It was a rather bright afternoon when we traveled to the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place for a short interview with the hotel’s new Food and Beverage Director, Emmanuel Nelo. We’ve heard so much about him and his dedication to the worldwide Ritz brand, and we were ever so eager to meet the charming gentleman that now heads the famous culinary dynamics of this world-class institution.
Having worked in various Ritz-Carlton hotels in Mexico, Chile, Oman and Aruba, before settling in Jakarta, talking with the man is synonymous with the brand’s corporate identity of the passion to serve, and the more glasses of coffees we had, the more we understand about this young married man whose incredible talent and eye for service, surpass the ability to present the very best.
How did it all start for you?
My family owns restaurant business for as long as I can remember, and my weekends would be helping my parents at their restaurant. And I have been working in the kitchen, witnessing the dynamics since I was very young. I guess that is how it all started for me, my passion grew from being with my family and having to work with them.
So the food industry has always been high on your list and was always your priority?
Well, actually I started out studying and finding out more about the bartending world, and the wine experience. It was really interesting for me to understand about the different sensations that you get from one drink to the next, but yeah, I guess you can say that food and beverage has always been something I am passionate about.
How did it start for you at The Ritz?
This is my fifth Ritz property and I guess I have learned an interesting lot from the brand. It is quite an experience for me, which enables me to travel, to meet different people and to interact with different culture and heritage. I guess that is what is really valuable about the job.
You’ve worked in Chile, Aruba, and Oman, apart from your homeland Mexico, but why not go to Europe or perhaps the States?
I think it’s more to the opportunities, and for me, it really doesn’t matter where, because working with a world-class brand like Ritz, all places are actually quite interesting and there is always something that you can learn from. And I am glad of my portfolio because it varies from resorts to city hotels and that broadens my perspective on service and all things related to the brand and the corporate culture.
Is this your first time in Indonesia?
It’s actually my first time working in Asia, I went to Thailand about 10 years ago, but this is the first time I work in Asia.
Has it lived up to your expectation so far?
I am really impressed with the people, and how everything is so hospitality-oriented. And I find so many similarities between Mexico and Indonesia. Both cultures are very religion-oriented, family-oriented and there is this passion to serve and a hospitable community in the city. And the food culture, believe it or not, are not so very different. Both countries love chilies, have a strong culinary heritage and are very fond of exquisite and unique spices. Of course, there are some downsides like the traffic, but I guess it’s a challenge and I have to make it happen and live happily, so I eliminate that kind of thinking from my mind and keep things on an even keel.
As the new F&B Director, what are your plans for Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place?
I think this hotel already has a culinary tradition that is famous, and for me, it is very important to keep updated and as the city’s trend-setter. I have a very fantastic team, an amazing Executive Chef that is as passionate as I am about the food and beverage industry. And seeing the hospitality industry is at a boom in this city, we realized that it is really important to keep people perception that our hotel is always a step ahead with the finest local and international ingredients.
With so many new restaurants around, people have more choices than they do back in the days, and hotel tends to be expensive, how do you approach this mindset?
It is a heavy weight on my shoulder, but yes, it is true that people’s perception of dining in a hotel is too fancy and expensive. Yes it’s true, we have world-class standards, but it really doesn’t mean that we’re not approachable and that everything has to be on the tip top when you are dining here. I want to expand people’s perception that dining or even chilling at our hotel is not really that expensive, but we want to still maintain the refinements that we have as an institution.
How are you going to approach that?
We are going to have a major renovation on our restaurant, and apart from changes in the menu, I think the ambiance is much more important because we already have a fantastic set of menus that are prepared by the team. But of course, expanding it will also be on the table in the future. And the major contributor to the approach is going to be the renovation. Of course, nothing will be changed from the classic Ritz-Carlton style and colors because it is a huge investment to create a more contemporary product that is not all tense and comfortable for our guests in a very approachable way.
Can you share with us, your relationship with your staffs and the Executive Chef?
We have an amazing culinary team here at the hotel, and not to mention that we also have one of the biggest hotel ballrooms in all of Asia, so I think it’s really important to have staffs that are fully knowledgeable about the dynamics and the culinary heritage that the Ritz-Carlton institution have. And it’s amazing that we all have the same passion to serve, which makes things a lot easier on a day-to-day basis. With the executive chef, it is always amazing because we want the same things for our guests, how to make the best product, and how to decide on what should be served for our guests. Working with him has been quite an experience, and I am really looking forward to more innovative ideas that we, and our team, of course, are going to come up in the future.
Having worked at major Ritz-Carlton institution around the world, how do you see it as a brand, for you personally?
For me, it’s a way of living, and you can probably tell, that my journey has always been at The Ritz, and as a company, we are part of Marriott International, and right now we are the biggest in the world. But I consider myself a testament to the brand’s passionate dedication to its staffs. I started as a banquet supervisor, and I am here right now, so I believe that as long as you believe what you work for, then everything should be just great from then on.
In the hospitality industry, what do you think is the most basic to make it in the industry?
I believe in basics, I believe that with all the innovations, new menus and everything that you presented to your guests, the one thing that still matters is service. How people can remember always to dine at your establishment, I guess it is the most fundamental thing about being in the hospitality industry, and I take it really seriously, because the passion for service has to come from the heart.
The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place
Sudirman Central Business District
Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 52-53
Text & Photos: gs