In this episode, Ragnar sits down with Otto Weibel, world-renowned chef and Director of F&B consultancy Ottscott PYE LTD in Singapore. He shares his illustrious 50-plus-year career experience – from a farmer’s child to an apprentice, master chef, consultant, and mentor.
With half a century of experience in the food and beverage industry under his belt, Chef Otto Weibel is one of the most well-known chefs in the world. Like many others, his career started with a childhood dream. At school, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, the then 12-year-old responded, “I want to be a chef, I want to travel the world, and I want to be the chef of the biggest hotel in the world.” And that’s exactly what he made happen.
Otto’s path towards an international career as a chef began at his family’s business. Located outside Zurich, his parents ran a 300-seat restaurant on their farm where Otto helped to grow vegetables and slice potatoes for French fries. It was at an early age that he learned the importance of buying locally sourced products. His father taught him, “you have to support the little shops, which also support us.”
Otto Weibel (featured second from left), aged 16, with his family in Switzerland in 1962. PHOTO: COURTESY OF OTTO WEIBEL
By 16, he began his first apprenticeship in Zurich. But his experience was not a walk-in-the-park. Otto recalls memories of working with his mentor, “he was a great chef, but he was also a very tough chef. I mean, a slap on the face, a kick in the a**. That was quite a normal thing.” Luckily, his tough training wasn’t enough to discourage him from greatness. Now he credits his unpleasant experience to making him into the chef and mentor he is today.
Otto’s dream to travel the world came true when he joined a cruise ship, which once docked in Singapore. At the time, the city had not yet developed into the food capital that exists today. Nonetheless, Otto recalls the moment he stepped off the ship, and says “I fell in love with Singapore instantly.”
From then on, he was determined to find a job in Singapore. With much luck, he was offered a position at the Shangri-La Hotel, and by 1973 he arrived in Singapore as the sous chef in the Tiara Supper Club.
After making a name for himself, he moved to work for the Westin Philippines Plaza in Manila and then helped to open the Kowloon Shangri-La in Hong Kong in 1980 as its executive chef. In 1985, he finally returned to Singapore and joined the Westin Plaza (now the Fairmont Singapore) as the director of kitchens, where he held his position for 26 years.
Otto was at the helm of kitchens in many top hotels chains worldwide, but his work didn’t stop there. He also served as the President of the Singapore Chefs’ Association (SCA) for 15 years and continues to serve as the Honorary President Mentor of SCA. He is a honorary life member and approved judge of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, and has been the Chief Judge of various local and international culinary competitions that took place in Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Dubai and many more countries.
Up Close and Personal with Otto Weibel by SJCC
His culinary expertise has also won him many awards, among them are Awards of Excellence, SCA, 1999, Chef Restaurateur of the Year, International Foods Beverage Forum, 1999, Lifetime Achievement Award, World Gourmet Summit, Singapore, 2001 and Gold Medal of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Paris, 2003.
Ottob Weibel (featured bottom) with French chef Paul Bocuse at the culinary competition Bocuse d’Or in Lyon in 2003. PHOTO: COURTESY OF OTTO WEIBEL
Chef Otto Weibel’s continued dedication and passion for the culinary world has made him a respected figure and mentor for young chefs in the industry. He has led many culinary teams to win awards at competitions all over the world, and many of his students have gone on to distinguish themselves in the industry.
PHOTO SOURCE: Chaine des Rotisseurs
This Swiss-born chef is one of the most respected veterans in the Singapore food and beverage industry. He has even been dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of Singapore’s culinary fraternity.
Today, the 74-year-old runs his own restaurant, Black Marble, which focuses on the source of its ingredients. He also works on international consultancy projects and is the co-founder of F&B consultancy OttScott, with Australian chef Scott Webster. If you wish to learn more about his fascinating life story, be sure to tune in!
About the Guest
Learn more about Otto Weibel in his book, Soul Otto: Food. Life.
Available for purchase, click here.
Learn more about Ottscott PYE LTD, Otto’s F&B consultancy by visiting their Facebook page.
To read more about Singapore Chefs’ Association Winning Bid to host Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2024, check out this article:
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Special thanks to Otto Weibel for joining as as a guest.
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