When German-born Uwe Opocensky arrived as a stagiaire at elBulli, he had already worked for years in the industry, including a stint as Executive Chef at the Shangri La hotel in Kuala Lumpur (“My wife wasn’t so pleased when I told her we had to pack up everything and move for six months,” he recalls. “For no pay.”) After his stage, he continued to work in some of Asia’s top hotel restaurants. Currently, he is Executive Chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, which got its first Michelin star in 2009.
You arrived at elBulli with quite a lot of experience. Was it hard to adjust to being a lowly stagiaire?
The first few weeks were frustrating because they didn’t realize that I knew what I was doing. But one day, Ferran brought in a banana blossom and started asking around if anyone knew what to do with it. That plant is commonly used in Asian cuisine, so I spoke up, and he realized that I wasn’t someone who knew nothing. My stage changed from that day on.
I got to be creativity assistant for a month, so I got to work with Ferran and had the chance to try and understand his thought process. Then they moved me around to all the stations, so I got to try everything. And I helped translate his German cookbooks into English. I was really lucky. Read the rest of this entry »