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Italo-Indo Bellissimo: Chef Marco Violano of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta Shares His Love for Food and for Indonesia

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Among the many things that we miss the most from the pre-pandemic days is definitely the freedom to be able to enjoy a dish in a restaurant.

And I’m sure, it’s even more excruciating being part of any kitchen team. The desire to craft delicious dishes, the adrenaline of pushing a busy night with your partners, the urge to serve loyal patrons, the satisfaction of receiving compliments from happy diners. Chef Marco Violano of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta knows this very well. We talked with the experienced chef about his love for cooking, homemade food, and Indonesia.

In the shortest way possible, tell us about yourself and your experience in the culinary world. 

I started at the earliest age of 14 in a pastry shop below my house back in my hometown. The escalation went quick, and I found it both so inspiring and so stressful at the time. Until it becomes a part of my life. I thought, I love to cook and love to get paid to do it, why not turn that passion into reality? It was tough indeed. Started as a dishwasher back in 1996 for two years, before I even started to slice my first onion. My journey brought me the opportunity to work in Four Seasons Hotel Milan, next to one of the top Italian chefs back then, Sergio Mei. He taught me how to respect food before you process it. After that I moved between various countries, until I finally landed in Indonesia. It is definitely a challenging job, but full of satisfaction. For those who think the culinary world is only cooking, well, there is much more. Focus, precision, punctuality, the need to evolve, constant learning, leading, and definitely laughing is one of the most beautiful parts. For me, success is not about social status, but earning the respect from your team and your customer’s heart. 

What made you agree to join Four Seasons Jakarta in the first place? 

I’ve been working with the Four Seasons hotel brand for almost 19 years now. I would consider FS more as a family, beside the fact it is an extremely amazing company to work for. As for Jakarta? When I was posted in Singapore, I often travelled to Bali. I joined a task force there once, and it was love at first sight with the country. After which I was relocated to Malaysia. Three years later, here I am. Would you consider this faith?

You seem to enjoy working and living in Southeast Asia. What is your best impression of the region? 

Weather at first. I feel extremely comfortable as I’m not a very big fan of winter. Then comes the people’s warmth and friendliness, of course, besides the beauty of the country itself. In fact, at the moment I consider Indonesia as the most beautiful country I’ve been so far in this region. 

Is there any favorite cuisine from the countries of Asia that you’ve lived in? 

Japanese and Indonesian are my most favorite, followed by Chinese Cantonese cuisine. 

Another short answer question: describe your cooking and why it’s worth trying? 

I believe simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Along the way people and chefs are focusing much more on the aesthetics before the flavors. The selection of the ingredients followed by the simplicity of cooking it are the two most important factors to dine in our restaurants. The process has to be as simple as possible.

With COVID cases starting to decrease, especially in Jakarta, what do you expect from this situation? 

The pandemic unfortunately hasn’t helped us much, like most of the other industries. But right now, with the rest of the Four Seasons Hotel team, we have a big project. It will be the ultimate Gastronomic Destination in Jakarta. Have a positive mental attitude and keep going, with the hope that all the industry will apply safety measurements. 

In the day and age of COVID, there are limitations to the capacity and time to dine in a restaurant. Let’s say we have the opportunity to have a 20-minute dining experience at any restaurant at Four Seasons Jakarta, which establishment would you recommend, and which dish would you order for us? 

I can recommend two choices. First is at the Palm Court Terrace with their Nasi Goreng Buntut followed by Lobster Laksa. Just a head’s up, the terrace will soon launch our nutritional program for those who have high concerns for their health, especially during pandemic. Second, it’s Alto with our balcony city view. I would recommend a nice glass of wine and one of our homemade fresh pasta. Compared to dry pasta, homemade pasta needs a shorter time to cook, just right for a quick delicious meal. 

What is the best Italian food in your own perception? 

Big question, but I would say from a nutritional and complete point of view, it is definitely Mediterranean, or those parts of Southern Italian cuisine.

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