Talking food with top chef Sandeep Bhagwat from Four Seasons Resort Langkawi
Born in Tanzania, Sandeep Bhagwatwas was appointed Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi in August of last year. An accomplished chef, he brings a fresh gastronomic perspective and innovative approach to the acclaimed luxury resort, focusing on sustainable cuisine to elevate the epicurean experience.
He oversees all of the culinary operations at the resort, including the three distinct restaurants comprising of the signature Malaysian restaurant Ikan-Ikan, Serai featuring Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, the beach restaurant Kelapa Grill, and the ever-popular Rhu Bar.
We sat down with Sandeep and discussed everything from his favourite ingredients to cook with to his signature dish.
Tell us a little bit about yourself career wise?
I started my culinary journey at The Oberoi Hotels & Resorts in various locations in India before moving to The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Geneva and then Shanghai. In Geneva, at the age of 28, during my tenure as Head Chef I secured a coveted Michelin Star and 16/20 points in the Gault Milau guide. I then moved onto Four Seasons Hotel Beijing where I held the position of Executive Sous Chef. I supported the Executive Chef with the extensive culinary operations of the 313-room hotel, six restaurants and lounges, and extensive banquet and catering spaces before joining Four Seasons Resort Langkawi as Executive Chef.
What are the most important elements for you when crafting a menu?
Sustainable local products always feature on my menu. From my extensive travels I have learnt that it is important to keep the basics of any cuisine the same, but the key is to exploit the quality products. Keep it simple!
What/who were/are your main influences for seeking out a career in this renowned tough industry?
Everyone loves food; it is such a versatile subject, interesting and always satiating for any mood you are in. My parents, even though they were vegetarians, made me aware of my local Indian cuisine, often discussing and critiquing the food we had for dinner. I discovered my passion under various culinary tutors and many great chefs I was able to work with during my journey, which fuelled my curiosity to understand more about food. For me, being a cook is so wonderful, as it is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
Seasonal produce is great at every time of year. Citrus fruits in Winter, fresh morel mushrooms, asparagus and fresh berries in Spring, game meat, squashes and field mushrooms in Autumn and, of course, cooking festive treats towards the end of the year.
In Langkawi, I’ve been introduced to even more interesting and flavoursome fresh seafood and a bounty of herbs and spices such as the ginger torch, duan kadok, kesom and raw cocoa beans.
Do you have a signature dish?
Signature dishes are always evolving and thereby change for me.
Currently, however, with the freshest ingredients we serve at Four Seasons Resort Langkawi consist of percik marinated half roasted organic ‘Borneo’ chicken, braised purple kale and black beans, citrus chicken jus.
Chargrilled spiny lobster with ginger torch and pineapple béarnaise, glazed white asparagus-oyster mushrooms, is another notable signature dish.
What is your favourite dish to cook and why?
Any cooking that can be done from scratch to the finished product; whether that is cooking an egg for breakfast or barbecuing.
For example, marinating and grilling is a thrill as it’s very scientific and the settings change every time. So, the basics of the cooking must be well recited and executed, only then is the process melodious.
Currently I take special pride in grilling the lobsters for our guests during the lobster night. This is an experience where a fisherman arrives at our beach to deliver the lobsters, which we later grill. The cooking of fresh lobsters is a delight for every cook who in turn gets to see happy customers in the restaurant!
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
My years of experience and know how is poured into every trademark menu I put to plate every day.