With 892 rooms, 3,700sq metres of events space and four onsite restaurants and bars, it’s suffice to say that it would take a hugely committed team and a whole lot of hard work to run Australia’s largest hotel. That’s why Spice Magazine went behind-the-scenes to meet Sven Ullrich – Hyatt Regency Sydney’s brand new executive chef – to learn more about the man behind the menu, and find out just what goes into running one of the busiest kitchens in the business.
Meet Sven Ullrich
While executive chef Sven Ullrich is considered a new recruit at Hyatt Regency Sydney, he is certainly no stranger to the Hyatt brand. The German-born chef has spent nearly two decades working alongside the global hotel chain in properties across Australia, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Germany and the US.
When asked what inspired him to take up a career in food, Sven replied that his mother was a major driving force.
“I’d come home from school to a delicious cooked meal every day,” he reminisced fondly. “But one day she wasn’t there and I had to try my hand at cooking for myself.”
He tried reproducing his mother’s famous spaghetti, but he said it just wasn’t the same.
“The spaghetti was overcooked and the sauce tasteless”, he laughed.
“And that’s when I realised that cooking required real skill.”
That moment prompted Sven to take up an apprenticeship back in Hamburg Germany at the age of 15, which launched a career which would take him around the world.
When creating menus, Sven says that he likes to work closely with local farmers to source the freshest, seasonal produce available.
“I like farmers to tell me what they have ready right now. In the past I would tell them what I need. But now I ask ‘what is peak season? What is ripe?’”
“You really want the ingredients to speak for themselves. If you have great produce, you don’t really have to do too much to it,” Sven says.
“Our menus are written by the ingredients,” he explained. “It’s always this way and not the other way around.”
Hyatt Regency Sydney’s fresh food philosophy is also evident in their events catering packages, with Sven telling Spice Magazine that no two menus are ever the same.
“Back in the old days you’d get a menu and you’d choose from option A or option B.”
“But we’re not set on our mains, they’re really just guidelines,” he says.
And that’s good news for people with food allergies and dietary requirements as well, with Sven promising a contaminant-free menu.
“A dietary requirement is treated like raw chicken – we keep it separate from everything else.”
The kitchen has separate stations and gloves to deal with any special dietary requirements to ensure that cross contamination is avoided.
“It’s also important to remember that the gluten-free guests aren’t necessarily vegetarians. They like meat too. So you have to tailor the menu for everybody.”
For those looking for a trendy menu item, chef Sven recommends trying poke, a popular raw fish appetizer served on the Hawaiian islands.
“Poke is definitely a hot menu item right now,” he says.