Where are chefs finding inspiration for their food? What cooking trends and techniques have been inspiring them recently? Our monthly Winnow Chef's Table series brings you interviews with chefs from all over the world. Today, we have the pleasure to speak with Mohammad Ali Kunhi, Regional Executive Chef of AccorHotels Greater China and Executive Chef with Sofitel Kunming.
Chef Mohammad is originally from Singapore, but he has spent more than ten years in the Middle East working for some of the region’s most iconic hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton in Doha, and Fairmont The Palm in Dubai. He is now specialized in both the Mediterranean and Asian cuisines and enjoys using his knowledge to help hotels open successfully.
- How did you arrive at AccorHotels and what were you doing before?
Before joining AccorHotels in China, I was in Singapore consulting for F&B concepts. I was looking to be relocated to China when AccorHotels asked if I would like to help them open its new flagship hotel in Kunming. And, that’s where I am now. I have been working here for 2 years now, and It’s a great pleasure to be part of this team.
- What inspired you to become a Chef?
The inspiration came from my own home. Both my parents were chefs and they managed their own restaurant, that was located right in the center of Singapore. I grew up surrounded by amazing smells and great food.
- Where and how were you trained?
After finishing my studies in Singapore, I moved to Switzerland to join a culinary school and start my professional life. My first professional experiences happened in Switzerland, but from there I took off and started traveling around the world. I am still enjoying the fact that I get to travel the world cooking.
- What challenges did you face when you decided to cut waste from your kitchen?
I didn’t face any challenge when I decided to cut waste from my kitchen. At AccorHotels we are all committed to achieving our CSR goals, including the goal of reducing food waste by 30% by 2020. We are also committed to offering to all our guests healthy, sustainable and delicious food. This mission is passed on to everybody as soon as they join the brand, and we all embrace it from day one.
- How does Winnow help you in your daily operations?
With the Winnow system, we are able to get tangible data about food waste, and based on that, we can make changes to reduce it. With Winnow, we know where we have opportunities to reduce our waste and therefore improve our operation.
- Your kitchen has cut food waste by over 50%. What have you learned from this experience?
We have learned that with simple initiatives we can make significant changes. The Winnow reports have pointed out to us that by preventing overproduction we would be able to make a great improvement. So, we have been focusing on controlling the amount of food we cook on a daily basis. The project has also helped the team become more aware of the issue of food waste and it has also made the entire team work closer together.
- What do you do to keep track of new industry trends?
The F&B Industry is always evolving. To keep track of new trends I often eat out, and I like traveling to different regions to see what other hotels are doing. I normally concentrate on certain cities and focus on learning about their food culture, so I can introduce some of it on our menus. Guest’s are increasingly becoming more demanding and it is important for hotels to adapt, and keep up to with the new trends.
- How do you see your kitchen becoming more sustainable in the future?
To become more sustainable, since 2017, we have been partnering with local farms to buy fresh products. As a sequence of that, our menus are created in a way that can take full advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. This is a practice that is still in its infancy in China. So, we make sure we promote this initiative to our guests because is the best way to inspire them to do the same in the homes. In addition to that, we are speaking to some of our main suppliers to see how we help each other reduce the amount of plastic that we use.
- What tips would you give to chefs wanting to reduce food waste in their kitchens?
For chefs who are looking to reduce their food waste, I would advise them to understand what their businesses really need, and have that in inf when ordering food. Too many chefs order too many foods, that will later end getting wasted. Additionally, I would emphasize to them the importance of raising food waste awareness with all members of their team.
- Is there a chef you admire most? Who and why?
Besides my amazing parents, who are chefs, Massimo Bottura is the chef that I admire the most. His philosophy and his approach to food are simply brilliant.
- Best meal ever?
The best meal of my life happened in Dubai, at the late Santi Santamaria's Restaurant at the Atlantis Palm Jumeirah. The whole meal was unforgettable, but two dishes took me off my feet. One was the white asparagus with morel mushrooms, and roasted shallots. The other dish was the chocolate bunyols.
- Best places to eat out in the world?
There are too many great places and the list is endless. Around the local region, I would choose Hong Kong and Singapore. You are guaranteed to find great food in both places.