5 Questions for…Chef James Norman
For more than two years, Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva has been honoured to have James Norman on board. A highly-experienced Executive Chef, who started his career almost 20 years ago, James oversees three restaurants: Il Vero, Le Grill and the FloorTwo Lounge at Grand Kempinski Hotel Geneva. He has worked in several countries around the world including: London, Paris, Dubai, Brunei, Hong Kong, and now Switzerland since 2009.
With original - sometimes wacky - ideas, this highly inventive chef who speaks French fluently strives daily to bring authenticity, quality and luxury together in creative ways. The result is always a wonderfully scrumptious menu and an unforgettable dinning experience. Oh, and in the photo above, he's surrounded by "Daisy" and rest of the "Kempinski Cows"!
Welcome to James’ little kingdom of culinary surprises – right in the heart of Geneva!
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva: Describe your very first cooking memory?
JN: I think my first memories were with my grandmother; baking and peeling potatoes. I have a strong memory of peeling potatoes but I don’t know why. My uncle was a chef so when I was very small, he would show me how to use a knife and how to chop. It was a tremendous learning experience at a really early age.
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva: When did you decide that you wanted to become a chef?
JN: Again, from a very early age I suspect. Apart from side departures of becoming an astronaut or railroad engineer (the usual dreams of most little boys, right?), I wanted to become a chef for as long as I could remember. From the age of 13, I was already helping out in a local restaurant, and at that point, I never stopped wanting to become a chef some day.
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva: What is your favourite dish in the whole world and why?
JN: Wow, that's a really broad question and difficult to answer because I love some many different types of dishes! My world is a dream because I get to spend so much time immersed in creating gourmet cuisine, with all the best quality food available in a 5 star hotel. However at the end of day, I think what I really enjoy most is simple food.
When I travel, I make a habit of eating street food, local produce and food cooked with love – because as you know, one can always tell if food has been cooked with love. My favourite has to be the Spanish Omelette because it is so simple -- potatoes, eggs and salt and voila, you have a complete meal! Everyone has their own way of preparing this dish, their own tricks but the result is always satisfying. You see – so simple.
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva: Have you ever made a dish that sounded like a good idea in your head, but turned out far less than perfect and made you say, ‘what the heck was I thinking?’ What did the experience teach you?
JN: Oh yes, many times, more than I care to remember. However, I think as you get older your tastes become more mature and you’re less willing to accept bizarre ideas. . Creative and original are different from bizarre. For example, I once tried to make smoked shitake ice cream. It was really a disaster, but we live and learn. But really; smoked shitake ice cream?
Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva: Where do you find inspiration for your culinary creations?
JN: Inspiration can be found anywhere. I love playing with ideas and then taking them to another level. However, we must never forget that our job is to host people. I love to see peoples’ positive reactions when they really enjoy the food. That is what fuels my inspiration.
Nature also tells us a lot as well. We serve a dish right now, foie gras and ceps. The liver is moulded in to the form of ceps and served with leaves, topped off with a cep powder, etc. It is out of this world delicious! The dish gives the impression of being in a lush and colorful autumn forest -- simple inspiration from Mother Nature.