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Hotel chain dishes up authentic local cuisine

By Ye Jun | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-30 07:39

Profile | Christopher Koehler

Gourmets in Beijing enjoyed a feast of some of China's best local specialties on Nov 12 at Hyatt Beijing. Sebastian Wu, executive chef with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, led three hotel executive chefs from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in presenting some typical regional delicacies.

"We have a good reputation for food and beverage in our hotels around the world," says Christopher Koehler, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts vice-president of operations, China. "At the same time, we hope to improve our facilities by seeking feedback from clients - we want to extend that to F&B."

That was the incentive behind the food event, named the Hyatt Connoisseur Program. It was also held in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

According to Koehler, the food event is a good way to bring chefs from different regions together and foster greater communication among the group's 24 hotels in Greater China.

Former executive chef Koehler, from the United States, began his work in China in 1998 as executive assistant manager of F&B at Grand Hyatt Shanghai. He later worked as hotel manager at Grand Hyatt Shanghai, and general manager of Grand Hyatt Beijing. He was appointed to the position of vice-president of operations, China, in August 2011. His current role is to oversee the operations and management of Hyatt Hotels in China, with a focus on people development and owner relationships

"In my role I get to travel to different parts of China and try the food," he says. "I continue to find new cuisines and dishes."

Koehler notices there is a great difference among foods of different Chinese cities. Therefore he thinks it is important for chefs in Hyatt hotels in China to communicate, so that they can learn about local ingredients and cooking styles.

"Foods in different areas are so different ... We are conscious of that and want to be able to offer authentic local foods in the hotel, especially to leisure guests," he says.

Meanwhile, connoisseurship is not just about dishes. He says in Europe, farmers come to a market with organic, boutique and hand-made produce, such as cheese, yoghurt and fruit jam. He would like to see that happen in China. The hotel is coordinating with local farmers to see what they want from them.

Koehler says he has observed some changing trends concerning food in China.

"People are still curious to try Western food. The buffet, where people can try many different things, is still popular. But they have a greater appreciation for their own cuisine," he says.

Moreover, people are more conscious of their health, and therefore eat more healthily, which affects what they choose to eat.

The restaurant business is a great indicator of economy. China's high-end dining field has been greatly affected as the Chinese government issued policies to curb waste and spending on public funds.

"For sure it had an impact. What people order and what we offer has changed as a result," says Koehler. "But there is still a lot of demand for quality produce that is good value for money that the hotel offers."

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has many brand names, but little is known about Andaz, their hotel brand that has opened in Shanghai. But it is already successful in the US. Koehler says they are being quite careful not to just take something from the US and put it here. Instead, they are "taking comments and making changes".

Hotel chain dishes up authentic local cuisine

Christopher Koehler says people have a greater appreciation for their own cuisine. Provided to China Daily

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