Chef Juan Luis Perez Moeremans, Executive Sous Chef at The Westin and Le Meridien, City Centre Bahrain, tells us about early ambitions and pursuing Michelin standards.

How did you first become interested in the culinary world, who are your influences?
My family always owned restaurants where my father was the chef. That excited my passion for cooking from an early age. By 15, I was already helping my father in a professional kitchen at our family restaurant in Brussels.
I was born in Jimena de la Frontera, Cádiz, southern Spain, to a Spanish father and a Belgian mother. The family left Spain when I was 12 years old. At the age of 22 I went back to Spain. Looking back. the first dish I ever prepared was Lemon Bavarois, my favourite section of the kitchen was the fish section and my favourite fish is red mullet.

You had Michelin-level experience very early on in your career, how would you say this exposure has affected your personal culinary development?
It was and still is the best background to have and it gave me very high expectations for my own career direction. Michelinstarred restaurants are recognised worldwide for their quality and attention to detail and that is something I carry with me and implement in every kitchen I work in.

The Westin & Le Meridien is your latest venture outside of Spain. What made you make the move and what are the differences/similarities you find in the kitchen?
The Westin & Le Meridien offered me the possibility to reach one of my career goals, joining again an international hotel chain. With the Salero project, I had the opportunity to join this property and also work with Marriott International.
Previously I was between Belgium, France and Spain and this is my first time working in a GCC country, I’m enjoying the experience. Each property, regardless of the country, has a different system that, as a chefs, we need to adapt to and ensure the best guest experience, each country has different guest profiles and tastes, as a chef, I take advantage of that to grow both personally and professionally.

What is your signature dish and why? What makes it popular?
My early favourite was a Spanish dish called Fritura Malagueña (assorted deep-fried small fish and squid) and gazpacho.
But now, I cannot name anything other than paella in any of the versions. It is my most famous country dish and the signature of Salero restaurant that we prepare from natural and fresh ingredients. Our guests love it because they can taste the authenticity of both the ingredients and my own traditional cooking methods. ✤