Chef Jocelyn Argaud surely has an adventurous spirit. Originally from Lyon, France, the chef grew up watching his mother cook at home which later inspired his passion for culinary. Chef Jocelyn’s portfolio is quite impressive—from working at several Michelin-starred restaurants, to cooking for world leaders and high-ranking government dignitaries during the G8 Summit, and to working for the Royal Palace of Qatar while leading a team of 18 chefs in a French kitchen—the chef is more than ready to embrace his new position as the new Executive Chef for InterContinental Jakarta Midplaza. When he is not busy cooking, Chef Jocelyn would pack his bag and go exploring new places as he believes traveling is the key to happiness. We had a chance to chat with him recently to get to know this gifted chef better.
Please tell us about your cooking style
I like rustic cooking; unrefined and simple. Of course I can go fancy and create decorative presentation for my food, but to me personally, simplicity is better. Instead of mixing ten to 15 different ingredients, I would prefer using simple ingredients which perfectly balance each other. The product is essential though as fancy techniques in cooking will not help if you don’t have ingredients of the highest quality.
Having worked in different countries, what is your most favourite flavor in the world?
This is a tough question. I like French of course, but I am also a big fan of Chinese and Cantonese food. I think as a chef, it doesn’t really matter what I like, because it’s all about my guests. I cook so many flavours depend on where I work so I have to adapt myself to wherever I’m appointed and learn about the locals’ palate quickly.
Where do you get inspirations from?
I get inspirations when I go out. I try to go out and try new food for two or three times a week to keep up with the latest trend. I’m planning to try some famous street food this week, maybe some popular Betawi dishes that I’ve never had before. I believe traveling is also important as it allows me to step out of my comfort zone and learn about something new. For example, I came to Indonesia with my wife nine years ago and we didn’t have lots of money, only a big passion and strong determination. Starting from Bandung, we went across one city to another by bus and train, sleeping in small hotels and ate the best nasi goreng on a street in Bandung. It was just simple nasi goreng I bought from small hawker but happened to be the best Nasi Goreng I ever had!
How important is travelling for a chef and please describe your ideal holiday?
I believe that we should not stop learning to remain at the top of the game and when I travel, I open up myself to new experience and possibilities. It is always exciting to be on the road and meeting new people, trying new things and tasting new flavours to keep my palate flexible. And for ideal holiday, I would take my motorbike and a backpack and went to some place adventurous with my wife like what we did in Lombok recently.
Tell us about your most challenging work so far?
I think the most demanding work so far was when I served as the executive sous chef for the royal wedding of a Qatari prince and princess. I had to prepare food for approximately 2000 guests, the wedding took place in the desert and we had to build our own kitchen and look for the best suppliers which were also challenging because there were not so many in the Middle East. The preparation was really long and heavy and since I worked with many other chefs and daily workers, I had to create the right synergy to make sure nothing went wrong. We were required to be perfect or else they would send us home (laughing).
Tell us about your plan as the new executive chef for InterContinental Jakarta MidPlaza.
For now, I am focusing on improving the ballroom and operational banquet as they are important elements for our culinary department. There will be changes in the way of work and menus, but I will do it gradually. Nonetheless, my priority is to work with the local suppliers. I took this challenge when I worked in Bali and I’m sure that too can apply well in Jakarta. Working closely with local suppliers is very important so we can support the local communities. Besides, Indonesia is blessed with rich natural resources, so why would we import vegetables from Australia when we could get the best ones from Bandung?
In addition, we are preparing the festive menus for December already and we are also ready to revamp our Sunday brunch in Rasa. My team and I will present something a little bit different to give a surprising twist for our loyal guests and customers.
What is your personal philosophy in the kitchen?
Every chef should cook with a passion and heart. And a great chef must be very creative and always willing to try something new. For me creativity comes from interaction with the entire team so we can learn from each other and get more ideas. When I create something different, I’d present it to my staff and see how they react. Talking with my staff at the restaurant produces positive energy as we share knowledge and experience as well as a busy working environment.