Having spent the last 25 years operating F&B outlets across the globe under the Four Seasons brand, Didier Jardin was the ideal candidate to assume the role of general manager for the luxury resorts’ opening in Kuwait City back in 2017. With his passion for culinary excellence still very much a major part of his day-to-day responsibilities, he takes The Pro Chef ME behind the scenes of the hotel’s five dining outlets.
Tell us more about your role as GM when working with the F&B outlets.
My involvement with the F&B department is very close to my heart, as I began working in this field back when I was just 15 years old. My role here in Kuwait is to meet and discuss the menus with chefs in our daily morning meetings, as well as analysing the previous day’s performance and assessing the highs and lows of the day. I enjoy getting into the kitchen and assisting with creating new menus (we change our menus at least twice a year). I don’t think of it as “work” as such, because there is always something new and exciting in F&B; customer demands are always changing, and it’s important that we can adhere to these in a timely manner and stay on-trend with the latest challenges.
Please briefly summarise the resort’s dining outlets.
There are plenty of food and beverages options available at Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait, catering to all tastes and preferences. Sintoho is our lively rooftop hot spot with stunning views of the city, where signature flavours from Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo unite for an Asian feast. Wood-fired pizzas, homemade pasta and espressos dominate the menu at Dai Forni, our intimate, indoor-outdoor Italian restaurant, located on the top floor. Elements is a colourful, market-style restaurant serving everything from Arabic and Indian, to Japanese and Italian, for breakfast and lunch – ideal for the whole family. We serve coffee, afternoon tea and mocktails in our contemporary lobby lounge – Al Soor. Finally, the hotel’s day to night poolside lounge, Al Bandar serves up colourful meze platters and shisha.
How have you found the process of sourcing best-quality ingredients here in Kuwait compared to other outlets you have worked at across the globe?
Wherever you’re based in the world, it’s about catering to the market needs, and I believe a large part of being able to stand out from competitors is needing to connect with the flavours of the destination wherever you can. In Hawaii, for example, it’s all about Pacific rim cooking. When I was working in Bora Bora, fresh fish was a huge selling point for the island, so I worked with local fisherman on a daily basis to bring fish directly to the restaurant. Here in Kuwait, sourcing high quality produce has been difficult. Our goal has always been about quality, but the chefs have had to work extremely hard to find new available products. We don’t have access to the same selection of fantastic produce that, for example, Dubai has in this region. Through relationships and the passion of our chefs, they’ve made valuable connections with surveyors and growers not only in the region, but across the globe, to ensure that we create a very special F&B offering for our diners.
When hiring chefs for the resort’s restaurants, what are the main qualities you look for?
We (almost) started with a completely clean slate here in Kuwait, bar our Italian chef – Sebastiano, who has been working with Four Seasons for 25 years. I like to refer to him as a Four Seasons warrior! Sebastiano’s passion for food is incredible, and his drive for perfection when delivering a dish is indescribable. But in terms of finding new chefs, I believe that in order to fully understand a chef, you must first taste their food – regardless of their resume. I’m a control freak to some extent when it comes to food, so I want to make sure that when there is cooking involved, there must be a true understanding and trust there.
A huge emphasis is now being placed on sustainability within F&B outlets in 2019. How is Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait adhering to this demand?
Four Seasons as a brand brought in efforts to reduce our use of plastic late last year. All of our straws are now made of non-plastic materials, and our goal now for 2019 is to become plastic free as a brand. A company has just started recycling plastic here in Kuwait, which – I know some may say has been a long time coming, but this is a big step forward for the country. The implementation will take a while, not only in the hotel, but across the country to become greener on a day-to-day basis. We’re also now looking at glass materials for added recycling.
Are there any exciting culinary projects in the pipeline for the remainder of 2019?
Our biggest news for the coming year is that Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait will be the first hotel within the brand to open a restaurant outside of its hotel walls. There is a beautiful, high-end mall here in Kuwait called The Avenues, and we will be opening a restaurant called Riviera by Four Seasons in the coming months. Being in a mall brings with it great food traffic, especially on weekends, and we feel that this is a brilliant opportunity for us to showcase our F&B culinary skills on a larger scale outside of the hotel walls.
Details: To learn more about Four Seasons Hotel Kuwait, visit the website here.