Chef of the Week: Stefan Hogan, Executive Head Chef at Corinthia Palace, Malta
We’re excited to introduce you to Chef Stefan Hogan of Corinthia Palace, Malta.
In a world where many call workplace loyalty dead, Stefan Hogan is like a breath of fresh air. Stefan has been with Corinthia since 1993, which adds up to 27 years.
He is testimony to the fact that you can build a fantastic and fulfilling career without the usual job hopping. And perhaps this stability, and sense of community that comes with it, is the basis of his devotion to the use of local produce and support for local farmers and fishermen.
That’s a fantastic thing to do – it’s a staple of sustainable gastronomy and it’s something that more chefs need to adhere to.
1. What inspired you to be a chef?
Always loved baking from the age of nine, plus my grandmother ran a bar that served hearty snacks and she fed med fried rabbits liver and eggs with chunks of butter and local bread. It was therefore only natural to follow the path into the kitchen.
2. Where did you train to cook?
I trained at the Maltese catering school it is now known as The Institute for Tourism Studies (locally referred to as I.T.S)
3. Tell us about your work at the Corinthia? What is the concept and what was the inspiration for this season’s menu?
My personal ethos is that the most important thing is that food tastes great and leaves an impression. Where possible ingredients must be local and in season, as a chef you should be researching and thinking out the cooking/pairing process. We should look at ways to highlight the natural flavours and how ingredients can complement each other.
I love to actively search out small cottage industries to see how I can incorporate their produce into my menus as I want to showcase artisanal produce and I feel a moral obligation to champion the work and dedication that goes into the ingredients they produce.
4. What’s the most popular item on the menu?
As an island blessed to be surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea fresh local fish is an absolute must and the variety lends itself to the creation of such a variety of dishes from a tuna tartar to an octopus stew.
5. Tell us a bit about Maltese cuisine? What makes it special and what are the top Maltese dishes we absolutely need to try out?
Our cuisine is very much born from the history of an island state that was a crossroad between Africa and Europe, with dishes that are influenced by British, French, Italian, North African and pan European.
Our national dishes tend to be humble and make the most of what the land and sea has to offer, more often than not it is a one pot meal to make sure and meat or poultry is stretched to feed large families.
6. What do you regard as the quintessential Maltese ingredients and dish?
For me it has to be the pumpkin, it is seen everywhere on old style farmhouses stacked on the roofs, to me it just shouts Malta.
Also as a chef I find the pumpkin to be such a versatile ingredient from soups, stews, savoury pies, chutneys, jams and desserts.
7. What’s your favourite place in Malta?
I am absolutely in love with our co-cathedral in Valletta, Malta’s capital city. The art, stonework, floors and religious artefacts are breath-taking and every time you visit it has the ability to give up a new secret.
When you come to Malta, a visit to St John’s co cathedral, that is dedicated to St John the Baptist, is a must.
8. Do you have a signature dish or a favourite dish that you are using as a chef?
I love making risotto, using seasonal produce – I just find that a risotto can say so much about a chef as it requires constant attention, timing and a feel for the dish.
In summer, I have a tomato risotto that is made using the clear tomato juice so it is fragrant with the flavour of fresh tomatoes but is visually interesting as the presented dish is a white coloured risotto so when you taste there is an element of surprise.
9. What are the most unusual ingredients that you are using as a chef?
We are very keen to embrace the vegan approach, so we are often looking at how to make dishes on the menu using seitan.
I strongly believe that we have a moral obligation to present vegan dishes that are equally appealing visually and from a taste perspective as a meat or fish centric plate.
10. You are known for using local produce to create fantastic dishes. Why is that important to you and why do you think that using local products is not embraced by more chefs?
We have a duty to protect heritage produce, the fisherman and farmers are dependant on us to champion their produce.
A plate of food made using ingredients that are hours old as opposed to days old will always taste better and will give you the opportunity to experience culture through the medium of food.Chef Stefan Hogan
11. You have served as a judge at the Young Chef Olympiad. What traits should a young chef have in order to have a successful culinary career?
Commitment, discipline and curiosity.
12. Please provide a tip for home cooks that could help them improve their cooking?
Always cook food you enjoy cooking, don’t cook something that your heart is not into. As you cook, taste, and adjust seasoning as you go along, the greatest mistake is when you try to season the food at the end of the cooking process.Chef Stefan Hogan