Chef René Stene seeks inspiration from abroad when planning his summer menu at Quality Spa & Resort Son. His philosophy is that pure ingredients combined with good hygiene routines create the best restaurant experience for guests.
René Stene has been chef at Rbar Dock & Dine, the restaurant at the heart of that gem in the fjords, Quality Spa & Resort Son, since 2008. In the open kitchen, Stene makes sure that the guests are able to enjoy their meals after conferences or spa visits. “We use pure ingredients and skim the cream of culinary arts from all over the world. I get my inspiration from both European and Asian cuisine, and I try to use locally-grown ingredients such as asparagus from Jeløya and vegetables from the Ramme Gaard estate," says Stene.
On the waterfront, the chef finds his inspiration for this summer’s a la carte menu.
"Many of our guests want lighter, simpler food in the summer, and we strive to respond to that. But those who like a nice steak have no need to worry; we won’t be serving just fish and seafood."
Hygiene and cleanliness – part of the total experience
This exquisite restaurant serves hotel guests, sailors and local residents who just pop in for a quick lunch. In order to ensure that all guests have a good dining experience Stene feels that the menu must be exciting and surprising.
In addition to this, service and hygiene have a major role as far as the chef is concerned. "We concern ourselves greatly with clean surroundings both in the restaurant area and in the spa and fitness facilities. For us hygiene is everything. We have therefore optimised the kitchen so that everything is on one level; there are no little nooks and crannies, no cords or hoses to gather dust and dirt."
Tork on the team
With him on the cleaning team, Stene has wiping and cleaning equipment supplier Tork. "We use folded paper towels and wipes for all cleaning and hand washing. This helps us keep the work surfaces clean and tidy," says Stene.
Dispensers and waste bins are strategically located, always within reach, so the cooks have no need to leave their stations to find paper or soap.
For preparations and cooking, the chef has come to depend on multi-purpose cloths from the same supplier. These can be used both as straining cloths as well as for wiping meat and fish. The fabric they are made from does not produce lint, making it extremely useful. "Tork is still finding new applications for us, helping us to maintain high levels of hygiene," Stene says.
Cooking as a learning experience
One of the activities available at the hotel is Stene’s guest kitchen. Here visitors can do some cooking themselves and learn more about food as they do so. The guest kitchen is popular with companies of all sizes, and many companies use this activity for team building exercises.
"The competitive instinct soon takes over when people are split up into teams and each team is allocated their 'mystery basket' of ingredients," says Stene.
In pure MasterChef style, the guests throw themselves into a barely contained cooking battle, but not before they have been given a thorough briefing on the importance of hygiene in the kitchen.
"We have chosen aesthetic solutions in black that function well in a teaching kitchen. These help us maintain good hygiene routines, and as we go along we encourage them to make frequent use of soap dispensers and wash basins," says Stene.
"Fish and meat must never be on the same cutting board or under the same knife, and you must never touch your face or hair when preparing food. Here, on the other hand, we see that many guests have a lot to learn," says Stene.
One of the most important things that the chef teaches is to keep your work surface tidy. Stene recommends finishing off one project at a time when preparing food, in order to avoid mixing up utensils and different ingredients.
"If you are good at wiping down and washing things up after every operation, it’s easier to keep things clean. A tidy work surface is part of what you are judged on in international cooking contests such as the Bocuse d’Or. This shows that hygiene is extremely important in professional kitchens, and a focus on this ought to be a matter of course for every cook," explains Stene.
Planning is everything
Since starting up, the chef at Rbar Dock & Dine has added more wash basins and dispensers to the kitchen.
"It’s only when you get going that you see what further things you need, but we’ve now made the kitchen as good as we can make it, and everything is running well with the products we have," says Stene.
Rbar’s kitchen has all its facilities available on the same level, from the pantry to the freezer and refrigerator. In this way, you avoid bringing dirt with you when you move between floors or between clean and unclean zones. "The most important thing is to be aware that you are still on the job even when you aren’t actually standing at the kitchen bench. So we try to keep within our own zones at all times," says Stene.