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
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
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
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.