Welcome to this new interview series, “Chat & Chew,” in which accomplished Chefs answer feisty, fun, fantasy questions. Plus, there is a favorite recipe to try!
My next kitchen talk spotlights Josef Jungwirth, the Corporate Executive Chef for Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, which together harbor 18 picturesque, posh-fun-in-the-sun, all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean. Born in Koeingwiesen, Austria, he focused early on a culinary career. At age 15, he joined a four-year apprenticeship at a top Austrian hotel, and earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, culinary arts, and service from Berufsschule Waldegg. Since then, Chef Jungwirth has garnered many diplomas, awards, and accolades from culinary academies and associations. After cooking in stellar kitchens in the United States and Europe, he launched a masterful career journey with Cunard, and then rose to director of culinary operations and corporate executive chef at Royal Caribbean and Azamara Club Cruises. Impressive morsel-making, indeed!
Currently based in Jamaica, Chef Jungwirth oversees 162 restaurants companywide and is a visionary for its Gourmet Discovery Dining experience.
Here is what we dished about:
What is your favorite food?
Japanese sushi, specifically crispy spicy tuna roll.
What has been your happiest food experience?
Family Christmas dinner.
What do you remember as your first food experience?
With my grandma in the kitchen, I baked my first cakes at eight years old.
What is your personal motto?
“Promise only what you can deliver, then deliver more than you have promised.” I have a strong belief in respect, integrity, trust, and staying modest. You never achieve real success unless you love what you do. Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to stay up there. Character may be manifested in great moments, but it is built in the small ones.
You’re stranded on a deserted island for a month. Which three foods would be there (magically!) for you?
Red snapper, grapefruit, and hickory-smoked prosciutto.
Who would you like to dine with once? (Another magical question!)
Richard Branson and Albert Einstein.
What is your food pet peeve?
Chocolate or vanilla?
What would you like to be your last meal?
A nice slow-roasted pork belly with crispy crackling.
What five words describe you best?
Humble, good memory, organized, conscientious, passionate.
What is your food fantasy?
Travel to San Sebastián in Spain to spend two weeks visiting all its Michelin-star restaurants.
Where have you most enjoyed traveling because of the food?
Singapore. You are able to experience authentic and refined food by chefs at five-star hotels: Chinese, Thai, Indian, Japanese, and Malaysian cuisines.
Where do you most want to go that you haven’t been?
Tibet. That part of our world is still very untouched and pristine. The authenticity of food and flavors must go back centuries—using great, great grandmas’ recipes!
Besides salt and pepper, which one spice or herb is most important to you?
What are your favorite cookbooks?
The Culinary Chronicles, volumes 1 to 8, by various international chefs and Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold.
Have you had a culinary career-related mentor?
Chef Rudi Sodamin, who pushed and fast-tracked my career. He saw my abilities, talent, and drive. I was a sous chef at the age of 21 onboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II ship and the youngest executive chef back then at 25 in the Cunard fleet. He opened my horizons and showed me that I was able to do and manage much more than I thought of myself back then.
Looking back, what career advice do you wish you could have heard as an 18-year-old?
Take time for your growth, don’t rush.
What is the most under-rated food?
What is the most over-rated food?
What is the food trend that you’re most excited about?
Craft beer movement paired with food.
What gives you the most pleasure, working at Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts?
Seeing guests who have a great dining experience. Teaching and inspiring young cooks. Helping new properties come alive with great team play of all employees.
Note: The original article appeared on Community Table in October 2015.