Executive Chef Hisham Jaafar has just taken over as head of Malaysia’s largest commercial kitchen at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Here he shares how he leads and inspires his team to create innovative and memorable dining experiences.

Executive Chef Hisham Jaafar brings with him more than 26 years of banqueting experience in 5-star hotels and convention centres, 10 years of which have been as the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre’s Executive Sous Chef.

“On a daily basis, I am in charge of Malaysia’s largest commercial kitchen of 3,157 sqm and responsible for overseeing our culinary brigade of 50 chefs and over 130 kitchen hands. I also guide the team in creating innovative menus that cater to the needs and dietary requirements of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic delegates and visitors,” says Chef Hisham.

“My main goal is to further develop and inspire our worldclass chefs and kitchen personnel so that we continue to ‘push the envelope’ in creating innovative and memorable dining experiences.” His emphasis is on local fresh ingredients to ensure the freshness, flavour and quality of the food, and be as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as possible.

Managing his team
On managing his team, he prefers to give them clear directions and let them run with it, yet be ready to offer guidance and expertise when required. He ensures he is always on top on things so that he knows when his team needs help.“I don’t wait to be called upon for my daily reports, I go and get them, which means plenty of informal check-ins.

“I have been working with the Centre’s team of talented chefs for over 10 years now, so we are very familiar with each other, like a family. We do a lot of R&D as a team. For me, it is not about teaching, it is about sharing knowledge and experience with my team daily.”

Keeping up with food trends
“With global food trends and people’s palates constantly evolving, an essential part of being a chef is learning to adapt to new trends. You need to create something new that doesn’t stray too far from the original concept or dish, yet elevates it. For me, Chef Jason Atherton says it best with: Never let a trend interfere with your food, let it enhance it.

I monitor food trends closely, especially those that we can adapt to our products and offerings.Whether it is a trend that applies to an intimate gathering for 10 people or a banquet for thousands, we are always looking for unique ways to create innovative and memorable dining experiences for our delegates and visitors.

R&D focus
Working in a kitchen that focuses on research and development (R&D) and ‘pushing the envelope’ in creating innovative and memorable dining experiences has definitely helped me develop my skills.

Advice to young chefs

  1. A good work ethic and attitude are everything. Step outside your comfort zone and let your creativity and passion for food shine through.
  2. Learn up the basics and try to soak up as much knowledge as possible during your culinary journey.
  3. Employ humility and perseverance in everything you do.