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Bocuse dOr World Cuisine Contest

ROWING up in Tsawwassen, a small town on the coast of his country of birth, Canada, Kevin Cherkas knew he loved cooking as young as 15 years old .I have always wanted to eat and being a chef was the easiest way to do that well, says Cherkas with a laugh.

At only 29, Cherkas has won many prestigious awards, though his fifth place finish at the Bocuse d'Or World Cuisine Contest was his proudest simply because he learnt so much from the experience.

In October 2006, Cherkas became chef de cuisine of Lafite, the French haute cuisine restaurant at The Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

I saw an opportunity to come to Asia and work for a great hotel. It is also a chance for me to display my own individual style of cooking and creativity, Cherkas explains on his coming to Malaysia.

Cherkas, originally a classically French-trained chef, has within the past few years embraced molecular gastronomy enthusiastically and, like many of the chefs who leap into this radical new field, continuously pushes the envelope of culinary practices.

I was tired of the repetition of classic French food. I cooked it for seven years. I wanted to learn a different style of cooking; something that I didn�t already know I could do with my eyes closed, the chef says.

Daniel Boulud, one of the most famous French chefs in the world who runs a restaurant in New York, suggested Cherkas try Spain and so did every chef to whom Cherkas talked. He listened and, today, he can boast an impressive resume that includes working experience at some of the countrys most revered restaurants, including the three-Michelin starred Arzak Restaurant in San Sebastian, the two Michelin starred La Broche in Madrid and, most notably, the three Michelin starred elBulli (three is the maximum number of stars awarded by Michelin) as recently as 2006.

Cherkas was one of the 14 selected from tens of thousands of resumes sent by young up-andcoming chefs who all want to work in the commercial birthplace of molecular gastronomy.

How did it feel to train under the master himself, Ferran Adria? Cherkas has only one word to describe the experience: Magic!

Cherkas believes that his experience under Adria has taught him that the job of a chef goes beyond creating fancy dishes. A chef is responsible for the overall development and direction of the business

Thats Ferran. Hes always thinking five years ahead on what he can do with food. Ive learned that holding up an apple and staring at it for a while is more useful than simply doing the automatic thing and juicing it or eating it as an apple you could do so much more with it. Ferran Adria has totally changed my understanding about food.

But what inspires his cooking now, we wonder?

Cherkas mentions nature, humour, childhood interests and, interestingly, mischief! He looks up to artists who are into creating rather than copying and that certainly shows in the imaginative culinary experience he has crafted for Lafite.

Speaking with an air of confidence and always seeming to brim over with new ideas, Cherkas asserts that what he wants to do is ensure that he will never serve anything somebody else has served before.

He will only serve a dish that dares to be different in one of three ways: either its combination of ingredients or ideas is unique; or it is prepared using a new technique; or it creates a new style of eating that is very special.

Obviously, dining at Lafite will be an entertaining experience as long as Cherkas chooses the dishes!


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