Mr Not Delia and I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon with Michael Saxon, the General Manager of the Eastern and Oriental Hotel in Penang. The main reason I was there was to interview Michael on behalf of Paul Johnson’s A Luxury Travel Blog.
While I was there, I took the opportunity of asking Michael lots of other questions and he kindly gave me plenty of answers. Enough for at least two or three postings on Not Delia! Here’s the first of the series, in which Michael Saxon talks about
CHEFS IN THE LIMELIGHT
Not Delia: I believe you published a new edition of your autobiography, Chef’s Tales, last year. Is there anything you’d like to say about that?
I wrote Chef’s Tales as a travel and cultural document that others can read, enjoy and hopefully get something out of. I would also like to think that it is a very useful trade document which young and up-and-coming hoteliers can read and learn something from before they enter the industry.
Many young people drop out of our industry after a very short time due to the culture shock of entering the back door to the hotel for the very first time. Hopefully Chef’s Tales, which is a collection of real true-to-life hotel experiences which I have gone through, may benefit others. If it helps, encourages or inspires one single person then it will all be worthwhile. As one critic once said in England, “Chef’s Tales will probably not win the Nobel Peace Prize, but if there are young people who want to learn a thing or two about life, then Chef’s Tales is the book for them.”
ND: Do you watch any cooking programmes on TV? Any favourites? Favourite ‘celebrity’ chef?
In Asia we have Rick Stein, Bobby Chin, Jamie Oliver and of course Gordon Ramsay, to name just a few. I will just touch on this issue of television chefs if I may and then leave it at that.
I think television chefs who teach people how to cook in the privacy of their own homes are involved in a noble cause and I have nothing but respect for them. Not many people will admit to being a poor cook, so for people learning behind their own closed doors it’s great as they will not be embarrassed or feel shy if they make a mess of their dinner.
I also think that the British television chefs have really helped to lift up the reputation of British food and chefs in general. They have also helped over the years to give the hotel business a much needed boost with a touch of glamour and made the general public understand that it is skilled labour and a job worth getting into.
However, I am afraid that some of them are now gaining too much attention for their foul language, verbal abuse and for publicly belittling people, which in turn could reverse all their years of hard work and put off yet again youngsters from entering the business. This I have no respect for and as I always say, “Many youngsters may want to be these guys, but who the heck would want to learn under them?!”
ND: Are you a fan of Gordon Ramsay or Delia Smith? Either, neither, both?
I respect all and I am a fan of all professional chefs and hope that they all in turn realise the importance of portraying their craft to the general public, by representing all their professional chef colleagues in a positive light.
Thanks to Michael for his interesting thoughts about chefs in the limelight. There’ll be more of Michael’s thoughts coming soon on Not Delia. Meanwhile, for more of Michael’s musings on the industry, why not have a look at his blog?