The Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort has Guven Uyanik as Executive Chef. And he has already enjoyed some high-end international experience. Before joining Outrigger, Chef Uyanik worked in several countries including the UK and Hong Kong. He heads a team which has already carved a reputation for presenting fine food.
This attractive hotel complex boasts a number of restaurants to suit every taste. The Plantation Club offers fine dining in a relaxed colonial setting. Mercado is the main restaurant and its buffet-style service and wide choice of dishes appeals to families as well as those who want to take advantage of the world-wide cuisines. Edgewater is, as the name suggests, on the beach and by the pool. Here casual plates and seafood are available and there are al fresco evenings of food and live entertainment. Executive Chef Guven Uyanik is at the helm and overseeing all of these diverse eateries.
I first met Guven when he and his able chefs gave me a Mauritian cooking lesson. He has dual Turkish and Canadian nationality but has enthusiastically embraced the rich food culture of this lush and beautiful tropical island. He is a tall man with a ready smile and is in constant praise of his staff.
Did you always want to be a chef?
‘I decided after I left school. I was going to go to university, intending to be a chemical engineer. But I used to go into a restaurant kitchen from time to time, and I found that I liked the environment. I almost gave my parents a heart attack, but they understood and supported my decision to become a chef. I took a short diploma course but did not go to a catering college as I didn’t have the finance to do that. I’m a firm believer in education, but that doesn’t have to be in a classroom – you learn equally in the pressured environment of a working kitchen, and you learn also about maintaining your standards.
‘I went to England and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants under Gordon Ramsay and learned everything I could from him. From there I went to the USA, Bermuda, Canada, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.’
Was it a culture shock moving to Mauritius?
‘Yes, it was a shock, but I had to keep it to myself because my wife was feeling it even more, so I needed to keep things ‘focused’! But we love it here, the lifestyle, and most importantly I love the team – they are so supportive. You have to have that kind of relationship with them. I make sure that they have all the equipment, ingredients, plateware they need – which can be quite challenging on an island like this – and I support the team. No chef can succeed on his own, and thanks to the staff our guest satisfaction continues to grow.
‘Here, I want to be myself, to create my own thing, not to follow just one kind of cuisine. I have seen too many copycats following a trend, and within five years its popularity has faded. Here in the Plantation Club, whatever you see is a creation of this hotel. It’s fine food, but not intimidating. Maybe one or two percent of the population go to the restaurants depicted in the glossy magazines – does that mean that the food of the other 98 percent is not worthy? So I’m proud to be able to take street food like a Mauritian tomato chutney with a Mozzarella samosa, and serve that with a butter-poached lobster and daikon radish. On my first day I saw a whole venison being delivered to the kitchen, something I had not seen in a long time. We make our own puff pastry in-house, rather than using frozen (unlike certain other 5-star hotels), because I believe there is a real difference in taste and texture.’
Where do you like to go to eat?
‘I like to go to local Mauritian restaurants, as well as Chinese, African, Japanese restaurants, to see something different. Japanese cuisine is very sophisticated in a simple way – no cover-up, nothing hidden. I spent some time on stage in Japan, and I saw that to make good sashimi, you have to freeze the core of the fish down to a certain temperature. It matters how you catch the fish, slaughter it, age it, cut it, handle it. Ramen is one of my favourite things in Japan – I’ve studied noodles, spent a lot of time eating them! In our next menu in the Plantation Club we will include more Japanese touches – miso, yuzu, sake, for example.
‘This has been one of the most memorable jobs for me. Taking a plane to Mauritius from Hong Kong was like stepping back in time. I knew from day one that I had made a fantastic choice. It was nice to see blue sky, which I did not see very often in Shanghai and Hong Kong. My eyes took a while to adjust to the bright colours!’
Executive Chef Guven Uyanik beams with contentment as he talks about his chefs and culinary plans for the future. He evidently runs a tight ship and the quality of food in all the restaurants attests to that. But here is a man who is dedicated to advancing food at Outrigger Mauritius and introducing the world to traditional Mauritian fare, contemporary dishes, and menus made with passion.
Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort
Phone: +230 623 5000
Fax: +230 623 5001