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[Herald Interview] Chef Damien Selme keeps dishes simple, authentic

Park Hyatt Seoul's new executive chef wants diners to be able to taste the ingredients

By Lee Si-jin

Published : March 23, 2024 - 16:01

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Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

For Damien Selme, offering a stunning gastronomic experience to the guests of Park Hyatt Seoul, is, of course, his highest priority. The newly named executive chef highlighted that such opportunities are not only for the diners, but also for his fellow chefs.

French-born Selme, 39, who has built his career as a chef at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, Shanghai, Busan and Seoul, did not hesitate in sharing his dream of leaving a legacy.

“One of my greatest interests is what will happen when I leave the kitchen. I felt sharing my knowledge and experience with the next generation is something as valuable as serving stunning dishes to my guests,” the chef said during an interview at Park Hyatt Seoul in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14.

Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The chef emphasized that all work in his kitchen is a team effort.

“Many people, including the young chefs, believe that the kitchen is led by a top star chef, like how it is portrayed in the media, popular TV shows and films. It might have been like that 30 years ago, but the reality is different,” Selme said.

“The 'one team, one dream' spirit is important inside the kitchen as well,” the chef continued. “And the kitchen needs to be a place to grow and enjoy especially for the young chefs.”

While expressing a great passion to teach and to share his 19-year experience as a chef with his colleagues, Selme was also envious of the future generation and their unlimited potential.

“I have been working as a chef almost for 19 years and I can feel that my style is starting to get trapped in a frame. But, the young chefs are full of creativity and imagination. I am the one who gets inspired and learns from them,” Selme said, adding these exchanges are what make a dish that satisfies diners' high expectations.

Though he cannot add much personal interpretation and style to the hotel’s menu, Selme is determined to elevate Park Hyatt Seoul's gastronomic excellence by applying his philosophy of keeping the dish simple.

Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Executive chef Damien Selme poses for photos at Park Hyatt Seoul's Cornerstone in Gangnam-gu, southern Seoul, on March 14. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“I put my utmost efforts into making the diners feel what they eat. If someone is eating asparagus, he needs to taste the asparagus. This is the reason why I am cautious of mixing more than three different ingredients into a dish,” Selme said.

He hoped his philosophy would present diners with an opportunity to pay respect to the incredible, fresh ingredients available in Korea.

“Cornerstone is the hotel’s Italian restaurant. The guests are here to enjoy the authentic Italian cuisine. They don’t come to the restaurant to try new, unique dishes. And keeping the dish simple is a key to meeting such expectations,” he said.

While staying humble and respecting the country’s gastronomic culture, Selme also expressed his desire to offer his French cuisine style to the diners bit by bit when there is an opportunity.