Innovation is a key element in many hotel kitchens, and thanks to Executive Chef Mohd Kamaruddin Bin Haji Adnin, Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur is no exception. Comfortably settling into his position since last year’s appointment, Chef Kamaruddin – more affectionately known as Chef Bob – shares his thoughts on his culinary journey and his ideas on the kitchen of tomorrow.
Clocking in a total of 8 years’ experience in Sheraton alone, Chef Bob worked his way up from a modest Chef de Cuisine position to his current Executive Chef post. But not many realize that Chef Bob did not quite plan for the success he enjoys today. As a child, he dreamt of becoming a pilot. His interest and passion in cooking slowly but surely grew after years of assisting his father with a family catering business.
Chef Bob brings his passion for constant innovation into the kitchen. Beyond presentation and plating, he places great value on taste and variety. In fact, such is his dedication to food that he even studied how to cook an authentic mandi rice dish from a Yemeni chef with the help of a translator. “I have people telling me I’m crazy, but I’m not. I’m learning.”
Often stressing on the importance of improving one’s culinary skills, Chef Bob visualises a future where machines will slowly replace labour in the kitchen. Citing an example from Japan, he observes how vending machines that sold drinks in the past could now prepare food, such as pizza. Talking about the technology used to prepare space food, he says, “Just two months ago, I was introduced to air dried freeze technology. It is essentially space food that can last up to 25 years in a packet! From banana, mango, lemongrass, shallot to minced garlic, everything has been dried. Just mix in hot water, and it’ll look exactly like its fresh counterparts.”
While there are multiple benefits to innovation, there are some setbacks too. Chef Bob stresses on the importance of being relevant in today’s kitchen and the need to retain knowledge and stay curious. “That’s why I’ve always said, if you don’t know something, you’d better ask. The most important is your (cooking) basics. If you don’t have that, you can’t go anywhere.”
Riding on the trend in innovative cooking and uncommon ingredient combinations, he notes a shift in diners’ palates as well.
“Young people are often on the lookout for trendy dishes, something of a mixed-fusion cuisine. So I’ll try to put out something different each time, from salmon head curry, duck rendang, squid ink paella - food they can rarely find out there.”
The Ramadhan season is undoubtedly one of their busiest periods, and Chef Bob does not hesitate to dish out some handy tips to stay ahead of the competition. When it comes to appeasing diners from different cultural backgrounds, he often kick-starts the planning process by initiating a brainstorm with his cooks. “Let’s say we do a feature on three states, Johor, Pahang and maybe Kelantanese food. But...there’s no focus on Sabahan cuisines, or even those from East Malaysia? Then again, we don’t have any cooks originating from that region so it is also a major challenge. That’s the entire process, to throw ideas around and getting the cooks to talk.”
A believer of cooking from the heart, Chef Bob sees cooking as a combination of passion and skill. “Like I said, I believe primarily in taste and of course, good food. I have a family coming in 3 times a week just for satay alone! When you cook from the heart, people will keep coming back to you.”