Chefs to watch

One of the most interesting and fun stories I have worked on recently was about “young and hungry” chefs in the hotel industry, individuals age 35 and younger who work in a variety of kitchen positions at different types of properties around the world. The only bad part about the piece was the fact that I couldn’t include all the awesome chefs I wanted. Fortunately, I have this blog space to highlight a couple more:

Luke MacLeod, executive chef, The Legian Bali

Luke MacLeod is not afraid to take risks — on his menus or in life. Earlier in his career, he left his native Australia for France with just a few thousand dollars in an effort to better learn his craft. Today, he says his food at The Legian Bali is “limited only by my imagination.”

Luke MacLeod
Luke MacLeod

Age: 32

Hometown: Brisbane, Australia

Education: Government-run cooking college in Australia (TAFE); working with chefs in France including Alain Senderens, Michel Guérard, Alexandre Bourdas and Pierre Gagnaire; two different professional stâges at Lenôtre pastry school in Paris

Career highlights: Winning a second Michelin star at SaQuaNa restaurant in Normandy, where he served as chef de cuisine; achieving his current post as executive chef at The Legian Bali

Best part of your job: “The great products we have in Bali and the freedom to do whatever I want.”

Biggest challenge as a chef: “Consistency.”

Why you became a chef: “It had a great deal to do with my mother. I always loved cooking when I was younger. I started at the age of one-and-a-half, making cookies and cakes with her and, in turn, with my brothers and sisters. I didn’t see it as a serious career and never planned to be chef, but at 14 years old I suffered a near-death accident and head injury, which rocked my world and studies. I had a very long recovery period and found that my planned studies were no longer possible. My mother advised me to look at alternatives and suggested cooking college. This accident and what seemed to be a  tragedy at the time was a blessing in disguise, and I found my true calling in life.”

Where you want to be in 10 years: “That is the mystery of life.”


Yann Mikolajczak, executive chef, St. Regis Bora Bora

Yann Mikolajczak cut his culinary teeth, so to speak, in his native France, but he has spent the past seven years in French Polynesia, the past two at his current post. Nevertheless, Mikolajczak focuses on international cuisine, finding inspiration in travel.

Yann Mikolajczak
Yann Mikolajczak

Age: 32

Hometown: Saint-Étienne, France

Education: Dinard Catering School, Brittany, France

Career highlights: Working with Michelin-star Chef José Vinal; working as a chef de Partie at Le Taha’a Island Resort and Spa; rising through the ranks at St. Regis Bora Bora from chef de partie to his current role as executive chef

Best part of your job: “Working on raw products that nature offers and turning them into an exceptional meal. Getting inspired by my various travels and using them to form my own culinary identity.”

Biggest challenge as a chef: “Maintaining a certain level of excellence to meet guests’ expectations in our six outlets from morning to evening.”

Why you became a chef: “My passion for the work and the desire to share my knowledge.”

Where you want to be in 10 years: “Working as an executive chef and F&B manager in a luxury hotel with 200 or 300 rooms.”

Do you have any “young and hungry” chefs at your property? I’d love to hear about them.