Meet Frank Widmer, Executive Chef at Park Hyatt Zurich

When I first heard about Il Tavolo Food Festival, I had to get involved one way or another, and ideally by blogging about it! But I never imagined I would have a One on One interview with one of its “dashing” chefs Frank Widmer!

When we talk of food, we often forget giving credit to the chefs who prepare the delicacies which with a simple flavor, scent or texture transport us down memory lane. But today, thanks to more and more cooking shows, Chefs are better recognized and praised for their contribution.

And Frank WidmerExecutive Chef at Park Hyatt Zurich, is one of them!

I have dined at Park Hyatt Zurich several times and always enjoyed every bite. The simplicity of the dishes allied with the explosion of flavors create an experience which one doesn’t forget. It’s almost like eating at home, with the added esthetics!

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I was a bit nervous prior to meeting Frank but from the first moment I met him, he put me at ease with his sense of humor. There’s nothing like a good laugh to lighten up the atmosphere!

You’ve had quite a ride Frank!

Yes! I have been in Zurich for the past 11 years since the grand opening of Park Hyatt, but prior to that I worked in different kitchens all over the world.  To be honest, I never thought I would ever move back to Zurich but I’m glad I did!

11 years at the same hotel? You must really like it!

I absolutely do! No day is like the previous one.

What exactly do chefs do?

They talk a lot, sit in the office and let others do the job!

Of course, in smaller kitchens with less staff, a Chef does alot more cooking. But here, it wouldn’t be possible. Someone has to organize, create new concepts for banquets and catering and interact with clients directly. I believe in personal connection and exchange. It makes the client feel special and allows for a better result. And I don’t believe in or like repeating the same concepts over and over again, so to get inspired I travel around the world! Could life be any better?

Do you cook at all?

Yes, of course. Here about 20% and at home 100%!

What’s your leadership style? Are you a screamer?

I don’t scream and I’m not strict. I just give THE look! I try to lead by example and not fear because respect cannot be earned by fear.

Do you ever invite guests or friends in the kitchen for a quick apero?

Often times especially when there is a special occasion, like truffle season. For example, when my truffle guy comes, in the fall, I invite my special guests to meet him and taste his truffle! They can see where it comes from and meet the source. It immediately creates a bond as well as trust between the client and the supplier.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you look at other Chefs or new trends?

Never. I don’t like to copy or look into what others do for inspiration. My inspiration comes from the smell of the grass, the ingredients used by local farmers, the stream, people I talk to. I’m different than a lot of my colleagues in that way.

Do you mainly use local, organic and seasonal ingredients?

As much as possible but in all honesty, it’s almost impossible to use only local ingredients. For example, we don’t have enough cows in Switzerland so I import my beef from a very special supplier in Canada. I personally hand pick all my suppliers and meet them several times to ensure the quality of the product but also the environment in which it is raised.

As for seasonal products, unfortunately I cannot always use them. Our clients are very well-versed with a sophisticated palate! I cannot refuse them strawberries because it’s January. I have to comply with their wishes otherwise they will go elsewhere. Thankfully I work with fine suppliers who find me what I need!

But at home with my kids, it’s a different story! I only use seasonal products.

Let’s be honest, you work in an environment where your clients understand the value of quality and can afford it, but how about regular people? How can they learn? 

Our parents didn’t do anything wrong and did what they thought to be best when they started implementing antibiotics and pesticides. But today we know better and owe it to our kids to do something better. We must educate people, especially in the hospitality world, by leading the way to improved and qualitative eating.

Did you know that 20-30% of a cow is used to make dog food? And only a lean percentage is used for prime cuts? (which explains why tenderloin is so expensive) This makes no sense whatsoever. In Argentina, they eat every single part of the animal and no one seems to complain about it. There’s no need for more land if we use the whole animal.

I want to encourage people to become resourceful and seek opportunities. They can easily make delicious tartar, a shank or chuck steak using only value cuts.  It’s all about learning the tricks and training your butcher!

In case you want to learn more about this topic, click here.

Ok now let’s finish with the reason why we are here in the first place! Il Tavolo!

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Zurich needed to be recognized for more than its banking. There is much more to this town than meets the eye and that is the reason why Il Tavolo was created in the first place. Let’s show the world that gastronomy is as important here than it is in Paris!

So a group of hotels and chefs aligned their forces and created this festival. We learned a lot along the way and strive to make it better year after year. Today, we are in the lucky position to have the backing of the media and sponsors.

What should we expect to see from you?

Basic, quality and flavorful! I don’t try to outsmart or outshine my colleagues by creating lavish dishes. The taste should speak for itself 🙂

 
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