CHEF Q&A: Thomas Jakobi, Executive Chef of Hilton Tokyo

Interview with Thomas Jakobi, Executive Chef of Hilton Tokyo

Q: Please briefly introduce yourself.
I was born in Germany. The culture of food & hospitality is in my blood. My father was a wine producer and my mother worked in the hotel industry. I have been working in 5-star luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants in Asia, Europe, and Middle East, doing rebranding, opening and putting new concepts in place. Before coming to Japan 9 months ago, I was working for the Okura Prestige in Bangkok. I joined Hilton Tokyo after working for the Conrad Hotel in Manila.

Q: What is your job as an executive chef?
I have over 160 chefs here in the kitchen. My job is to have an eye on all of our restaurants, to bring the team from different cultures together, to support my chefs in any way they need me. To create menu, to cook, to train them, and of course to take care of the financial aspects behind it all. There is a lot more I need to do as an executive chef.

What I find fascinating about my chefs in the kitchen in Japan is that every single one is specialized in a field taking it to perfection – even if it takes years. What I love about my job in the past and now is that I can experience different foods and learn how they are created. This expands my own knowledge and helps create new unique dishes.

Q: How are you preparing for the Tokyo Olympics?
Tokyo Olympics is a huge upcoming event. Preparations are on the way for room bookings, etc. As we serve international guests, we are already preparing ourselves for the Olympics. Special food requests like vegan, gluten free, halal, are not unusual nowadays and they are requested daily. Vegetarian dishes are mandatory on each of our menus, as well as gluten free dishes which are available at our Breakfast Buffet. As we change the menus every two months, we improve and incorporate more and more of these kinds of food.

Of course in the back of my mind I am already thinking about special menus and dishes that we could offer during the season to make our guest feel the vibes of the Olympics, no matter where they are from, local or visiting.

Q: What do you think about Japanese food?
I love Japanese food and ingredients – how it goes with the season, its perfection and details for making sushi, creative kaiseki, menus, and the skillfulness of chefs at the teppan, etc. In the past, I learned a bit about the Japanese cuisine and incorporated it into my dishes. Here in Japan, I can broaden my horizon, learning more on how different the ingredients can be. Food is art & culture and here I find they really put it to the point. Art and culture are reflected in each single dish.

Q: What is Omotenashi to you?
The Vision of The Hilton is to fill the earth with light and warmth of hospitality. We are a business serving people, and our Team Members extend their passion for hospitality beyond our hotel walls every day.

When I was studying the word omotenashi and its meaning, I was surprised to see a specific word to explain the Japanese hospitality. It comes from the heart, and it starts from how you greet the customer and continues with the small details to anticipate and fulfilling people's needs in advance. Making them feel welcome, feeling right at home.

Q: Please tell us about your future goals.
To continue experiencing different cultures and their food. To expand my horizon and my cooking. If it would be up to me, I would love to continue staying in Asia. I am still full of energy and curiosity to continue staying close to the kitchen.