Weekly Local Biography

  Marcel Huser

By Rebecca Lomax, Ph.D.

Marcel Huser is positively beaming as he describes his position as Executive Chef at The Chedi. He has an impressive resume of training, work and travel. Still, he’s excited about his newest challenge. “It’s a young hotel, with a good team, and the staff are excited about their work”, he says. His enthusiasm is contagious, and I want to know more about him and his plans at The Chedi.
He was born in Switzerland, one of three children. He first became interested in cooking while helping his mother in the kitchen, the initial point of interest for many famous chefs. He did a little bit of everything – cooking at a train station during school holidays, working in construction, cooking at a resort, working as an electrician – before he finally took a three year apprenticeship at a five star hotel property at Interlaken. He was only fifteen. Five star luxury properties are not uncommon at Interlaken, but it seems to me that it is very uncommon for a fifteen year old to win an apprenticeship in a five star kitchen. And, of course, he laughingly admits that he thought he knew everything when his apprenticeship ended and he entered the world of professional chefs. It had been a hard school, this apprenticeship, and he had learned everything the right way. It was a good, tough time. As he began to work, he says he had little flashbacks. “Oh, so that’s why we do it this way”. “Ah, now I understand why I learned this or that”.
He worked in Michelin star restaurants on the French border of Switzerland and thrived. There is no shortage of fine restaurants and resorts in Switzerland, and he had many options. But then he had an unusual opportunity. Seabourn Cruise Lines called, and a new adventure began. Seabourn is highly regarded by the traveling public, having received top awards, ratings and honors. Its voyages, long or short, go all over the world, and Marcel went with them. He quickly learned that a sea-faring resort is a different challenge. He had to adapt to different cultures, languages, ports and logistics.
He cooked his way to Acapulco, Costa Rico, the Caribbean and south Florida. He went through Africa and the Amazon. He went to the Azores, Portugal, and Lisbon. He left the ship in Spain but renewed his contract and joined it again. He got onboard in Stockholm and cruised and cooked his way through Scandinavia and the Soviet block countries. On one tour, he was the ship’s butcher rather than chef. He took every challenge, every adventure as an opportunity to learn. He came to Asia for the first time on a cruise, and fell in love with it. Then he took a job in New Zealand, and was exposed to the Maori culture. He went to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Then he went to Sydney for the Olympics.
And what was it like, being a chef at the Olympics? Think about planning menus for 20,000 of your closest friends. Consider that your guests are from all over the world, with different lifestyles, cultural eating patterns, positions at the Olympic Games. They’re athletes and executives, VIPs and maintenance men, TV reporters and coaches. In short, anybody who had an official presence at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, had to be considered. The food ranged from sandwiches to foie gras, from snacks to official dinners. Marcel concedes that it was an amazing experience.
After the Games were over, he moved to a lush tropical paradise in the Great Barrier Reef and worked in a fine dining French restaurant. He went to Bali to help open a boutique hotel. Everything was new – the hotel, Bali, the ideas. He went to an Aman resort before he finally found his way to The Chedi in Chiang Mai only three months ago.
We know that he has had a fine career with progressively more responsible – and impressive – positions. We know that he loves to travel and has seen more of the world than most people see in a very long lifetime. We know that he finds each new experience to be a challenge. So what does he do in his spare time, even though that may in itself be spare? He takes out his bike and rides it from his condo near The Chedi to the foot of Doi Suthep. That’s the warm up. And then he rides it right up the mountain! You’ve no doubt seen bikers riding the curving road up Doi Suthep. Now you’ve met one of them. It’s an amazing workout, and he plans to explore Chiang Mai and its outer areas that way. If you don’t see him on the mountain, though, you may well see him in the market places as he explores the city.
Marcel isn’t the only athlete in his family. His fraternal twin brother was, for a while, a professional biker. Now that he isn’t riding professionally any more, he manages sporting events. Marcel talks about his family. He thinks about them back in Switzerland often. He misses them, despite the excitement of travel and jobs. And he’s proud of his parents and siblings. His sister manages a business hotel in Berne, and his brother’s business is also there.
What are his plans now? He wants to focus on quality and consistency in the kitchen at The Chedi. He knows that fusion food sometimes is confusion food, and plans to find a balance between the international, Indian and Thai dishes on the menu. He understands that sometimes a weary traveler, even at a five star hotel, simply wants comfort food. He wants it to be perfectly prepared comfort food, using only the finest fresh ingredients. He knows that there are times when less is more. Afternoon tea is now a part of the day at The Chedi, and a tapas menu is soon to follow. Marcel Huser doesn’t appear to be a man who stands still very long.