Kevin Cape, Executive Chef on the Eastern & Oriental Luxury Train
English-born Kevin Cape, Executive Chef on the Eastern & Oriental luxury train, has varied background in the hospitality industry, one that includes to level training in both European and Asian cuisines. Upon completion of his apprenticeship Cape moved to the Portman Hotel in London, where he worked under the expert guidance of Felix Muntwyler. Following an assignment in America at the Castle Restaurant in Massachusetts he then took up a position at the Connaught Hotel, where he remained for eight years and found his mentor in the legendary Michel Bourdin, the Executive Chef.
At the Connaught he learned the fundamentals of classic French and British cooking and at the age of 27, he was promoted to be the hotel's first British Executive Sous Chef, an honour that attested to his growing skills. He broadened his experience by working in France with number of great chefs and represented Britain as a National Chef in several competitions, among them the Prix Pierre Taittinger in 1984 and the Bocuse d'Or in 1987.
In 1993 Cape became the Executive Chef of the Eastern & Oriental Express when it commenced operations. In the tradition of the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in Europe, this luxury train offers a unique travel experience between Singapore and Bangkok, and it has been Kevin's responsibility to create a cuisine that appeals to a broad range of tastes with occasional surprising and original touches.
A glamorous job, but a job with challenges too…
Q/ Did you ever have a situation where you did forget something - how did you resolve it.
A/ this is a question could take me an hour to reply. A train is completely Different animal. When we are late we have to serve extra food. I always Keep extra, meals on plus. But there has been occasions were I have to have Trucks loaded with food coming down from Bangkok. I have incidents were The train can't get back to Singapore and I have to re-ship all of the items back to Malaysia. This sounds simple but customs in Singapore only basically allow a truck from Malaysia. To go into Singapore and then return back to Malaysia. Unless it is special registered trucks. I have my supplier up all night trying to arrange this. Very costly exercise.
Q/ describe a typical (or sample dinner menu)
Grilled snowfish steak accompanied by
Teppanyaki of vegetables
In peach soya butter
*** Medallion of lamb served with
Indian-style tandoori sausage
In a coriander
Traditional Thai massaman chicken curry
Served with steamed rice
And pickled vegetables
Spring roll of
Jackfruit and Asian fruits
Served with sorbet
Cafe de Colombia
Q/ Does the size of your kitchen dictate the complexity of your menu?
A/ Yeah, obviously you have to be very careful due to the size of the kitchen and also for safety point of view. You have to keep the food and menu simple but interesting.
Q/ how many cooks do you have in your team? Are you the only European? How does you schedule work (how many days on and days off).
A/ I am only the white one in the kitchen that's all I can afford! (Kidding). Actually I am very happy, I've got a team of Malay and Thai chef. I work approx. 3 weeks on and 1 week off. Before everybody says "well what a nice life". But basically I am away for 3 weeks solid and I do a minimum 16 hours a day. Very much hands on.
Q/ what kind of opportunities has your job presented to you (traveling on promotions etc.) Can you tell us about a couple of examples detail?
A/ well since I worked for orient- express, I've not only opened the operation on the train, I also done the opening in Myanmar, where we have a cruise ship. What else what I've done? I open a restaurant in Malaysia; I've done promotions in New York, Boston, 21 clubs, Tokyo, Cape Town South Africa, Finland. And the next promotion is in Peru. All this details are on my website.(www.kevincape.freeservers.com)
Q/ what's the best thing about it.
A/ It is nice to travel to different countries meeting an interesting guests and people.
Q/ What kind of chef would be best suited to your job, what kind of places should they work before hand to build the right resume.
A/ Asian experienced, I would suggest somebody who looked matured, who's able to deal problems and not panic. A job not suited for most. Certainly could not be a hotheaded.
Q/ Who should not apply...
A/ I think somebody just working in a straight restaurant could be difficult.