We’re no strangers to Kuwait’s Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa’s incredible gastronomic offerings and the wonderful people behind them. And with their newest team member, the award winning Executive Chef Serkan Yelkenbasan, we can’t wait to sample his work! Trained under Michelin Star Chefs, Chef Serkan is no stranger to creating mouthwatering dishes with flawless presentation and style. We sat down with him for a quick one-on-one, to get to know the man behind the chef’s whites a little better.
When did your passion for the culinary arts begin, and what inspired you to become a chef?
My inspiration was my grandfather. He owned a small restaurant and I was always fascinated by his passion for food, so I started to work in his restaurant by preparing Turkish meatballs (Kofte) when I was 9-years-old.
Where were you based before coming to Kuwait?
Two years in the United Arab Emirates (Sharjah, Dubai) and 12 years in London.
From living and working in the UK as well as the Emirates, can you share with us some of your favorite experiences?
I had the pleasure of cooking for Prince Charles at the History Museum in London. Also, one of my highlights was joining the opening of the first 5-star hotel and first Starwood property in Sharjah where I had the opportunity to cook for the Ruler of Sharjah at various events.
As the Executive Chef at Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa, what are your current responsibilities?
My ultimate goal is to maintain the high standards of food quality in all the dining outlets at the resort. I also plan and direct the culinary activities according to the guests’ profiles in order to exceed their expectations and meet the business demands. Currently, I lead a team of 150 colleagues in culinary and oversee all the Food & Beverage activities for the hotel’s seven restaurants, lounges and cafés. With the support of my team, I lead large number of banqueting operations consisting of up to 2500 guests. While maintaining a strong leadership, it’s my responsibility to make sure the culinary department exceeds the financial and operational targets. In doing so, I create various menus through staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the culinary world to enhance our menus and provide our guests with unique and memorable experiences.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your vision for the various dining outlets at the Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa?
Jumeirah Restaurants are renowned for their great quality of food and creative cuisine, but most of all for choice. From casual family-friendly dining and signature restaurants, to relaxing lounges and cafés, we offer an unmatched array of unique Food & Beverage outlets with a unique approach to service. Therefore, we believe in the concept that each and every guest deserves a personalized gastronomic experience at every visit.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is when the result of hard work and preparation translates into smiles on our guests’ faces while they enjoy their dining experiences with us. I also take great pride in working with my team, their passion and positive energy is very rewarding.
In your mind, what is a must-try culinary experience that our readers would enjoy at Jumeirah?
Our award winning restaurants offer many options that satisfy the tastes of all our guests. Personally, I recommend the popular themed nights in our all-day dining restaurant Garden Café. Each month, we introduce a themed night. Currently, we have Turkish Nights every Monday, Southern American Barbeque Nights every Wednesday and Indian Nights every Thursday. We are very diverse in our culinary offerings and there are always exciting cuisines to try out.
Working with an extensive team that includes fellow chefs and staff can be challenging. How do you keep your team at Jumeirah motivated?
I have a team of 150 colleagues coming from different nationalities and speaking various languages, however kitchen language is universal. We work as a team and act as a team so we motivate each other by continuously researching new ideas that also challenge us to be the best at what we do.
Name three ingredients you couldn’t live without in the kitchen.
Passion, attention to detail and teamwork.
What do you think are some of the most prominent food trends this year?
Small corner restaurants that offer genuine and simple food. Food trucks are popular and high quality fast food options are increasing in their popularity.
Do you have any special offers for Mother’s Day?
This year, we offer mothers complimentary meals for each table of four persons and above when they book in any of our restaurants on March 21st.
What do you think of living in Kuwait so far? Have you sampled the local cuisine?
I enjoy living and working in Kuwait. I managed a Kuwaiti fine-dining restaurant during my stay in Dubai so I am familiar with the cuisine and love the local food.
The Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa is located between Al Ta’awon Street and the Fahaheel Expressway in Al Messilah. For more information or reservations, please call 2226 9600. Follow the resort on Facebook: JumeirahMessilahBeach, Twitter @JumeirahMB and Instagram @JumeirahMessilahBeach for the latest updates.