We’ve seen students from First Gourmet Academy expand their culinary horizons abroad. First, we met Regina Lansang who had her internship at Hyatt Regency Florida. Now, here’s another inspiring story of Red Mataragkas who’s currently having her OJT in Bali, Indonesia.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I had a very different career before, as an SAS programmer. But after getting married in 2006, I stayed as a housewife because we had to move to different countries many times. This is when my interest for cooking started. I had to learn how to cook especially Western meals like Greek food since my husband is Greek. I like cooking very much so I decided to take it to another level by taking a professional course. I chose First Gourmet Academy because I think it has the best facilities plus the backgrounds of the instructors are impressive.
2. What made you decide to have your training in Bali?
Since my family is based in Jakarta, I made a research on the best possible places on where I can do my internship. I focused a bit more on Bali, being one of the top tourist destinations in the world for decades. I have the impression that the hotels here should have acquired high standards to meet the demands of tourists. Then I narrowed it down to St. Regis Hotel. I have read a lot of good reviews from various magazines and newspapers and from tourist sites. I wanted my first experience to be top-notch and from the best possible mentors, which is why I chose this hotel.
I was very fortunate to be accepted as an intern at St. Regis. The restaurants, Kayuputi and Boneka, have been dining destinations even for outside guests. Also, the afternoon tea at King Cole Bar is very popular.
3. How’s your training so far?
I started last September 20 and was assigned in the Pastry section. I will be here until the end of December and then move on to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Kayuputi. I still haven’t finished my Baking and Pastry module in First Gourmet Academy when I left so I had zero knowledge in pastries. But my colleagues at work have been very patient and helpful with me. I didn’t have any interest in pastries at all before but that has changed permanently. Although I know that my culinary knowledge and prowess is at its infancy, I also know that having a solid foundation is important. So I try to absorb as much as I can everyday. Whenever the chefs say titbits of knowledge, I write it down on my notes so I won’t forget. My French pastry chef would sometimes correct me with the mistakes I make and say, “It’s the little things, but for me… they are important, too!”
4. Describe your workplace.
We have a nice and spacious kitchen. Guests from Gourmand Deli can see what we are up to in the kitchen. All the ingredients used are of best quality. Some of the ingredients are imported like the luxurious Valrhona chocolate while fruits are fresh from local areas like the famous Bedugul strawberries.
We have a French Maitre Patissier, Vincent Stopin, who is a genius at what he does and we also have an equally talented Balinese Pastry Sous Chef, Wayan Laspina. It is a joy to work with these two chefs. I never had a day that goes by without learning something from them. The rest of my colleagues are highly skilled local Balinese who have extensive experience in this field even prior to working in St. Regis. Then we have our Executive Chef, Oscar Perez, who is a Danish with Filipino lineage. He has a lot of experience handling 5-star hotels, including W Retreat and Spa Maldives. Seeing how this guy works is truly inspirational. He is very generous when it comes to sharing his knowledge and advice. He is now the Director of Kitchens for both St. Regis Bali and soon to be for Laguna Resort and Spa Bali. Another reason for me to be a proud Pinoy. And he speaks fluent Tagalog, too! I have also met a lot of friends and acquaintances throughout the hotel from different sections, and all I can say is that the Balinese people are really friendly and kind.
The St. Regis Bali Hotel is THE address to have when you are in Bali. It is called 5-star not without a reason. They are known for their bespoke attention to the guests’ every desire. Check out their website or reviews from guests and find out why.
Oscar Perez’ personal website – www.falgui.com
St. Regis Bali F&B website – www.balibeyondgourmet.com
5. Describe a typical day.
WORK, WORK, WORK! But it also means LEARN, LEARN, LEARN! A typical day usually means a highly adrenaline-induced state of work frenzy. My schedule changes from week to week. But there are mainly two options, either 8AM-6PM or 2PM-11PM. Then I have 2 days off per week. I usually help in preparing fruits and desserts to be served for the afternoon tea and buffet dinner. I also help in setting up and clearing up the desserts. Most of the time, they give me a recipe then guide me through it the first time then afterwards, I do it on my own. All ingredients should always be measured carefully and the technique is important, too. The use of thermometers and refractometers is common especially in the Pastry section. The chefs always check the quality of our work before it goes out. They always emphasize the meticulous attention to detail so that whatever comes out of the kitchen is perfect and not so-so.
Whenever I have questions, they are always willing to fill me in. Food safety and hygiene is of utmost importance throughout all the kitchens of the hotel. We always have to check for food temperature in all aspects like reheating, cooking and cooling. Sometimes, when we have weddings or events, I’m on standby at the pastry corner to assist guests with the ice cream and do refilling of the pastries. During my off days, if I’m not in Jakarta, you can usually find me on the beach with some Bintang and relaxing, reading a book or going to an internet cafe to do some culinary research. Sometimes, I also go out to dine and check out the menus of other restaurants.
6. Do you like it there?
Very much! The chefs, the food, the surroundings, they all inspire me to learn more. I would definitely come here as a dining guest or in-house guest after training is done.
Bali is so interesting culturally. All the colors, nature, people, food, dances, faith, language… they are all new to me and so alluring, I want to explore them all! I especially love the beach here, they have so many and are very accessible. And of course, there’s Babbi Guling, the Balinese version of our lechon.
7. What are your future plans?
While I’m still here, I plan to learn as much as I can and instill in myself the discipline and techniques that the chefs have taught me and continue to do so.
When I’m done with my internship, I plan to come back to First Gourmet Academy and finish the rest of the courses. And then go back to Jakarta and try to find a job in one of the hotels there to continue the learning process. Hopefully, St. Regis Jakarta will be open by then or maybe I will be given another opportunity to work again under Chef Oscar Perez, probably in a different hotel or his own restaurant in the future.