GBA Lifestyle News
City Living Section
By Gayatri Bhaumik | May 4th, 2019

Guillaume Katola has worked with French chef extraordinaire Alain Ducasse for over 10 years, helming the kitchen at many of the chef’s most recognizable restaurants. After finishing a stint at The Grill at the Dorchester in London, Katola has now taken the helm at RECH by Alain Ducasse at the InterContinental Hong Kong. We sat down with him to talk food, great produce, and what he’s learned from a career of cooking at the industry’s highest levels.

How did you get into food and cooking?

I was born in the [French] countryside. Our neighbours farmed chickens; we would go fishing on the lake; and I remember picking beetroots in the field behind my family home and tasting them raw for the first time.My culinary philosophy is built on these first experiences with food.

I first learned to cook for my family. I loved creating dishes for them and sharing in their enjoyment of the food I had created.

For me, cooking is still about sharing — from the knowledge I have acquired over the years to sharing in your enjoyment of our dishes.

What training did you do to become a chef?

I started when I was 14 years old with an internship while studying for a CAP (Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle) and BEP (Brevet d’Etudes Professionnelles) in Paris at Jean Drouant Mederic. During my time at school, I alternated between my classes and my apprenticeship (1 week school/1 week work) for 2 years.

After that, I attended Brevet Professionnel in Centre de Formation d’Apprentis Adolphe Chauvin near Paris for two years.

Since then, along with my work, I have completed and continued to take part in various classes and training courses in new techniques. Our profession is always evolving; and so, we never finish learning.

What do you think are the most important attributes for a chef?

Passion. Patience. Organization. Discipline. Technique. Knowledge. Most importantly: a desire to transmit and share that knowledge with the members of your team. Ours is a craft that does not exist without being passed down from chef to chef, from generation to generation.

You’re from the outskirts of Paris, and consider the countryside a strong culinary influence. What have you taken from these experiences and brought to the kitchen? Have they influenced your menu at RECH?

I am first and foremost inspired by the produce. I am fortunate to work with the best suppliers and the best products, and therefore my job becomes easy. I want to make the ingredients shine in the dish and help our guests discover them in all their natural beauty.

At RECH I continue to work in this way, bringing to the forefront our incredible selection of fresh French seafood and vegetables and also the philosophy of chef Alain Ducasse.

You’re a veteran of Alain Ducasse restaurants. What have you learned from your time working with him?

I have worked with Ducasse Paris for over a decade. I spent the last two years as the executive chef at The Grill at the Dorchester in London. Before that, I spent three years as the executive chef at Salon La Première Air France, the restaurant in Air France’s First Class Lounge in Roissy France operated by Ducasse Paris. I also worked at the Ducasse training Institute in Argenteuil, France as well as bistro Benoit, Champeaux, Aux Lyonnais and Ore at Château de Versailles.

Inspired by Alain Ducasse, my approach in the kitchen is seasonal, using the freshest produce to create dishes that reflect the time of year. I’ve learned to always keep the ingredients true to their original state, bringing out their best flavor without taking away from their natural beauty. I’m also mindful in the kitchen of the ever-evolving world and working with respect to the environment in everything I do.

You’ve also worked at many five-star hotels throughout Europe. How has this influenced your cooking and menu planning?

I have learned to uphold the highest standards for myself, my team and our work and to always strive to be better and better. The result is that our guests have a unique and specially curated experience each time they dine with us.

What makes a good dish?

I would say to start with the finest ingredients, coupled with the attention and intention of the chef behind it. Something that is all at once surprising yet simple, so as not to distract from the natural wonder of the components of the dish.

You’ve recently taken over at RECH by Alain Ducasse. What do you hope to achieve here?

I am so excited to discover this new culinary world in Hong Kong and Asia, to dive into a new culture and a different way of working. I look forward to integrating new techniques and ingredients into my existing skill set to further refine the cuisine I can offer. Of course, I hope to maintain our Michelin star and the excellent standard of InterContinental Hong Kong, and at the same time continue to strive to be better and better.

What do you hope their guests take away from their experience at RECH by Alain Ducasse?

I hope our guests have a truly sublime and unique experience. I want them to experience the finest French seafood dining in Hong Kong, and of course to come back so that we may continue to surprise them again and again.

What’s next for you?

For the moment, it’s one step at a time.  I want to stay focused on Rech by Alain Ducasse and creating a truly memorable dining experience for our guests.

Dishin’ the Dirt profile.