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Kitchen Means Good Food-Chef Oliver Klopf

After 4 decades of culinary experience around the globe and of the profession and holistic knowledge of the hospitality business, Oliver still loves new challenges and the drive to teach and learn new things. Pursued education in Germany and worked across the globe with top brands of hotel, he is now working as a freelance culinary consultant based out of Indonesia. He was part of the opening team of the first Renaissance Hotel in India and second Marriott managed property in India. He was accolade with several awards during his career.  Here are his opinions about the kitchen.
What is your first impression when you hear the word 'Kitchen'?
Good food, possibility to discover the world, and being creative! 
What is the importance of the kitchen in your day-to-day life?
It is my bread and butter, the purpose of being here. The reason who I am and where I have been.
What do you have to say on the gradual development of the concept of working kitchen when you started your career and now?
When I started in the industry, the 5 star concept wasn't necessarily for the masses. It had that special feel of catering to those exclusive customers  who appreciated the quality, standard and price…..unfortunately this trend has shifted to “less is more”, discounts , and is always up for a good deal. I am a bit sad the see this trend !
What is the most challenging job in the kitchen in your opinion?
All jobs are challenging. In fact, the various kitchen operations are like a Swiss watch where all details have to work at the same time to ensure total customer satisfaction. Every element right from the dishwasher to the executive chef has a particular role in the larger scheme and crucial to the successful running of any hotel or restaurant. It comes and goes with any of the team members. 
How do you maintain hygiene and cleanliness in the Kitchen?
By setting up strict rules and procedures. Daily, checks and permanent training on the subject. Sanitation is as important as quality, taste and presentation of the food you serve. Personal as well as facility hygiene goes hand in hand. 
Tell us about the safety features of your kitchen.
I have no kitchen team or facility under my management at the moment. But in general all kitchen I manage must have at least: First aid kit fully set up (not just a box with a cross or a crescent), fire extinguisher, fire blanket, a self- inspection program about food safety and receiving procedures of food items.  
Which method of cooking do you pursue in your kitchen, traditional or modern?  
A mix of both.
Do you have a penchant for using new technology gadgets in your kitchen? Have you added any lately?  
I am Mr. gadget, I love anything new and like to play with it. Unfortunately hotel budgets do not always support every new trend that comes up. Anyways, in my case, there haven't been any new additions in terms of gadgets as all consulting jobs were postponed due to the pandemic. 
Describe the role of the trained staff in your kitchen? Do you face any specific challenges in hiring the desired staff?
All associates in the kitchen are hired based on the knowledge and rank they applied for. A kitchen team is a structure of various sub-sections and their responsibilities. For some now we have been increasingly facing the challenge of finding motivated and skilled associates in the industry. The hospitality jobs aren't really popular anymore due to the long working hours and the difference between the pay scale and the effort put in. The industry must make a note of this problem so as not to kill this business altogether and shape itself into a fast food industry and pre- cooked meals sans the personal touch of a skilled chef.  
Frozen foods are becoming popular now-a-days. What are your views on the Frozen Foods?
In general I have no issues with frozen food, but we need to see where and what is used and where and when. Frozen food can be of help in remote areas where not every things is available at all times. Again, some of the items such as French fries, fruit purees, meats, fish products and some vegetable items are available year around. Frozen foods should not be used in the fine dining sector or upper scale culinary establishments, but again some items are cost effective andnot of bad quality. The best frozen food I know is ice cream and sorbet! Hah hah
What are the different sources of inspiration that you look up to while designing the menu of the restaurant and buffet? How frequently do you change the same? 
First of all the menu of any food establishment is the business card of this facility! getting inspired in this context depends upon where and which restaurant you are designing the menu for. The internet, food magazines, talk to chefs, TV shows, your personal cook book selection, or just an idea which pops up in your head when you are planning a menu of buffet concept. This isn't something that you can do right away but need to be in that particular frame of mind to do so. With regard to change, I personally believe that you should have a standard menu year-round with some of your signature dishes and then frequently change with either weekly or quarterly menus based on the season you are in. This is more easy in smaller establishments than in cooperated hotels due to the set up.  
What are the essential health and lifestyle trends prevailing now-a-days that you like to incorporate in the kitchen? 
Trends! I always believe that a successful chef sets the trends rather than following others.. But yes, we must incorporate those trends in our menus that are customer centric like procuring vegan, vegetarian and healthy food items from nearby sources to keep the carbon footprint of our products a little as possible.
More and more people are becoming calorie conscious. Keeping the statement in mind, what are the dessert trends followed in the restaurants?
I have to say, desserts are my weak point, need to check with my pastry chef on this. Personally I love light and fruity desserts with less sugar and fat. 
Ingredients play an important role in food preparation. Do you prefer using local ingredients in your preparations? How do you select the vendors?  
This is a tricky question, in general yes, I would love to buy anything local, but there is a but again. There are various factors to consider, such as the size of your operation, style of food served, also the price (are your customers are willing to pay the price), is your local vendor able to supply you on a regular basis the quantity you need. Vendor selection: quality, selection, price, hygiene concept, how does he treat his employees, packaging, oh the list is long.
What is your criteria of selecting  the utensils? Is there any specific brand that you use more than others?
It depends on the type of restaurant/ cuisine you work for. The brand again is based on how much money you have available to set it up, of course we all would like to have a Ferrari in the kitchen and not a Tarta, but in the end, what's important is what you are able to do with it. 
Throw some light on selection of crockery and cutlery?   
No sacred, all is depending what you serve and what type of restaurant you are running. I love, fancy plates, bowls, glass wear in order to enhance the presentation of your food your serve.  
Which are the upcoming cuisines in focus?
This is a question which can be answered in many different ways. What is upcoming? Depending on your market, the customers you have. I am a strong believer in good, healthy and traditional meals. We need to look into using not only prime cuts or prime crops to be used in our kitchens. We as chefs should be creative enough to create also tasty dishes with anything available. Any chef can create a dish if everything is available, a real chef is able to cook something nice with anything if he understands his trade.  
Do you conduct food festivals? How do you decide on a particular theme? Do you think that regional cuisines are a good theme? 
This doesn't apply to me at the moment.  But I cook for my personal satiation from traditional European, Mexican, American and Asian dishes as long as my heart feels like it. I like to have a pizza, let's make a pizza, a burger from the bbq is also fine or a nice sizzling “kariayam” which is cooking right now, all goes!
India is extremely diversified where as its food culture is concerned. What according to you is the scope of popularizing Indian regional cuisines across the globe? 
This might sound funny or not, but when I was opening the first Marriott Hotel in India, a lady in Goa told me “in the moment you have potatoes you have Indians in your country” sounded funny to me because I am a German an I love potatoes too! To describe Indian cuisine is difficult. There are so many different areas with different national specialities. I guess most people around the globe know Indian Curries, Naan and Tandoori dishes and they have traveled all over the world. I think it is as with any other cuisine. If you like it, you will try it and a lot of people who have visited India in their vacation or business and have tasted your foods will try to find it again in their countries, unfortunately it is not always the same as in origin. 
How do you define your 'Dream Kitchen'.
Give me enough money without a budget and I will show how. There are too many options of a dream kitchen but one sentences works for all “ the most important is that the food they cook/ serve, brings a big smile to every customer who has dined there! " and will be a cherished experience for a long time.

(This story has been published under arrangement from Better Kitchen magazine)

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