Yes, Chef! Dennis Peralta on Being Corporate Exec Chef, HRCAP President
December 12, 2023
Asia is one food-crazy continent! We take great care to pick restaurants based on culinary vibes, rankings on international gourmand guides, mentions in magazines, Instagrammability, and added hunger. Yes, Chef! features the region’s chefs’ stories of love and labour in kitchens that have made some of our restaurants the next big thing in Asia.
Starting out as an ordinary young boy with a natural flair for cooking, Chef Dennis Peralta, fondly known as Chef DP, draws inspiration from his family deeply involved in the culinary business. The Peralta family is a proud owner of a school canteen and takes part in food catering services once in a while. Growing up around sizzling pans and aromatic spices fueled Chef DP’s culinary fervor.
In his current role, Chef DP has donned the hat of corporate executive chef at the Jeddah-based Althawaq International Company. Overseeing four restaurants sprawled across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — Riyadh and Jeddah — he was able to earn himself a slew of prestigious awards.
He comprehensively manages kitchen operations, encompassing budgeting, food cost analysis, research and development, menu conceptualization, kitchen staff training, standardization, and adherence to Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) protocols.
Considering his strong professional background and feast of accomplishments in the food and beverage industry, Chef DP has been the president of the Hotel And Restaurant Chefs' Association of the Philippines (HRCAP) since November 2017. This multifaceted role underscores his influence and expertise within the culinary community.
The Beat Asia had the privilege to interview the acclaimed chef, delving into his extensive culinary journey and experiences serving as president of HRCAP.
As a corporate executive chef, you've likely managed kitchen teams. How do you approach leadership and team development to ensure a cohesive and high-performing kitchen staff?
I would like to emphasize the importance of camaraderie. It’s crucial to always [be] part of your kitchen team to foster a collaborative environment, establish effective communication, clarify each role, avoid micromanagement, and make sure to reward excellent teamwork.
Serving as HRCAP's president is a remarkable achievement. Could you share the story behind this role and discuss the impact you've had on Filipino cuisine?
Since then, I have been a fan of the HRCAP group. I pushed myself to be part of this group by regularly attending the cooking demos, and eventually, the former president, Roberto Francisco, invited me to officially join the organization.
As a dedicated member, I was later nominated for the position of vice president. Just before the pandemic came, the former president assumed the role of board chairman, and it was during this time that he asked me to take on the presidency of HRCAP.
My drive to push myself to the limit stems from a profound desire to help Filipino chefs lacking formal culinary training and provide them with an equal opportunity to achieve their goals by facilitating their involvement in various hotels and restaurants.
Having worked locally and abroad, what distinguishes the experience of being a chef in the Philippines from working in other countries?
Working in our country is a top challenge. You need to be proactive in many ways, considering the competition is very tight. Some chefs, including myself, considered working overseas or abroad to experience new cultures, learn new cooking techniques, and enjoy different life experiences.
Taking a chef job abroad can be a huge plus point for impressing recruiters looking at your professional background.
Your diverse culinary experiences span various companies and organizations. Reflecting on your career, can you share the most memorable chapter and why?
One of the biggest challenges in my career was when I joined the Pre-Opening Team of Resorts World Manila (RWM), a hotel and casino establishment. The size of this hotel is huge, and the manning structure is way different from my previous job experiences.
I started as an executive sous chef, and after a year, I got promoted to executive chef. Subsequently, after two years, I assumed the role of director for culinary. Despite my prior involvement with the pre-opening teams of various five-star hotels, the responsibilities I shouldered at RWM were of considerable magnitude.
Do you manage your own restaurant? If yes, could you tell us more about it? If not, do you have plans to enter the restaurant business in the future?
Before, I owned a catering business named Kasubha (Saffron Asia), but I eventually had to close it down due to the demands of my current profession. However, I am optimistic that the right time will soon arrive for me to venture into opening my own restaurant.
In managing restaurants, how do you handle customer feedback to drive continuous improvement in both the menu and overall dining experience?
A very important aspect of my role as a chef involves responding promptly to complaints and taking corrective action when necessary. This not only cultivates trust between the restaurant and its customers but also underscores the importance of actively listening to their needs and wants. Additionally, you need to be able to accept criticisms, as these are very important in honing our understanding of customer expectations.
What important lesson can you share with aspiring culinary professionals?
As a chef, you have to focus on your goals and dreams and always remember that professionalism in the culinary field demands continuous training. An experienced culinarian who has worked in a professional kitchen setting is expected to handle managerial duties and lead a team of cooks. Prepare yourself for big challenges as you navigate your chosen career path.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Yes, Chef! profiles here.
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