Richard Suter: Heart in The Kitchen

Richard Suter, General Manager of Sheraton Grand Jakarta, has risen through the ranks, starting as a chef before gradually given more and more responsibility. Even so, Richard still have his heart in the kitchen.

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Richard Suter, General Manager of Sheraton Grand Jakarta, has risen through the ranks, starting as a chef before gradually given more and more responsibility. Even so, Richard still have his heart in the kitchen.

RICHARD IS, quite literally, born to cook. His big family owns and runs a historical restaurant in Klingnau, as small town in Switzerland about 40 kilometer northwest of Zurich.

At a very young age, he already helped his mother and grandmother running the kitchen of the 600-year-old restaurant called “Engel”.

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“One of my earliest memories of cooking is when the whole family would work together preparing and utilizing a whole animal throughout a weekend,” said the soft-spoken chef in an interview recently.

His farmer uncle would bring an animal to the restaurant on a Friday and slaughter it there; all of the edible parts would be eaten by the large family within three days.

“We have a lot of pigs, so we would slaughter pigs. On Friday evening we would eat soup with the intestines; by Sunday, we would have eaten the whole pig, with the bacon hanging for smoking.

“The whole relatives would come and there would be a lot of work. As a little kid, I helped peeling the onions. It was a big event; everyone has a job,” said Richard who describes Klingnau as comparable to  an Indonesian kampung.

His mother is the main cook of the restaurant and she is really big on everything potatoes. “Growing up, I love everything mushroom. I eat toast with mushroom sauce all the time,” he reminisces.

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His father, equally skillful with his hands, is a mechanic and wanted Richard to follow his footsteps. “But I just wasn’t drawn into it. I tried it, but it just didn’t suit me,” Richard said.

He initially wanted to become a baker, but his mother told to become a chef instead so he could learn more things than just baking.

After gaining formal training to be a chef, he initially worked at a number of local restaurants close to home for three years. As a Swiss, he had to do compulsory  military service. During his service, he became, of course, the head chef.

Wanting to get himself more exposure, Richard decided to move and look for work in Montreux, a resort town on the eastern end of Lake Geneva at the foot of the Alps.

Because of Richard’s desire to travel abroad, his mentor suggested him to apply for chef positions at hotels. In 1988, he got a job as a chef at the Hyatt Continental Montreux.

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In January the next year, he got the chance he had wanted and was flung across the Atlantic to the Cayman Island, working for his first post abroad at the then Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Hotel.

Not only the weather change was a shock as he left Switzerland in January, but the culinary style was also a culture shock.

“It was the first time I had been exposed to the American-style cuisine. It was a something very foreign for a traditional European-educated chef like me,” Richard said.

He then moved to Hong Kong in 1991 where he spent next 10 years at four different hotels and became an executive chef.

Richard continued moving up the ladder becoming Director of Kitchens at Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit in Bangkok and Director of Food & Beverage at Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort, before moving to Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua in Bali in 2004.

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The next year, he moved to Japan where he spent the next eight years before coming to Korea where became the General Manager of Sheraton Incheon in 2012. Since April this year, Richard is the General Manager of Sheraton Grand Jakarta.

“I’m really happy to be back here in Indonesia. A lot has changed for the better in 12 years,” said the foodie who loves his food simple but surprising.

Even after years at managerial position, Richard said that his love was still for kitchen work and food.

“I never left the kitchen,” he stated firmly. Wherever he is, Richard makes a point of exploring the local food and Jakarta would be no different.

“I’ve only been here for a while, I can’t wait to explore the plethora of amazing food here. The few that I’ve tried has been amazing; there’s certainly plenty more,” he said with a big smile.

“One of my earliest memories of cooking is when the whole family would work together preparing and utilizing a whole animal throughout a weekend.”


Written by Andre Arditya Photographs by Dennie Ramon June 21, 2016.

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