It’s difficult to speak with Chef Benjamin Hötter without getting caught up in his enthusiasm, and these days, he has a lot to be excited about. In December, the Dusseldorf native will take on a promotion from Executive Sous Chef at Hyatt on the Bund to Executive Chef at the Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai. We sat down to discuss his professional journey and take a peek into the future of the Andaz culinary program.
When did you begin cooking?
Well, I began in hospitality after finishing school at age 16. In Germany, we have a dual system where you work and study at the same time, and I trained at a hotel specialist program. Cooking was part of the course, and I loved it. I went on to work in Cologne, which has a famous culinary community, before returning home to work at InterContinental Königsallee. Afterwards, I took a job at Hyatt Regency Cologne and I eventually transferred to Dubai.
How has living in Dubai and China influenced you as a chef?
You need to be much more flexible in an international market. Most importantly, you need to be a good manager to employees from different cultures unaccustomed to a German style of management. In Germany, we have no plan B or plan C. You go with plan A, and make it happen. As for my food, the backbone is French, but I love German food, too. I like to show people that food from my country is more than just pork knuckles and sausages.
Image courtesy Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai
What Dusseldorf specialties have you served in Shanghai?
My beef roulade was extremely popular at VUE Restaurant. I wanted to share the story of my grandmother’s recipe, and people went crazy for it. I took more family recipes and fine-tuned them for fine dining, such as sour braised beef and cod with mustard.
Which of the Andaz dining venues will see the most change?
To be honest, I would say all. I need to take some time to investigate, but the goal is to build on the existing quality while creating a sense of culinary adventure. One way to accomplish this is by letting the guests see us at work.
"We seek the elevation of familiar flavors by using secret recipes and premium ingredients."
Why should non in-house guests dine at the Andaz?
I will be the first non-Chinese Executive Chef at Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai, so this is a good opportunity to attract new customers. In fact, this should be easy if the Andaz concept is executed properly. We seek the elevation of familiar flavors by using secret recipes and premium ingredients. Think transformed barbecue skewers or pork mooncakes.
Any other exciting news for the hotel?
We will open a new rum bar named Sugarcane, and I will create the food menu for this concept. We are working on the Japanese restaurant as well, and changing the menus in the Lobby Lounge to include some famous local dishes plus international food options to serve the needs of everyone. Hotels need to provide lots of cuisine choices for everyone, but they must all be authentic. That’s why hotels are so exciting, and why I want to work at the Andaz.
Is this your first time working at an Andaz?
Yes, I’ve worked at almost every other Hyatt concept, but I think I’m a good fit the brand. Andaz has great service but we are more casual – guests are a part of the family the minute they enter the hotel. As a guest, I prefer this kind of hotel.
[Cover photo courtesy Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai]
See listing for Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai here.