Exclusive Interview | Chef Nouel C. Omamalin, Heritage Patissier, Bakebook Author, R&D Chef and known as 'Nifty Chef' in the publishing world
How did it all start? Share your culinary journey with us
I was born to a family of foodies and home cooks. It was a natural path for me to choose culinary in the end.
Mom owned a home-style restaurant and my father was an architect. I believe both my parents had influenced my love for food and the arts.
What are your earliest memories of the kitchens you worked in
As Culinary Arts was expensive, the only way for me to work my way up the chef ladder was to be employed in a five-star international hotel brand. I remember having to throw a few batches of failed genoise before my pastry chef learned about it (although in the end he figured out I did something silly). What was very pivotal was joining the kitchens in Burj Al Arab Hotel. There, I learned well and hard. I worked almost 14 hours a day on split-shift for a year in the al a carte dessert sections of Al Muntaha and Al Mahara restaurants. I’ve never seen any other luxurious and high-octane kitchen in my entire career up to this date.
A dish your patrons/guest love
I’ve always earned praises for anything that is made with chocolate
A dish that you love but do not have on your menu
A tropical cheesecake made with unusual fruits such as lanzones
What according to you does it take to become a successful chef?
First, you must WANT to go through all the trouble to be even considered as a commis - there are no shortcuts. A tree never grows out from nothing. One must acknowledge the fact we have to start from the bottom and EARN our worth as we move up.
To be successful in this industry means you don’t throw BS to mask your lack of experience or knowledge. Keep your eyes and mind open at all times. There is a lot to learn every day.
What advice would you give to a young culinary student?
Take your time. Don’t rush to be at the top. When your foundation is solid, you will be more respected and your career will survive the test of time.
What instruments/ equipment/devices you cannot imagine working without?
My palette knife remains indispensable. It’s my go-to tool wherever I go or whatever I do. It’s just so much easy to pick things up or even things out with it.
Your favorite ingredient is…
Name chefs you find amazing or chefs work you admire
There are so many amazing chefs around. But I’ve watched a program that featured chef Georges Perrier of Le-Bec Fin in Philadelphia, USA. I admire his unrelenting passion in the kitchen - almost beyond comprehension. And there are many of them out there who share Chef Georges’ stubbornness to stick it out in the kitchen no matter what. Simply admirable!
As for my recent favorites, it has got to be chefs Amaury Guichon for such outstanding “out of the box” creativity, Antonio Bachour for his consistency and refined touches, and Massimo Bottura for his strong connection with food.
What books should every chef read?
I recommend that chefs read whatever publication that is available in the past and the present. Things are every changing and this is happening faster and faster year after year. We shouldn’t limit ourselves. Of course, having a copy or two of instructional books help a lot in case we forget some basics (and trust me, it can happen).