New to the Mayfair, executive chef Erwin Joven brings a global flavour to the iconic hotel’s two famed restaurants.
What made you want to become a chef?
I’ve always loved cooking and eating, even as a kid, so at some point in my teens I thought I might be able to make a living out of this hobby! My Dad had worked for food company Nestle and we travelled a lot as a family because of his work so I was exposed to different foods and hospitality from a young age.
What’s your all-time favourite dish?
My mother’s Chicken Adobo – a Filipino dish of meat braised in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorn and bay leaves over steamed jasmine rice. This is also my ultimate comfort food – I make this dish wherever I am in the world.
Who were your early culinary influences?
My late mother, my maternal grandmother and uncles were all good cooks, and each had their own specialty dish. Filipino chef Margarita Fores, who was Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2016, [was also an early influence]. I met and worked with Margarita when I was a hospitality student in the late 90s. The chefs of the now closed Mandarin Oriental Manila, where I started my career [were also influential] and the chef instructors at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Napa Valley, California, where I did my formal culinary training.
So, you started your chef journey in California – how has that experience influenced your cooking style?
It’s had a big influence. It’s the way they do things there, it’s the way they play around with the produce, it’s the way they put this emphasis on local produce. In California [dishes] typically go in an Asian direction or in a Mediterranean direction and I see those similarities here in Australia. Napa Valley is [also] a world-class wine growing region and it sits next to San Francisco, in the same way that the Barossa and Clare Valley sit next to Adelaide. I’ve been here [in Adelaide] for three months and it really takes me back to that time.
Will this Californian style of cooking make its way onto the menus at Mayfair?
It’s a lighter, fresher style of cuisine, and a style I definitely want to see make its way into the Mayfair menus – maybe not at Mayflower but perhaps at The Den. There are a lot of ideas that I will play with. That’s the nice thing about working in hotels, there are so many different touch points, there’s that fine dining or refined dining aspect, there’s all day dining, conferences and events, room service, breakfast, amenities – there are so many places to play around with food.
Your experience also spans other countries and cultures…
I’ve lived in seven countries now and travelled through a few more. In every place I go I try and learn as much as I can about the local food and culture. Many of these recipes and ideas make their way into the menus that I create.
How do these experiences translate onto the plate?
Tasting dishes at their source and in their local context helps to give me a point of reference and expands my repertoire, which is particularly useful when working in hotels that cater to a broad and diverse clientele. I love working with seafood, so you can expect dishes like Hawaiian-style yellowfin ahi tuna poke, red snapper ceviche with finger limes and avocado, and grilled SA lobster with sea urchin and togarashi butter.
What else can we look forward to this summer at the Mayfair?
Aside from chilled seafood, big salads, succulent meats off the grill and frozen desserts we [also] have the entire festive program to look forward to, and some menu changes for The Den and room service.
And there’s also the Mayfair’s High Tea offering…
One of my goals is to have the best buttermilk scones with jam and cream in the city! We’ll put a twist on the classic high tea items by using trendy ingredients like calamansi limes, ube/purple yam, matcha green tea and tonka beans. Traditional high tea items are typically carb-heavy, so we’ll be finding a way to make some items naturally gluten-free, or at least be able to accommodate dietary needs in more interesting ways.
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