The Dorchester Collection’s iconic London hotel, The Dorchester, has just appointed its first executive chef in over two decades, only the eighth ever in the hotel’s 88-year history. Taking over from Henri Brosi, Stefan Trepp will be leading a new era in the hotel’s gastronomic history, and will oversee a brigade of more than 100 chefs within The Dorchester’s six kitchens serving: The Grill, The Promenade, The Bar, coffee shop Parcafé, private dining and events, in-room dining and The Spatisserie at The Dorchester Spa.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s leading hotel executive chefs, chef Trepp has led kitchens at five-star hotels throughout Europe and Asia, most recently in executive chef roles at Banyan Tree Resort Phuket, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi and Kempinski hotels, including the flagship property in the United Arab Emirates. Amongst his prestigious accolades, Stefan was named "Schweizer Star Im Ausland" (Swiss Star Abroad) 2015 by the prestigious Swiss Gault & Millau restaurant guide. London correspondent Emily Goldfischer, had a tour of The Dorchester’s vast kitchens and chat with chef Trepp about his new role.
What brought you to The Dorchester?
When I was an apprentice some 20 years ago, I made a list of my “dream hotels” to work at and The Dorchester was on there, as former executive chef Anton Mosimann, who is also Swiss, was a role model to me and a big influence on my career. Of course, I never imagined that I would be the executive chef, too! The dream was just to work at The Dorchester one day…so, even though I was very happy in Asia, where I’ve been working for the last decade, when this opportunity came up, I had to go for it.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
It is a great honor to be with such an esteemed alumni of great executive chefs, including: Jean Baptiste Virlogeux, who launched the hotel’s Chef’s Table in the 1940s; my hero Anton Mosimann; and, now, to follow the footsteps of Henry Brosi, who held the position for over 20 years. I am enjoying the challenge to make my mark at the helm of The Dorchester, using my experiences running large hotel kitchens in the Middle East and Asia, and to build my team here. But, I am a chef and my first passion is cooking, so I am most excited about doing Chef's Table experiences for our guests and community.
What are your plans for the new Chef's Table Experiences?
We have this amazing Chef's Table, as you can see, just here in the middle of our busiest kitchen. So, that in itself, is a fun experience for guests! Once things settle down for me—I’m still very busy building my team and learning my way around—I plan to do Chef’s Tables three to four nights a week starting in September, where I will prepare and serve in this intimate environment. I did a test last night with 12 guests and had prepared eight courses. I like to focus on the ingredients, local and seasonal, for example: I had prepared a course using elderflower, offering three ways to experience it, and the guests were delighted; or combining ingredients in unexpected ways, like chocolate and foie gras. I also created a course that combined scallops with cauliflower, truffle and almonds; or taking something you’d think of as simple, like a Summer Pudding, which is a traditional English dessert, but I intensified it by soaking the bread in a berry reduction, and filling with a berry compote. Little surprises like that are what make cooking fun and enjoyable for our guests.
What will you be focusing on overall?
Sustainability. This is a challenge at luxury hotels as guests have expectations that certain products are on the menu year-round, even if they are not in season. For example, ideally we would only have berries in summer when they are plentiful in England, but it would be expected at a hotel the caliber of The Dorchester to always offer fresh berries. So, I am looking at innovative ways to source produce and further minimize and avoid waste. We’ve already changed some products: The hotel used to get yogurt from Europe, now we use a local supplier from Kent. We actually already have very little waste here, as there are no buffets except breakfast; everything is made to order, so this helps reduce waste. Plus, I am Swiss, so I'm very careful with my ordering and inventory!
What trends do you see coming in the food world?
Chefs seem to be backing away from the molecular gastronomy popularized by Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria—things like foams, spheres, etc.—and more towards a focus on using hand-crafted, artisan products, and embracing head-to-tail eating, reducing waste by being creative with using all parts of the animal or vegetables.
Are you happy to be living in London?
Yes! London is an amazing city and I am thrilled to have moved here with my wife and young daughter, who is not even a year old yet. We love the parks and having green space. It is also an incredible food city and I love checking out the food markets. I recently spent a morning at Borough Market, and loved that there was a vendor selling asparagus with clarified butter for £6, and he had a line around the block! Of course I had to try it, so I waited, too, and it was delicious. I love simple ingredients prepared perfectly!