Monday, December 14, 2020

ALEX PORTEOUS STAYS FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE


Like the Leica camera he uses in his street photography, Alex Porteous is firmly focused on the future as he steers the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur (FSHKL) team through the current uncertainties plaguing the hospitality and tourism sectors as the newly appointed General Manager. 

Having arrived in Kuala Lumpur right in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic from Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, Porteous admits there’s no playbook to deal with such an unprecedented crisis. Fortunately, having garnered more than 27 years of experience with Four Seasons at 7 properties, 3 hotel openings and a handful of accolades, Porteous can count on his own inimitable leadership skills to forge ahead and maintain the FSHKL team’s momentum following their stellar performance right from the get-go.

To this personable GM, authenticity means being honest. “I’m the first to admit I don’t know everything. Sometimes my team members are surprised when I say I don’t know everything. I also ask a lot of questions. That’s how we learn: by asking questions,” says Porteous.

He firmly believes in authenticity as a key trait of leadership, citing a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”. As his team moves towards 2021, he is committed to involve each and every one in decisions that affect their jobs and work environment; ensuring every one of them can voice a different opinion without fear of any negative consequences.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

Creating a safe work place is paramount to Porteous as he says “when we as colleagues connect with each other meaningfully, that’s when we are able to connect with our guests as well.” 

Showing a sincere interest in his team as people, as individuals, and not just as employees will translate and demonstrate his actions match his words. An avid advocate of listening and engaging with guests and employees, Porteous affirms top of his list will be working together with his team to raise the bar for the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur and continue to build the confidence of guests and business partners. “Getting our team to do the right thing instead of just doing things right  ̶  that makes a difference.”

“It’s important we keep engaging with our guests, business partners and internal team members” says Alex Porteous. “For our corporate guests and business partners, we ask them ‘How are you doing?’, ‘What can we help you through this tough period?’…It’s through such engagements that led us to the creation of our ‘Ultimate Me’ and ‘Inspiring Workspaces’ marketing packages.”

Praising Malaysian authorities on their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Porteous says the general populace is also experiencing ‘Covid fatigue’ and yearns for a change of scene with their families and friends. “That’s when some of our guests check into the Four Seasons.”

Porteous explains: “FSHKL adheres to Four Seasons global health & safety programme known as ‘Lead with Care’ that outlines procedures educating and empowering employees to take care of guests and each other. Face masks must be worn by everyone within the Hotel, temperature checks are conducted and every person are registered via the MySejahtera app.

“At our restaurants, tables are set apart to ensure physical distancing and all utensils are sterilized and wrapped. Regular touchpoints such as lift button panels, phones and light switches throughout the Hotel and in our guestrooms are sanitized constantly and thoroughly. Guests can control and limit the frequency of face-to-face interactions between themselves and our employees, whether it’s for making reservations, requesting for airport transfers or concierge service.”

Porteous also says it’s imperative to keep his team engaged and updated on how the Hotel is doing. He constantly writes them notes; passing them guests’ compliments and how the employees concerned have made their stay memorable. 

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

“I not only thank them but also their family. It’s during these trying times that people need to be reminded of their self-worth, and the support of their family. To me, their family is the wind beneath their wings, enabling them to do a great job at work. I also call each employee on their birthday. Some may view it as a small, insignificant gesture but to an employee, it could be a good mood booster and causes him or her to be nicer to their family members. I’m a firm believer of life-work balance rather than the work-life balance of yore. Many people don’t realise when your life is in order, your work will naturally fall into place.”

The consummate hotelier caught the hospitality bug as a young chap after his father’s hotelier friend took him on a whirlwind behind-the-scenes tour. When he turned 17, Alex Porteous joined the hotel industry and worked his way steadily in different roles and through various departments: management trainee, chef, server, barman, receptionist, engineering, press office, and sales & marketing. 

It was in 1993 when he first joined the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. Since then, Porteous has gained a wealth of experience from his stints in Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Seychelles and Japan. 

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons

According to Porteous, his best experience as a hotelier thus far is being General Manager. Recalling the day he finally occupied the hot seat, Porteous quips “it suddenly dawned on me the sheer weight of responsibilities resting on my shoulders. I realized just how important my role is and how it has changed over the years. Now a GM has to be inclusive, to be empathic and to take ownership of one’s actions.”

Citing the Four Seasons philosophy of “treating others as how you would have them treat you”, Alex Porteous says “I want to be the kind of boss who will treat my daughters like they matter; a boss who value their contributions and know their worth.”

Married to Satoko, the father of three enjoys dabbling in street photography. The Leica camera enthusiast who prefers shooting monochrome, looks forward to capturing the undiscovered gems of Malaysia. In the meantime, the hotelier’s sight remains steadfastly focused on the path ahead.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons


Tuesday, December 01, 2020

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD CONSUMPTION ON THE RISE SAYS NORWEGIAN SEAFOOD COUNCIL


Seafood consumption, driven by a shift towards a more sustainable diet, is on the rise according to a recent study* of more than 25,000 consumers across 20 markets performed by Kantar on behalf of the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC). *the study is the largest seafood consumer study of its kind

At a recent Virtual Luncheon of Norwegian Salmon and Fjord Trout hosted by the NSC, NSC Regional Director Asbjorn Warvik Rortveit (pix above), shared the following Seafood Consumer Insights: 

78% Malaysians rank sustainability as important when choosing to buy seafood

65% Malaysians state country of origin is important when buying seafood

60% Malaysians state country of origin is an indicator of quality when it comes to buying seafood

63% picks Salmon as their first choice of Sushi

50% eats Sushi at least once a month

35% picks Norway as the most preferred country of origin for salmon and 43% for fjord trout

He also said many markets in this region are reporting increased demand for processed and pre-packed seafood. “The Norwegian seafood industry is adapting to these shifts in buyer preference, and is turning its production to meet these needs. It continues its efforts to provide safe, sustainable, and nutritious seafood as keeping safe, and eating safe and healthy is the way to go during this pandemic and beyond.”

Joining the virtual event was Lars Fredrik Martinussen (pix above), Head of Communication of Nordlaks Group, who spoke about efforts undertaken by his family-owned aquaculture company to develop the sustainable aquaculture industry in the north of Norway.

Also present was Phyllis Teh, co-founder of Art of Salmó, who highlighted how her online store succeeded in “Adapting to Consumer Needs in Covid-19 Times” by delivering the finest and freshest Norwegian fjord trout with its special seasoning sachets to their doorstep.

Participating media members were treated to sumptuous “When East Meets West, Norwegian Seafood Tasting Menu” set lunches prepared by Chefs Jordash DeCruz (pix above) and Steve Chua too to complete the virtual media event experience. Calling on his experience working on the Norwegian Cruise Line and Viking Ocean Cruise, Chef Jordash DeCruz presented the following 3-course menu with inspiration from the Land of the Midnight Sun.

His starter of cured beetroot with Norwegian salmon, lemon essence and pickled daikon was accompanied by the main course of seared fjord trout with roasted vegetable and sandefjordmor (Norwegian butter sauce). Wrapping up the meal was Norwegian success cake with fresh berries.

 

Founder of Two Chefs Lab, Chef Steve Chua (pix below) who represented Malaysia as a Norwegian Seafood Council’s sponsored participant at the World Sushi Cup 2018, also rendered his Japanese starter, sushi platter and dessert. 



Seared sliced Norwegian fjord trout with truffle and grated onion dressing sprinkled with cured egg yolks was the tantalising starter, complemented by six assorted nigiri sushi creations. Azuki crepe with red beans with green tea sauce was the dessert to finish with.




The distinct finale came from the Art of Salmó, in the form of a Smoked Salmó Cheese Cake. A rather unusual sweet-savoury combo of crushed Oreo, smoked salmon, cream cheese, butter, whipping cream, ikura and smoked salmon which you either love or loathe. I’m ambivalent about this but I'm willing to give it another go should I have the chance to sample it again in future.


Interestingly, one of the key concerns arising from the seafood study is to encourage more children to increase their intake of seafood. Chef Jordash DeCruz and NSC Regional Director Asbjorn Warvik Rortveit suggested getting children involved in food preparation and getting the young ones to try eating fish and seafood early. "Get your child involved in the kitchen. Let them touch, feel and taste fresh seafood like salmon and fjord trout."

Phyllis Teh echoed similar sentiments as the popularity of her Art of Salmó products bear testament to urban consumers who seek convenience and willing to pay for quality ready-to-eat seafood like fresh Norwegian salmon and fjord trout.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

NEW PHO-NOMENON AT AN VIET


Just ‘pho’ for you – that’s the succinct message An Viet is sending out to its customers and ardent Vietnamese food lovers. The restaurant has recently unveiled its latest beefiest pho to much plaudits. Proof of the pho-nomenon lies in the eating. Laden with honeycomb tripe, meticulously handmade 100% pure beef balls, premium raw Aussie ribeye beef slices, tendon and beef brisket, the Vietnamese Beef Noodle Special (RM23.90 a la carte; RM28.90 set with 3 side dishes) gives great bang for every buck.


Served piping hot in super beefy, MSG-free broth simmered for hours with 18 secret ingredients, suffice to say the silky smooth rice noodles hit the spot with gusto. You can even customise the broth to your liking and preference with more fresh basil and accompanying condiments such as lime, coriander, beansprouts and housemade sriracha sauce from An Viet’s Basil & Condiment Bar (currently only available at The Gardens and Paradigm Mall PJ outlets).



Besides harvesting the desired amount of fresh basil from the Basil & Condiment Bar, you can also choose the amount (100g, 150g or 200g) of noodles and rice as An Viet encourages their customers to minimise food wastage. For each meal you finish, the restaurant donates 10 sen to Food Aid Foundation so be mindful when you eat at An Viet.

Should you eschew innards, Vietnamese Raw Beef & Beef Balls Noodle Soup (RM18.90 a la carte, RM23.90 set with 3 side dishes) is a viable alternative. The combo offers good textural contrasts as the handmade beef balls are scrumptiously bouncy with good ‘toothsome’ bite whilst the supremely tender beef literally melts in the mouth. Partial to just sliced beef? Then stake your bet on the Vietnamese Beef Noodle Special (RM23.90 a la carte, RM28.90 set with 3 side dishes).

As a precursor to your mains, the commendable Appetizer Platter (RM14.90) comprising fresh and fried Vietnamese spring rolls stuffed with rice vermicelli, lettuce, carrot julienne and tiger prawns, and a piece of sugar cane prawn is worth dawdling over.


Served with nước chấm (Vietnamese dipping sauce), I daresay the sugar cane prawn is the best in town as An Viet uses purely tiger prawn paste to wrap around the sugar cane skewer. The burst of sweet sugar cane juice proved nostalgic as we chewed on it amidst yummy mouthfuls of the springy prawn paste.


Finish your meal on a high with Vietffogato (RM9.90) – Coconut Ice Cream with Vietnamese Coffee. The smooth coffee melds wonderfully with the nutty ice cream, guaranteed to wrap up your visit on an exuberant note.

For more information, visit AN VIET: https://www.anviet.com.my/

 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

LE MEI’S WASABI-SPIKED AND NUTTY MOONCAKES #FTW


The fleeting yet noticeably zingy presence of wasabi was inescapable the minute I bit into the wedge of Low Sugar White Lotus Paste with Wasabi and Pistachio Nuts Mooncake from Le Mei, Le Meridien Putrajaya.

I was hooked at first bite as the tantalizing taste had me returning for more. Since wasabi and pistachios aren’t the norm in mooncake-making, I applaud the chefs at Le Mei for daring to push the envelope when it comes to creating new variants of the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival confection.


The mooncake’s subtle sweetness also scored with me as did the smooth lotus-pistachio paste. Handcrafted by the Le Mei team, the signature mooncake is priced at RM33 each and needs to be ordered 3 days in advance.

Another nutty variant comes in the form of Pandan Paste with Hazelnut Mooncake (RM30 each). Again, the thin baked skin encasing the fragrant pandan-scented filling flecked with hazelnut bits was palate-pleasing. The mooncake also had a nice glossy shine to it.

To please purists who prefer the tried and tested, I’d recommend the White Lotus Paste with Single Egg Yolk Mooncake (RM33 each). The confection is on-point, ticking all the requisite boxes and should leave no room for complaint.


Two other flavours: Assorted Fruits and Nuts (RM38) and Mini Snow Skin with Raspberry and Cashew Nuts (RM20) are also available. The Signature Mooncakes of Le Mei have to be ordered 3 days ahead of your desired collection date.


Available until 1st October, Le Meridien Putrajaya’s Mid-Autumn Festival gift box features a sturdy laminated gift box with a magnetic flap, clad in a mosaic of colours and rabbit motifs reflective of the celebratory Mid-Autumn Festival.

For more information, please call Le Meridien Putrajaya, tel: 03 8689 6888 or email: dining.lmputrajaya@lemeridien.com 

Friday, September 18, 2020

PETITE PRESTIGE MOONCAKES BY PLAZA PREMIUM GROUP MALAYSIA


Six mini Shanghai mooncakes packed in an elongated Gift Box from Plaza Premium Group Malaysia found its way to my Mid-Autumn Festival celebration this year.



Handcrafted by the chefs from Plaza Premium Group Malaysia in the time-honoured tradition of Mid-Autumn Festival, the petite, low sugar and preservative-free Prestige Mooncakes comprise crumbly Shanghai-style Crust and Crystal Skin variants. 


Launched for the first time this year, the mini mooncakes are available at Plaza Premium Lounge (next to Aerotel Kuala Lumpur at gateway@klia2), Plaza Premium First (KLIA), Flight Club (KLIA) and Flight Club Grab’n’Go (KLIA) from now until 1 October 2020.


Peeking into my Gift Box in maroon with discreet gold motifs, the sliding container tray revealed a pair of mini Shanghai Crust Pu Er with Pine Nuts Mooncakes, another pair of Lotus Melon Seeds with Single Egg Yolk and a pair of Black Sesame with Single Egg Yolk Mooncakes. 


I found the delicate taste of Pu Er pleasing on the palate, melding harmoniously with the subtle nutty-creaminess of pine nuts. The black sesame version was on-point too; its sweet-savoury filling somewhat richer due to the salted egg yolk in it.

My only quibble was the underwhelming Lotus Melon Seeds version – the filling was dry and lacklustre. Possibly this imperfection was confined to my batch of mooncakes or it could be due to the confection didn’t have enough ‘resting time’ to allow the oil within to be released.

Under the Crystal Skin range, the selection includes Crystal Skin Durian, Red Bean and Green Tea encased in a layer of snow skin crust. Priced at RM12 per piece and RM60 per box of six (6) mini mooncakes, Prestige Mooncakes by Plaza Premium Group Malaysia come packed in refined gift boxes befitting the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.

 

For every bulk purchase of 10 boxes and above, corporate partners may customise their company logo placement on the gift boxes (subject to terms and conditions).

Special Prestige Mooncakes Offers:

- 10 % OFF online purchase for all types of mini mooncakes in a single receipt via https://malstore.plazapremiumlounge.com/ .

- Additional 5% OFF (on top of 20% OFF online purchase) for corporate clients and Aerotel Kuala Lumpur room guests (with valid promo code)*.

- For every room booking at Aerotel Kuala Lumpur, guests will receive ONE (1) piece of complimentary mini mooncake per room booking upon check-in as a welcome gesture.  Available from 28 August – 1 October 2020.

For further information or to place an order, contact Plaza Premium Group: tel: +6 03 8778 0808 or email: onlinestore.mal@plaza-network.com 

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