Chef Sean Macdougall and Chef Ken Lee from The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, shares with us their kitchen-brewed bond.

Chef Sean Macdougall and Chef Ken Lee from The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, shares with us their kitchen-brewed bond.

SEAN AND KEN met around nine years ago when Sean took the opportunity to work as Executive Chef at the then about to open The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place, and to bring his Indonesian wife back to her birthplace. When he about to get busy for the hotel opening, a friend recommended Ken from The Ritz-Carlton Malaysia to help him with the Chinese food operation, and that was how they met each other.

They impressed each other through professional work ethic during the opening preparation work. At that time, they spent most of their time not in the kitchen, but in an all-purpose room where they interviewed people, created the menu, while also worked on planning, managing, and calculating for recipes, which many people does not realize that this kind difficult works are also an important job for a chef outside cooking.

Both of them know that Chinese cuisine is very important because of high demand from wedding event, cocktail event, or other banquet event which can reach to thousands of portions.

Not only the quality, the real problem on banquet event is coming from a last minute request or trouble which can be pretty painful but needs to be solve quickly. “It is part of Ken specialty, he has a system to make sure every plate is appropriate to customer demand”, said Sean who rely on Ken as the Chef de Cuisine for this difficult operation.

There is some organized creative process when they decided the menu. The main idea is to serve fusion food between Chinese and Western style of cooking and presentation. They always put their ear on the ground and be very open to a suggestion, especially from the customers which often ask for a dish that’s even not in the menu; or sometimes they eat outside just to have a taste what is happening out there. Sean also like to bounce some ideas on Ken.

The next step after collecting ideas is no less difficult because sometimes they have an intense situation and argument about the menu. A menu agreed upon is not set in stone because in the end they always listen to the customers’ feedback. “We make sure to get the guest feedback, otherwise we don’t know the result,” said Ken.

As many years goes by, they started to know each other better. “We probably spend more time together than we do with our wives,” said Sean. Both of them acknowledge each other’s forte, like how Ken admit that Sean’s planning and managing skill is a thing that he should  learn; while Sean is always excited of Ken creativity, especially when Ken presents the dish result from their brainstorming with a little tweak added.

Even so, I believe relationship work is not all laugh and smile. When I ask what they do not like from each other they immediately laugh about it.

“Well, it is like a marriage. There is never a perfect partner,” said Sean. He then continued to explain that people need to find out what their partner were like and start working from that aspect. “In any relationship, it’s is important to give and take. If you can understand each other then it will make you happy, when you happy then you can do your best work,” he said.

While Ken was a bit more diplomatic and stated that it was important to separate work and personal issue. “Work is work, and we should focus together on getting the good result.”

Well, I am all for the relationship that Sean and Ken has because it has resulted in superb dish that I love.

Pacific Place, Sudirman Central Business District
Jalan Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52-53, Jakarta
T: +62 21 25501888
Instagram: @ritzcarlton
Facebook: ritzcarlton
Twitter: @ritzcarlton

Written by Yosua Yanuard Photographs by Dennie Ramon October 8, 2016.