Chef's Talk

Chef David Hartwig

top-25-restaurants-chefs-talk-to-david-hartwig-chef-at-igniv-restaurant-bangkokSwiss-born David Hartwig, Head Chef at IGNIV Bangkok, was handpicked by IGNIV´s founding chef Andreas Caminada to bring the concept's unique joie de vivre to diners in Bangkok. His vision is to make a restaurant the place where guests can relax, connect, and enjoy and spend quality time with their loved ones, as well as to be a workplace where we are proud of being part of a team and share joyful moments and creativity together.

Prior to Chef Andreas's 3-Michelin-starred restaurant Schloss Schauenstein in Switzerland, D worked in the kitchens of other highly acclaimed restaurants including Maaemo (Oslo, Norway), The NoMad Hotel (New York, USA), Wallsé (New York, USA) and Hotel Paradies (Ftan, Switzerland).

Was your decision to become a chef conscious or did you fall into it?

At that time, I did not have a goal to become a chef, but this path was influenced by how I grew up. The decision to work in the restaurant industry began with the idea that whatever it will be it should be far away from sitting on a desk, learning, or working on a computer. I liked to eat, and my best friend that time with whom I spent a lot of time came from a hotelier family. That’s why I choose cooking. Another great influential person in my life is my grandmother who is an excellent cook. I enjoyed being with her in the kitchen every time I was there rather than discussing other matters on the table.

It is very interesting to see that even in the families, people can get along well when they are together in the kitchen, regardless of how much they like or dislike each other. I firstly started in a big hotel kitchen with all German chefs. It was a completely new environment for me as I came from a totally different academic family. I could not understand and didn’t like the harsh tone, so I moved after 2 months to a smaller family whose their hotel restaurant allowed me to learn in a controlled environment with freedom. I am very lucky to have had such good mentors and respectful people around me.

What are some emerging food trends that you're noticing?

I don’t personally follow any food trend as we are all somehow influenced by product availability. However, I truly hope that the wave of conscious eating becomes more important in ppls life and maybe even becomes normal at some point. It is quite scary to hear that people in general or even my friends have no clue on how they eat, why they eat and for what purpose. Referring to this point, Thailand is slightly behind this trend comparing to the west, yet we have seen more varieties of all the trends from overseas (Plant Based, Juices, healthy bowls, Salad bars). The fined dining Scene I don’t see as trend setting apart from the Thai Chefs since its there home base.

What are the emerging ingredients that you're using a lot these days?

The Product availability is quite limited and boring in Thailand. The Law regulates and controls what is allowed to be shipped to Thailand. On the other hand, you are not allowed to import any seeds you want. The seeds you’re allowed to use and import as a farmer is regulated by the Government. Meaning everyone has access to the same when it comes to farming and growing. The difference and interesting part are wild products but the challenge there is not many ppl see value in their own country old hidden forgotten gems and consistency of supply is not there. I have seen so many amazing products which I would have loved to work with but then there is no supply for it.

What would you cook at home if we were just making a laid-back dinner?

Probably a fresh salad with steak or chicken.

What's the difference between running a restaurant in Switzerland and running one in Bangkok?

I find in terms of the actual set up and systems also in terms of food there is no difference. The only real difference you have different customers here than in Switzerland obviously and also the work environment in terms of the employees is a different way of leading and communicating with the Team. Everything else is the Same I would assume.

Do you source as much local produce as possible for the restaurant or does it have a big impact on your menu?

We have a rule if we can find the product from Thailand and it is better or the same quality we will buy it from Thailand even if the price is higher. If the Local produced product is not better we will import it. Of course the surrounding and locality always has an impact also the products have an impact.

How is people's relationship with food different between Switzerland and Thailand?

I feel that the difference of people’s relationship with food in my hometown comparing to Thailand is the general knowledge about food itself. In Europe, food is not easily available and accessible on the streets throughout a day which causes people to cook more at home. Perhaps they go to a restaurant once to 3 times a week max, subject to their financial situation. In Thailand, it is common and convenient to buy food on the street or eat in a restaurant which leads me to understand that people are less aware of cooking and appreciate products and their value. I always find that it is amazing when our guests complement how good the Caviar or the Uni is.

Is there one dish that sums up your style?

Sea Bream with Tomatillo Sauce and Citrus represent everything I like in a dish. A clean bold recognizable flavor but unclear how to explain exactly where that flavor comes from, together with a crunchy and soft texture, as well as a salty acidic note and an inch of Spice.

But you change your menu every three months.

Yes we always change every dish every three months which not many restaurants do. We try to stay true to our core taste profile which derived from seasonal products. We also keep and move certain sauces, vinaigrettes and signature dishes on the a la carte menu.

Will any of the dishes you discovered recently making it to your menu?

We try to explore one dish per week to ensure that we keep creating something interesting to our guests.

Do you try out dishes with your family or friends or how do you try when you have an idea for a new dish?

I write it down and discuss with my team, and then we help each other develop it together. I do believe that co-creation can enhance the team to progress better and faster. The younger you are exposed to think about how to create a dish, the easier you will improve it in the future.

What do you think are the most important qualities of a young chef?

Attitude and mentality is everything. The willingness to do more for the same or less reward will make you stand out from the crowd. Hard work and skill are the key to a healthy growth in any kitchen in the world I believe. Skills are teachable, but attitude is mindset.

What do you think of chefs like Gordon Ramsay who have taken haute cuisine to the masses?

I have never met Gordon Ramsay and don’t know him personally. Yet, I appreciate and highly respect him to create a huge impact on fine dining and put the spotlight on chefs like never before. I think he is a pioneer for that.

What is The one cooking tool that the chef should not be without?

Your brain. Most people would probably say a knife but a brainless person with a knife is a tragedy.

What the best advice you have ever been given. When you started or later in your career?

I deeply admire James Kent, a chef whom I worked for as a human and a great leader. He said “Do the right thing when no one is watching you.” which I think it’s a beautiful way to live our life with integrity.

Your favourite holiday destinations. In Thailand, in Switzerland, New York and wherever in the world?

A holiday destination with my family would be probably Turkey near Izmir or Rome, whereas a trip for myself would be Hua Hin. I love to drive there, go for long runs on the beach, play golf and just relax.

Your preferred hotel or resort for a quiet holiday?

I prefer hotels in good locations more than resorts because I like to be busy and have things around me.

What’s next for you(plans, dreams…)

I had never planned to move to Thailand and Asia. This opportunity arrived with a very unhappy situation. However, it has completely turned out to be a great decision which has fulfilled my first career goal and dream. It is impossible to say where I will really end up, but my dream is to do something with a meaningful purpose and to be useful for the future.