5 minutes with Alex MoserVEEN Scene 002
Having travelled far and wide to work on various continents, chef Alex Moser has plied his culinary craft in numerous kitchens during his 20-year career with Hyatt. Currently executive chef at the swishy Andaz Delhi in Aerocity, VEEN Scene grabbed five minutes of the well-travelled chef’s valuable time, to chat about his colourful career and experimenting with local ingredients.
(1) At what age did you realise that cooking was your passion?
I started my culinary journey with my mum, at a very young age. I was 3–4 years old when I enjoyed watching her make meatballs, but I disturbed her quite a bit during the preparation process by trying to help, often making a mess of the kitchen! Gradually, by the time I was 13, I realised that cooking was fun, so I took up some summer jobs in an attempt to hone my skills and pursue my passion to take up a career in the culinary industry.
(2) Do you remember the first meal or dish that awakened your palette?
My best friend’s grandmother was a chef who often cooked traditional German recipes, including potato dumplings, braised red cabbage and beef roulade, the latter being one of her classics. All of these dishes kind awakened my palette.
(3) Has any, one chef influenced your cooking style or had a major effect on your career?
Two chefs have shaped my professional life – Max Burkhalter and Joseph Eder. The first hired me as an apprentice when I was all of 15 years old, and instilled in me the confidence I needed to seriously pursue a career in the kitchen. The second is without doubt my mentor, and his trust and faith in me were instrumental in helping me to hone my skills. Seeing him cook and living by his ideals enabled me to build my own personal cooking philosophy, based on his pillars.
(4) You’ve been working with Hyatt for almost twenty years. What has kept you interested in the hotel brand for more than half your life?
The brand was not the reason why I have stayed for so long – it was really much more than that. Rather, it’s all about the Hyatt individuals I work with – who are like-minded, creative, inspiring and passionate, hailing from around the world.
(5) You’ve worked out of U.A.E, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Spain, France and even Kyrgyzstan. Which country has been the most interesting?
I actually enjoyed them all, despite each country having its positive as well as its negatives, of course. One thing they all had, that inspired me to change locations before I got too comfortable in one place, was different foods. Food brings everyone to one table, regardless of race, colour and creed.
(6) Which country has posed the most culinary challenges to produce quality fare?
I had been living in a city called Ekaterinburg, in the heart of Russia. The winters were extremely cold and we had 6-8-months of snowfall each year, so it was incredibly difficult to find any fresh ingredients. Planes rarely landed due to the extreme weather conditions, so we had to be super creative, improvise a lot and go back to regional recipes.
(7) Your favourite type of cuisine?
I am happy with pretty much any food cooked with love using plenty of fresh ingredients.
(8) What’s the most unusual dish you’ve eaten, and is there anything you’ve refused to try?
I am not really a fan of weird street foods, especially scorpions, seahorses, insects, snakes and creepy crawlies found in Wangfujing street in Beijing. Not my thing at all. The most unusual dish I have eaten, was a Malaysian stew made with flying bat and vegetables.
(9) What has been your biggest challenge as Executive Chef at Andaz Delhi?
Finding the right enthusiastic as well as passionate people who love the art of a creative culinaire.
(10) Have you enjoyed experimenting with any particular local Indian ingredients?
One ingredient that I have enjoyed experimenting with is India’s Timur pepper, from the Szechuan pepper family, found in the upper heights of the Himalayas. It has the same tongue tingling, mouth numbing properties as a usual pepper, but with intense citrus and grapefruit notes, making Timur peppers perfect for fish dishes.
(11) Plastic waste is a big issue in India. Why do you feel that glass is more appropriate than PET for a 5-star dining table?
Plastic does not lend a luxe feel to water – the most valuable of drinks – and a plastic bottle sitting on a table at a fine dining venue ruins the overall experience. An elegant glass water bottle adds much more aesthetic value to a dining table. Not to mention that glass is by far environmental friendly and can be recycled, whilst plastic cannot.
(12) What advice would you give to a new young chef?
Make sure that Master Chef TV competitions are not your goal when choosing this profession! Cooking is all about fulfilling a passion rather than chasing fame.
(13) What do you enjoy cooking at home for friends and family, and what is your number one comfort food?
It all depend on my mood, so I really have no number one, but I so love using Indian spices to punch up dishes, whilst ensuring that the seasoning does not over power the ingredients.
(14) Your favourite restaurant in the world?
La Merenda in Nice. It serves just twenty people, is helmed by the former head chef of a two Michelin-starred restaurant and yet takes no reservations other than in person and does not even have a telephone. The menu is on a blackboard and comprises only 5 starters and 5 main courses, a cheese and a dessert, which all changes daily based on the produce available. Everything is cooked using ingredients sourced locally in and round Nice. The food is simple, tasty and brilliant.
(15) Which country boasts the best street food?
Without doubt, Thailand, due to the country’s predominant culture for eating out.
(16) If you were to write an insider guide to Delhi, where would be at the top of your list?
Delhi has some amazing little street food places in the old city, which are just begging to be discovered by locals and visitors alike.