Passion On A Plate

The Executive Chef of Trader Vic’s, Marwan Slim, shares his gastronomic journey, from food inspiration and menu development to peculiar guest requests!

Your culinary journey has extended for more than two decades. What initially ignited your passion for becoming a chef and how do you sustain that drive after such a long time?
Throughout my career, the countless individuals I’ve encountered in the kitchen have continuously inspired me. As a child, observing my parents cook ignited a desire within me to join them, especially during those cherished weekend moments. I dived into the world of cooking through the pages of renowned culinary books like Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook. Although I knew it was beyond my reach, the allure was undeniable, and so I practiced and experimented, conjuring up delectable creations for my friends. Yet, my hunger for knowledge persisted. So, I enrolled in culinary school, forever altering my path.
The true catalyst for enduring inspiration lies in passion. To be fervent about one’s craft means to deeply love what one does. As the well-known adage goes: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Possessing an unwavering enthusiasm for food is the key ingredient to becoming a successful chef.

As part of a global chain, how do you infuse your personal touch into the dishes you prepare? Are you actively involved in crafting the menu?
When it comes to the dishes I create, my aim is to maintain simplicity. I strive to utilise fresh ingredients and adorn each plate with edible garnishes that boast vibrant colours. As for my involvement in menu development, I am always ready to contribute, particularly during special occasions such as the Holy Month of Ramadan, Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha, Christmas and New Year. Additionally, I am more than willing to accommodate special requests from our valued customers.

Could you share the most amusing or peculiar request you have ever received from a guest?
Amidst the plethora of unique and quirky orders, our ultimate goal is to bring joy to our guests. For instance, one memorable occasion involved a guest requesting fried calamari with no oil whatsoever. Another time, a customer desired grilled salmon topped with cheddar cheese. We even had a guest ask us to cook smoked salmon as if it were raw. One particularly amusing request was for a ‘well-done’ Saku Tuna, prompting a gentle explanation that it couldn’t quite be prepared in that manner. And then there was the time when a guest ordered Wok Lobster but specified a preference for a male lobster over a female one.

What dish bears your personal touch and why has it gained such popularity?
My signature dish, the Prime Tomahawk Steak, has garnered immense acclaim for its distinctive flavours. It begins with a carefully seasoned blend of freshly ground spices, complemented by a luscious coating of organic, garden-fresh herb compound butter. The secret to perfecting this cowboy ribeye steak, or tomahawk, lies in searing it over high heat on the grill, followed by smoking it in a Chinese oven over a roaring wood flame and finally finishing it in the oven. After a brief rest, the meat is served alongside a zesty lemon, grilled garlic herb vegetables, corn on the cob, homemade steak fries and a tantalising addition of roasted bone marrow. And to top it all off, a sunny-side-up egg crowns this masterpiece. The harmonious combination of flavours and textures in this dish has undeniably captivated the palates of many. ✤