Where are chefs finding inspiration for their food? What cooking trends and techniques have been inspiring them recently? Our Winnow Chef's Table series brings you interviews with chefs from all over the world, sharing some insight into their culinary origins and philosophies.
This time, we speak with Billy Costoglou, Executive Chef at Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa. Billy talked to us about his inspirations to become a chef, his approach to cooking and what he’s learned along the way after reducing food waste by 50%.
- How did you arrive at Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa and what were you doing before?
This is my second year at Renaissance Phuket Resort & Spa. I really enjoy living and working in Phuket. Our resort is located in a remote place, and the sense of freedom that you have here is fantastic.
Before arriving at the Renaissance Phuket, I was heading the kitchen at Courtyard Bali Seminyak Resort for 2 years. The hotel is also part of Marriott International and it wasn’t the first time I had worked for the brand. All in all, I have been working for Marriott for almost 7 years, and I have a great relationship with the brand.
- What inspired you to become a Chef?
My inspiration to becoming a chef came from helping my father in our family’s bakery. My dad influenced me a lot, but I lot of my foundation to wanting to become a chef also came from my mum. Her passion for food is so inspiring.
- Where and how were you trained?
I was trained at the Regency International Centre in Adelaide, South Australia. I spent four years in the cookery apprenticeship, and an extra 2 years studying culinary arts. Adelaide is a very interesting place for new chefs. The region is famous for being one of the world’s great wine capitals, and the local restaurant scene is booming.
- What challenges did you face when you decide to cut waste from your kitchen?
Everybody is always a little hesitant when it comes to change. But, from the very beginning of our journey with Winnow, we assured the team that it wouldn't be difficult or time-consuming. Quite the opposite. It would allow them to have more time to concentrate on what they love doing: cooking. Lucky, our team is formed of brilliant chefs who are always pushing themselves to be the best. So, overall the buying process was easy and we didn’t have any major challenges to deal with.
- How does Winnow help you in your daily operations?
Winnow has helped raise awareness about the issue of food waste. It made the entire team realize the huge cost and the environmental impact of wasting food. It is so rewarding to see the young chefs caring about waste and thinking of ways to improve it. Hopefully, they will carry this skills through the rest of their career. I hope they manage to inspire many others along the way.
- Your kitchen has cut food waste by over 50%. What have you learned from this experience?
The whole experience with Winnow has been eye-opening. It has made us realize that we were actually wasting food, and more importantly, that we can reduce it dramatically by changing a few simple things. The reports have been very important to point us in the right direction. Now, we are producing less food without compromising the quality and keeping guests happy. Controlling the amount of food produced daily has been the key to our success in reducing food waste.
- What do you do to keep track of new industry trends?
I keep track of the new industry trends by reading trade magazines, such as Gourmet Traveller. Networking with other chefs is another great way to keep updated with everything that is going on. In addition, I am always going to other hotels to learn what they are doing. I believe is important to keep a close eye on our competitors and always aim to be the best.
- What tips would you give to chefs wanting to reduce food waste in their kitchens?
The most important thing chefs can do is to pay attention to what is happening in the kitchen. Chefs need to look in the bin and start analyzing the dishes that are often coming back. The Winnow system is a great tool to help us identify exactly what the customers are preferring to eat.
- Is there a chef you admire most? Who and why?
Darren Farrell was a great inspiration at the beginning of my career. I worked for him as a young chef when I was still living in Australia. He was not only a great chef but also a great person with a huge charisma.
- What’s your most recent culinary fascination and why?
My most recent fascination is more related to hospitality than food. I and my team have been trying to master the art of entertaining guests during coffee breaks. We have been trying to find the perfect food to serve and how to present it, to transform a 15 minutes break into a mindful experience.
- Best meal ever?
I grew up in a Greek family and I love Greek food. From all the traditional Greek dishes, Galaktoboureko is my favourite. It’s a semolina custard cake with honey dressing. So simple and so delicious.
- Best food?
Nothing beats a home cooked barbecue. And, it gets even better if there is a pepper crusted tuna with Japanese mayo on the menu.
- Best places to eat out in the world?
Japan. I used to believe that I knew what Japanese food was, but I changed my perception after going to Japan. The food is amazing, and on top of that, the people are friendly and the culture is extremely interesting.