Earlier this year, Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai welcomed Stephane Puverel as the new Executive Chef for the entire hotel, spanning tasting and/or a la carte menus at six restaurants, in-room dining, plus event catering.
A lofty task.
Yet, with years of cooking experience, a resume chalk-full of global roles, and a calm, cool, and collected approach, Stephane has embraced the new role with open arms, and many new ideas.
We sat down with the Frenchman to learn more about his background, pedigree, worldly accolades, and his plans for the future.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
When I realized that it would allow me to see the world.
I have always been attracted to cooking, spending countless hours in the kitchen with my grandmothers as a kid, but not thinking of it as a profession.
Once I understood that French gastronomy itself is a way of life, with brilliant intangible cultural heritage, the decision was an easy one to make.
How did you get started in restaurants?
After graduating from high school, I went to hotel school for four years, where we were trained in service and kitchen work. We would also do casual work on the weekends and spend our summers doing internships.
These exposures allowed me to hone my skills and be exposed to the real life of a kitchen, helping me decide which segments of my sector I wanted to focus on.
Luxury hotels were what I was attracted to, so that was the path I ultimately chose after graduating.
It has led you to working everywhere from Monaco to New Orleans, Taipei to Tokyo, South Africa to Shanghai. Tell us what it like to explore so many culinary hotspots?
I have always been interested in and attracted to what is different from what I know; as a kid, I was fascinated by history and foreign cultures of places that were still – at that time – far away from my homeland.
I enjoy it a lot because it allows me to expand my skill set by learning different techniques, while also discovering different flavors, products, spices, and culturally relevant foods and dishes.
At the same time, this has also opened my mind by putting me in contact with cultures and people with whom I have very little in common.
What has been the most exciting thing about heading up the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai team?
Being able to work with talented and creative professionals who all have the same goal, which is to consistently challenge ourselves to be better and exceed our guests' expectations.
What new menu changes we see now that you are on board? What are the themes of the new menus?
The theme is always seasonal, allowing us to use products at their peak of quality throughout the year.
We have started refreshing some of our menus. The Fifty 8° Grill new brunch menu was launched in July; Qi Bar snacks followed in September; and new Zest & In Room Dining a la carte menu will come after that.
Our Zest dinner buffet was re-launched in June, running from Thursday to Sunday. We will continue to partner with luxury brands for our afternoon tea in Riviera Lounge until the end of the year.
In October, we will also offer Champagne packages at Riviera Lounge’s outdoor terrace with imported oysters, and in November with caviar.
Our Yong Yi Ting Chinese restaurant will be relaunched in November with a new selection as well.
When changing menus, it is important to firstly understand what items our guests come to us for, and refresh the presentation without impacting the flavors.
The changes are mainly made by incorporating more seasonal products and removing or adjusting dishes that are not seasonal, while still reflecting the identity of the venue and the philosophy of the chef.
What dishes on the new menus are you most excited about?
Too many to list! On every menu, we have our own personal favorites.
At Fifty 8° Grill's weekend brunch, the Clams Papillotes, Burrata with Yellow Watermelon, and Poached Egg on Bagel with Beet-cured Salmon are must-tries.
On the a la carte menu at Fifty 8° Grill, never miss the Grilled Tiger Prawns with Creamy Polenta, Tomato, and Olive Compote.
At Qi Bar, I recommend Roast Duck and Hoisin Sauce Tacos.
As for our seasonal menus, in October, we will be offering imported oysters from France (Brittany & Marennes), Irish Kelly, and New Zealand Marlborough at Fifty 8° Grill.
In November, we will have truffles available, which can be purchased by the gram or enjoyed on our tasting menu.
[All images courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai]