Cyril Calmet: The Ultimate Team Player

Cyril Calmet is a prime sample of a team player, even when he make a seemingly personal accomplishment he’ll always credit his team of making it happen.

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Cyril Calmet is a prime sample of a team player, even when he make a seemingly personal accomplishment he’ll always credit his team of making it happen.

CYRIL CALMET never forgets where he came from. When he nabbed his first position as Executive Chef at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Jakarta he immediately sent  emails  to convey his deepest gratitude  to four people that have influenced his life and career.

Those people were Jean Francois Pont from Mercure Grenoble President Hotel, Andreas Haugg of The Peninsula Bangkok, Michelin-starred chef Mansour Memarian of Shangri-La Abu Dhabi, and Frederic Castan of Sofitel Chicago Water Tower. “Without all of them, I wouldn’t be here today,” he says.

As he made himself quite clear throughout the interview: the people he works with  are important as the fine cuisine he creates.

“The relationship I have with people makes me do what I do now,” says Cyril. “You can be the best cook in the world but if no one follows you then it’ll be a lonely job.”

As proof of his words you only need to take a peek at his Facebook page: life indeed looks merry as endless photos show him and colleagues sharing some kitchen action and light-hearted wefies, with consistent captions exalting the companionship as well as their cooking prowess (and vice versa).

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Resembling a leaner Oscar Isaac armed with a thick—and charming—French accent, Cyril Calmet throws around the word “fantastique” a lot to everything that pertains to culture (more so Thailand that he claims has “calmed” him), to people (all of his co-workers), to places (most of his work stations), and, of course, to food.

Obviously most of the people I profiled so far have been stellar in their respective professions and have no shortage of joie de vivre themselves but as I recall no one delivers it with such sincerity, buoyancy, and salt-of-the-earth attitude as this 32-year-old chef.

Cyril says he inherited the people person chops from his mother, Marie Olga, who introduced him to the pleasures of cooking in the first place.

“My mom is also unique that way; she just has this special thing with people,” he recalls fondly.

Changed Priorities
Cyril has been one hard-working gent. In order to support his financially-struggling family, which consists of his mom and little sister, he started earning money at the age of 12 in the bakery shop in which Marie Olga also worked at and at 14 he enrolled in Lycée Hôtelier Lesdiguières in his hometown of Grenoble, south of France.

Unsurprisingly, he looks back at his scholastic experience with a firm j’adore spirit: “I love it. They taught me also about life and manners. I am still in contact with them until today; they changed my life.”

Asked whether he ever felt he was missing out on being a teenager since he started working so early, and he answers “Yes I do, but I have no regrets because I experienced something unique on the other side.”

That “other side” so far has brought him accolades such as Restaurant of The Year for the French restaurant, Bord Eau, in Abu Dhabi by Time Out magazine and Chef of The Year by What’s On Magazine, and has marked his passport with stamps from the U.S., the Middle East, and Bangkok, with the latter made a particularly indelible impression on him.

“My priority in life has definitely changed after I moved to Bangkok, and it has made me super calm, both at work and socially,” says the avid football fan.

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“You can’t raise your voice in Thai culture, and that to be effective at their job, people need family time. I used to prioritize work but now I realized that family is important too. “My mom visited me in Bangkok not long after and I remembered that it was the first time I actually enjoyed a vacation!”

His Way
The combination of sangfroid approach to people and love of good food has clearly made him a well-liked figure amongst his peers. During the fasting month in Abu Dhabi he even helped make sahur for his Muslim colleagues.

Now as Executive Chef at the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta he is in charge of overseeing all of the restaurants of the hotel.

“It is definitely a good opportunity for me to be working for the Mandarin Oriental Jakarta. It’s my first time as executive chef and it’s a fine size for me to be working in.”

In May, he has a new special menu in store for Lyon, the hotel’s French restaurant, such as Crispy Pork Belly with Sweet Corn, Beetroot Ravioli with Comte Cheese, Beef Bourguignon with Baby Carrot, Seared Foie Gras with Asian Pear Chutney and Cocoa Crumble, and Scallop with Cauliflower Dubarry and grapes.

“It’ will be classic dishes served in a modern presentation and with an Asian touch.”

His life will be constantly busy in the upcoming months but something tells me he doesn’t mind the load. So far the people at his new office have been “super sweet”, and they have already played football and futsal together.

In his downtime he likes reading cookbooks. “Eleven Madison Park – The Cookbook great, as well as Jamie Oliver’s—very casual and tasty,” he proclaims.

He also prefers listening to classic French songs by Charles Aznavour or Claude Francois. “Francois is the one who wrote Comme D’Habitude, which became the famous My Way,” he gave me a little trivia.

In one way or another, Cyril Calmet has built his career in his own—genial, inclusive, compassionate, discerning palette—way, and I’m confident that many of his colleagues would agree to this: he’s been doing a fantastique job at it.

CYRIL CALMET
IG: @calmetcyril

MANDARIN ORIENTAL JAKARTA
Jalan M.H. Thamrin, Menteng, Jakarta
T: + 62 21 2993 8888
IG: @mo_jakarta
www.mandarinoriental.com/jakarta


Written by Sahiri Loing Photographs by Dennie Ramon July 24, 2016.

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