CHEF Q&A: Thierry Marais, Executive Chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo

Interview with Thierry Marais, Executive Chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo

Q: Please briefly introduce yourself.
I'm a French national. I have always wanted to cook since I was 14. I was fortunate to work at a 3-starred Michelin restaurant, but I've always had the desire to travel around the world. I have always been fascinated to discover different food cultures as they tell me about the history and the roots of the country. This is what excites me throughout my carrier. I have been working for The Ritz-Carlton Hotels for the past 14 years and I've been with The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo since 2014.

Q: What is your job as an executive chef?
A few of my main responsibilities are selecting each chef de cuisine and employees in my culinary team, looking at the concept of each restaurant, making sure that we are true to every concept and relevant to the market and so forth. In the kitchen, the chefs are mainly focusing on the food. My responsibility is to provide a broader vision that focuses more on the future rather than something that is just happening the next day when it comes to their restaurant- how they see their restaurant in 2 years or how do they think it will evolve etc. Another important aspect of my job is to feel responsible for the future when it comes to sustainable produces, not only choosing the best produces available on the market but also knowing where they come from and how they protect the environment for the generation to come.

I don't feel like I "need" to go to work every day, I feel more like going to an environment where I have new exciting things happening all the time - new guests, new experiences, and new ideas. My passion is being able to bring fond memories to our guests. We have so many opportunities to do that when it comes to food and that's why I'm where I am today.

Q: What do you think about Japanese Food?
When I think of Japanese cuisine, I think of tradition, seasonal produces, culture, technique, umami, perfection in the execution, craftsmanship, the connection with the guest in every interaction, and deep respect to guests. I'm still in the learning process of Japanese food, and I'm impressed by everything I see and eat. My biggest discovery was sushi although I have had sushi many times outside of Japan but it is impossible to compare it with the real thing here in Tokyo.

Q: What is Omotenashi to you?
Omotenashi means home to me. I feel like Japanese hospitality treats every guest that comes to their restaurant or hotel like a family. I hope that all guests who come here feel like they are invited to a house. I don’t have a Japanese culture in me, but there's so much I can see. I believe that the Japanese culture, movement, gesture, and the way you greet is very powerful to me as foreigner.

Q: How are you preparing for the Tokyo Olympics?
Today, about 60% of our customers are coming from abroad, therefore we will not see significant changes in offering what we provide to our guests for this very special event. As we discuss it earlier, it is important for these guests who come to Japan for the first time, to instill the sense of place so they want to come back and explore further what Japan have to offer. Since this will be my first time to work in the host city of the Olympics game, I'm just very excited that I would be able to be part of this great event.