extremely proud to have two of our restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide Thailand for 5 consecutive years, and one of them, Elements, been listed as a one Michelin starred restaurant.
Seeing guest returning is one of the ecstasy hits that I get because that means that they enjoyed their experience here. Another 'hit' would be seeing my team escalate their skills, and becoming talented chefs. It makes me really proud and feel fulfilled.
What advice would you give a young chef looking to 'make it'?
My advice to young chefs and those wanting to become one is to concentrate and pay attention on your basic culinary skills. Try to learn and explore as many types of cuisine as possible; that way you can discover yourself, what cuisines you're passionate about, and understand and appreciate different produce from different parts of the world as well as the multitude of cooking techniques and methods out there.
By having strong basic culinary skills as a foundation, it will help you develop your own cuisine style which will develop into your signature just like mine. For me, I am drawn to certain cuisines and patisserie from my background which indeed is still very useful and prominent in what I do today.
Visit Chef Sebastiaan Hoogewerf at The Okura Prestige Bangkok