Hartmut Kehm is the new kid on the block. As the newest face to join Hyatt Regency Saipan just four months ago, Kehm, who is Hyatt’s new executive chef, took over the post left vacant by Gabriel Colombo, bringing with him 30 years’ worth of experience working at Hyatt in other parts of the world.
He is not a newbie, however, when it comes to working on an island. Kehm, who hails from Frankfurt, Germany, has worked for many years at the Hyatt Regency Guam.
In the short time he has been in the CNMI, Kehm has become quite familiar with the “island challenges” that he and his team encounter every day.
“Facing challenges is but normal in this industry…the biggest problem is our supplies that come from the U.S. mainland. When bad weather comes in, the containers get stuck in Guam,” he said. “But we are always up to the challenge and we always look for other opportunities and alternatives. If it is necessary, we adjust the menu.”
As Hyatt executive chef, Kehm is not only in charge of everything that goes on in the kitchen but is also in charge of menu development at the hotel’s six restaurants and bars: Miyako, Kili Café & Terrace, Teppanyaki, Giovanni’s, Splash Bar and Skipper’s Bar.
In a for-instance, Kehm said that he and his team had just changed the menu of the Splash Bar. According to him, they took a very close look at it and modified it a bit, maintaining the dishes but changing the presentation. “We added dishes to make the menu more ‘island-centric,’ putting items that [residents] like such as the loco moco,” he said.
“For Sunday brunch, we modified the buffet, adding more healthy options as the focus here is to be ‘health-centric.’ …We have always had it but they were displayed differently. …We also modified our cakes and pastries now available at DJ’s Corner,” he added.
Khem’s 30 years of experience is also at play. He creates innovation and take opportunities to provide better service at the Hyatt.
“Our guests will see many improvements that are on the way, starting with our room service menu linked to Kili’s Café & Terrace. A new menu at Giovanni’s is also on the way as we made it simple but our guests will still get the true Italian food experience,” he said.
“We like to do a lot of fusion and introduce local ingredients and themes. …This makes Hyatt’s culinary operations on-the-go and we are always exploring new ingredients and flavors for the guests and community to enjoy,” he added.
As part of Hyatt’s vision of care for guests, this extends to “meet-and-greets,” with Kehm or executive sous chef Zen Tomokane visiting every table at all of the restaurants at Hyatt where they have a brief chat with diners.
“We always seek feedback and we take it positively. …We want to know because that will help how we can improve and train our team,” Kehm said.
Feedback and suggestions from guests also help create standards and pushes the Hyatt team to meet that standard. “This helps us get better,” Kehm added.
According to Kehm, celebrating Hyatt’s 39th anniversary is an exciting time for the hotel and Saipan. “Thirty-nine years is a milestone and we are going to enjoy this year and a better way to celebrate it is with a new team of talented chefs…and old friends that I worked with at some point in the past in other Hyatt brands: general manager Nick Nishikawa and Josephine Mesta in Guam, Ty Pauling in Canberra, Australia,” he said.
“We are going to continue to provide the best for our guests and the local community. …I hope next year on our 40th, we can celebrate the renewal of the lease. …It is not easy and the hotel needs assistance and help for its age. We know that we need to refresh and update but Hyatt Regency Saipan, no matter what, always serves with a purpose,” he added.