A person who is a perfectionist everything he does. He is a talented cook, a respected chef, and a bold leader. Chef Shannon Batten is a culinary expert, outstandingly motivated and skilled executive chef with over 17 years of experience who currently works at the five-star luxury resort, Conrad Maldives.
1. Chef, who is your chef?
My chef is a man called Jeff Bland. 16 years ago (I was 23) I moved from Auckland NZ to Edinburgh Scotland. I applied for a chef position in The Balmoral Hotel in their Michelin Star restaurant called “Number One”. I still remember the questions he asked me in the interview. He always had an aura about him. He is still there and still the only person I would call “chef”.
2. What are your essentials ingredients the things you couldn’t live without?
I love seafood! I am not sure if it is the climate I am living in or just how versatile cooking with seafood is? Scallops, lobster, fresh fish, crab, langoustine etc., it all goes beautifully with salads, olive oils, vinegar, fruits, soups, purees and of course a glass of crisp NZ Savion Blanc.
3. What is one dish that you can prepare blindfolded?
I think I have said this before but Risotto, as I was taught at a very early stage of my career by an Italian chef how to show the love in making a good risotto. The making of the stock used whether it is meat, seafood or vegetarian is the base flavor. Never boil the rice, be careful not to overcook the rice and what to finish the risotto with is the secret.
4. What is your top recommendation you think guests should try or do while staying at Conrad Maldives?
Well, we have just opened the first undersea villa “The Muraka” where we tailor your menu to all your favorite foods or our recommendations. Ithaa is our signature restaurant and the first all-glass undersea restaurant with the signature dish Beluga caviar with smoked potato ice cream and truffle. We have 8 restaurants and 12 outlets so you can literally do a food (pub) crawl through your holiday here.
5. How would you best describe your cooking style?
Evolving with trends, relative, adapting to climates. I have lived and cooked in a few countries around the world so climate and trends always come into play. Each city has its own personality so you always need to find your niche there as a chef. Menu design in Edinburgh, Brisbane, Moscow, Auckland and the Maldives are completely different. People follow trends and chefs are always evolving just like fashion otherwise you get left behind and this is so much more apparent as you get older.
6. What food trends or ingredients are you currently focused on?
I have been living in the Maldives of over 4 years and I have seen it boom in the number of new resorts, guest houses opening and in turn the number of people coming to the Maldives. So for me, it has really matured my conscience in sustainability products. Also our carbon footprint from suppliers and making sure the products we bring are reusable or disposable friendly. Earlier this year we removed all single-use plastic from our restaurants. I am using suppliers outside the Maldives that are sustainable food/ fish (MSC) and eco-friendly.
7. What does the future hold for gastronomy according to you?
Interesting question- I think it is becoming more and more complicated designing menus now with dietary/ allergy requirements becoming much more frequent. The importance & awareness of being on the right side politically and environmentally with the products used. Chefs need to be savvier nowadays as it is not just cooking great food anymore.
8. What is the one dish, according to you, that every chef should know how to cook?
I am not sure about a dish but I defiantly judge a chef on his sauces when I go out to restaurants. I was taught classical when I was younger on how to make stocks, demi-glace, veloute, beurre blanc, hollandaise etc. (still all common in restaurants) all requiring time and skills.
9. What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?
I like to build my kitchen like a football team. I don’t like to employ anyone older than me (39) and always full my kitchen full of young chefs. I will always promote in my kitchen so as chefs progress in their career, I bring in young chefs below. I like to get chefs before they have bad habits so I can teach them the way I like food and flavors. Generally, the oldest chefs will be my top 2-3 chefs as leaders to help guide the team.
10: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever attempted to cook, anything that didn’t work?
Currently, I am working with a supplier of farmed sea cucumber coming out of the Laamu Atoll. This is an interesting product which I am using in our Asian restaurant Ufaa. I once worked with live eels in Scotland which really freaked me out as I did not like the way they wrapped around your arm. Not a pleasant experience!