Rixos Pera is a five-star hotel located in the historical part of Taksim, Istanbul. It is a luxury hotel that attracts many local and foreign tourists. It is known for its lively nightlife as well as its restaurants, bars, pubs, and clubs. An interview was held with Selim Altuntaş, who works as an executive culinary chef at Rixos Pera Istanbul Hotel Restaurant, to learn the secrets of this restaurant and to get advice from the chef himself. Read on for more.
Rixos Pera Istanbul Hotel Restaurant: Who is the Executive Culinary Chef?
To get to know Rixos Pera Istanbul Hotel Restaurant better, I interviewed with the executive culinary chef of this restaurant. Selim Altuntaş, who has been working in this position, agreed to do this interview with me.
Selim Altuntaş is from Bolu, which is known as a historically famous settlement throughout Turkey with its cooks who consider cooking as an ancestral profession. Therefore, he states that he chose this profession because there are many cooks in his family and he loves to cook.
Selim Altuntaş likens cooking to women. He emphasizes that no woman is ugly, but they also become more beautiful with pretty clothes and therefore, to him, the trick of cooking is knowing how to make the dish more beautiful. He says that dressing the dish, that is, making it more delicious, without going beyond the basic essence, will be achieved if the color of the products used and the harmony of taste and texture on the plate are all in sync.
When I asked Selim Altuntaş about his signature dish, he said it was gnocchi with beetroot and chestnut cream. The guests who prefer this dish have stated that when they eat it being very aromatic, they feel as if they are integrated with nature and soil. The chef thinks that this dish may take them back to their childhood years.
According to him, food is not only an opportunity to satisfy people’s hunger but also an opportunity for us to socialize and spend a pleasant time.
How are Things Managed in the Restaurant?
The chef tells me that there are thirty workers in the kitchen. Apart from his own position, the others include Sous Chef, Commis, Demi Chef de Partie, Chef de Partie, Intern and Steward. Selim Altuntaş said that the hotel restaurant has morning, evening and night shifts. The making of all recipes proceeds as planned with him and the Sous Chef. The recipes and demos are made and handed over to the Chef de Partie. All other preparations are completed under their control.
According to Selim Altuntaş, cuisine and discipline are inseparable, because without discipline, order, organization and quality cannot be maintained at all. That’s why discipline in the kitchen is a must. To protect this discipline, he applies the kitchen hierarchy. In short, he makes sure that everyone fulfills the assigned tasks properly. In addition to this, they maintain this discipline by giving necessary briefings on such matters by emphasizing how important the work they do is directly affecting human health.
Selim Altuntaş says “I can communicate very comfortably with my team. I do not have any problems in this respect. Almost all of them are intellectual people with certain knowledge.” When I asked him about the moments he had the most difficulty in the kitchen, he said that these were the moments when he tried to keep the motivation of the employees at the highest level. He attaches great importance to this because he believes that good results will come after a good motivation.
The Quality of the Products Used
Selim Altıntaş says, “All of our products that enter our hotel are carefully selected, their freshness and sustainability are ensured, and they are presented in the most appropriate way to our guests.” He defends the idea that a quality meal will emerge from a quality product. He have repeated the fact that all good things come from the source. Therefore, everyday in the hotel restaurant is spent trying to develop products and finding new ideas to how they can be better.
What Do They Do When Faced With a Problem?
I asked Selim Altuntaş how do you react when a customer returns their food and what would you do to improve it. In such cases, he said, he first tries to understand the guest. He determines what is causing the problem. Then, he adopts a solution-oriented approach and tries to improve the situation he is in to please the guest. He believes that adopting this approach is directly related to his being a service industry employee. He is aware of the fact that they will inevitably be exposed to criticism. However, he thinks that the most important thing is to be open to these criticisms and develop dishes that will appeal to more people. Consideration of such criticisms will take them further from where they are now.
Rixos Pera Istanbul Hotel Restaurant: Special Meals
Selim Altuntaş stated that the majority of his guests are not Turkish. That is why he follows gastronomy around the world. He thinks that chefs around the world are influenced and inspired by what they do. He states that “the source of inspiration is the beginning of something new”. Selim Altuntaş constantly observes the emergence of new techniques and new products. He emphasizes the necessity of being an innovative and forward-looking productive chef and keeping up with new trends. Therefore, he tries to create meals by synthesizing them with eastern and western cultures and serve them to their guests.
Lamb’s back with pomegranate pulp, risotto nero, beef tenderloin with demi glace sauce, risotto balls with turmeric in plum sauce, celery with orange, and sea bass are the most popular dishes of the restaurant.
However, the special dish in the restaurant is lamb back with pomegranate sauce and smoked scrambled wheat. I got the tricks of this dish in our interview. Here is how it is prepared. First, after sealing the back of the lamb, they cook it with aromatic fresh herbs and very special butter on a very low fire with the sheathing technique until the required internal temperature. Then, they finalize by measuring it with a thermometer. In this case, the amount of heat and the quality of the butter must be very good. Thus, they obtain a soft and juicy meat that does not dry out. Where they get the lamb is just as important. That is why they prefer the lambs from the curly breed of Balıkesir, which has an endemic taste of its own. This leads them to create high quality and delicious meals.
Advices From the Chef
Selim Altuntaş especially recommends new chef candidates to learn their own culture and the dishes in their own country first. And then to switch to other food cultures. To him, at this process, one should not be in a hurry. At this process, one should walk with firm steps and with a solid knowledge. A chef should always cook with love from his heart. No matter how old they are, chefs should always follow the gastronomy news and innovations in the world agenda. In short, they should keep themselves updated in this sector. Otherwise, they will be left behind.
According to Selim Altuntaş, the most important things in this profession are to work hard and to exchange information with the right people. To him, despite everything, working with love and effort from the heart always results in success.
Many thanks to executive culinary chef Selim Altuntaş for accepting to do the interview.
Do you like this article? For more articles like this, check here.