New Luxury Hotel Clinches Top Chef To Canvas ‘The Fine Art of Dining’
Vietnam’s crème de la crème of artists inspire chef with melting pot of experience
‘Is food art?’ The question prompts much debate in culinary circles and beyond. And Apricot Hotel’s new executive chef Hugo Barberis has staked a claim to a response that is direct yet nonchalant: “Why would we call our craft culinary art if the presentation of food nor the philosophy of food were not art forms?”
The 34-year-old Paris-born chef draws inspiration from the myriad Vietnamese master painters and contemporary artists’ works adorning the neo-classical interior of the new luxurious 10-story Apricot Hotel, situated on the fringe of Hoan Kiem Lake and the threshold of Hanoi’s teeming Old Quarter.
“Like artists experimenting with their mediums while envisaging a masterpiece, chefs at the helm need to illustrate how flavors, aromas and textures interplay, creating dishes that not only present beautifully, aesthetically, but that also engage all of the senses,” Barberis says.
Since he embarked on his career at the tender age of 16 as an apprentice with one star Michelin restaurant La Table d’Anvers in Paris under the guidance of one France’s best patissiers, Philippe Conticini, he has accrued almost two decades of experience with top restaurants, catering companies, hotels and resorts across Europe and Vietnam.
Barberis honed his culinary skills under sous chef Alain Passard at his famed three-star Michelin restaurant L’Arpege, currently ranked No. 12 among the World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2015, and also heated up the frying pan for leading catering companies Fauchon and Daloyau before securing his one-star Michelin ranking as an executive sous chef at Paris’s Chamaree.
Broadening his horizons, Barberis then worked on board five-star Oceania Cruises with a bevy of seafaring cooks from more than 20 countries before travelling to Vietnam eight years ago, where he fell for the country’s culture,people, landscape and, of course, cuisine.
His work in the Far East includes an opening On The 6 for Didier Corlou in Ho Chi Minh City, and stints as executive chef at Nineteen11 at the Hanoi Opera House, Phu Quoc Island’s Berjaya Long Beach Resort, and Victoria Resort and Spa in Sapa.
Barberis likens his culinary style to an artist’s palette; a fusion of French cooking skills and Asian flavors with a surprising Italian twist he first acquired when he lived in Rome for five years as a teenager.
He insists that each dish on Apricot Hotel’s L’Artiste Restaurant menu be prepared as a work of art. He thinks of the menu as a sketchbook featuring the likes of foie gras with pineapple ravioli, Norwegian salmon with orange and star anise butter sauce and his grandmother’s apple tart.
He will also play an integral role in opening Apricot’s Palette Restaurant, in which he will create his predominantly Italian and French signature dishes to be indulged to a backdrop of sweeping views of Hoan Kiem Lake.
“I see Palette becoming one of Vietnam’s top five restaurants,” says Barberis. “With more than 600 original artworks inspiring our every move, how can our dishes be anything but the most exquisite brush strokes!”
As part of L’Artiste’s “Gastronomic Journey”, numerous promotions will be held during July and August to showcase a diversity of Western and Eastern cuisines to diners including American, French and Norwegian fare with Asian flair.