The first new appointment as executive chef for The Dorchester London in over two decades, editor Sophie Ritchie sits down with Stefan Trepp to talk culinary credentials and what he has planned for London’s most prestigious property
Having joined the hotel in summer 2019, Stefan is following the hotel’s esteemed alumni of executive chefs including Jean Baptiste Virlogeux, Eugene Kaufler and Henry Bosi who held the position for over 20 years.
The 8th executive chef in the hotel’s 88 year history, Stefan takes the helm of a new era of the hotel’s gastronomic story.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading hotel executive chefs, Stefan will oversee a brigade of more than 100 chefs within The Dorchester’s six kitchens serving; The Grill, The Promenade, The Bar and more.
Originally Swiss, Stefan’s culinary portfolio a wealth of experience working in top hotels around the globe. Sophie Ritchie sits down with him to find out more about his latest gourmet adventure…
What inspired you to become a chef?
I have always been interested in food, ever since I was young and growing up in the heart of the Engadin Alps in Switzerland. Growing up in rural Switzerland, I was inspired by the flavours of the ingredients made from local farmers, as well as any international ingredients that were available at the time from France, Italy and Germany.
At sixteen, I became an apprentice and from there on I continued to explore my passion for cooking.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I trained as an apprentice while still in secondary school, and subsequently worked with two hotels in Switzerland, training with larger kitchen teams and developing my skills as a chef.
Following this, I spent approximately thirteen years working for hotels around the world including taking on roles at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, Mandarin Oriental hotels in Manila and Bangkok, Banyan Tree Phuket, and most recently as Executive Chef at the magnificent Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi where I led a team of more than 200 chefs.
Working with hotels around the world has exposed me to diverse cuisines and flavours that have shaped my culinary style to this day.
What’s your favourite winter dish?
When it comes to cooking at home, my favourite winter warmer has to be cheese fondue. I like to throw in fresh mushrooms to add to the flavour.
I really enjoy cooking vegetables during the winter and cook dishes that warm you up like stews or soups. I like using celeriac, sweet potatoes, parsnip – all locally sourced, mostly from Kent. Any dishes that showcase winter vegetables are my favourite.
What can guests expect from a meal at The Dorchester London?
The Dorchester is home to award-winning restaurants and bars, and amazing event rooms which can accommodate every occasion imaginable, from a private lunch for two, to a cocktail party for a thousand guests.
For decades, the hotel’s culinary credentials have stood amongst the best in the world, with many great chefs leading the teams.
Dining at The Dorchester, whether it be afternoon tea in the Promenade, or dinner at The Grill, guests can expect fresh interpretations inspired by traditional recipes, paired with outstanding service and hospitality the minute you arrive at the hotel’s entrance.
What does hospitality mean to you?
I think great hospitality includes quality of food, excellent service, and value as well as other factors including comfort, setting and personal touches.
Regardless of whether it is fine dining or a more relaxed meal, if you can anticipate what your guests will expect and go above and beyond, I think you can really leave a lasting impression and give them a memorable experience.
Name your three favourite restaurants
Personally I prefer to go to local food markets, such as Maltby Street or Borough market, because you can taste a number of different dishes from various cultures.
Do you have any role models?
A number of people come to mind, but in particular working with Jean Paul Naquin at Burj Al Arab was integral to my career direction, he really planted the seed for me to become an executive chef and not a head chef. From there I went on work across Asia as an Executive Chef.
I also owe a lot to Norbert Kostner who really helped to develop my skill as an Executive Chef. I took over from him at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, when he retired from the role after more than four decades.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
I am a great believer in that you should be passionate about what you do; this includes everything from learning from your mentors, working hard, and travelling as much as possible to develop your understanding of culinary traditions around the world.
What do you think will be 2020’s biggest food trend?
I think sustainable food practices will continue to play a major role in how we eat and buy food in 2020.
It is really encouraging that more people are opting for a plant-based diet or looking for sustainable as well as ethical sources of meat. Equally, I think more and more people are looking for innovative ways to reduce their food waste and source produce more locally.
Finally, what’s your favourite midnight snack?
Homemade popcorn, with some seasoning of salt.