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Four Seasons Hotel Seoul

  • 97, Saemunan-ro, Seoul, Jongno-gu, 03183, Korea
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Ralf Dohmeier

Executive Chef
“It’s not enough to have Korean barbeque in Seoul anymore. So many people are travelling and studying overseas these days, they’re looking for excitement and that’s what we deliver.”

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2015
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • Grand Hyatt Guangzhou; Grand Hyatt Taipei; Hyatt Regency Incheon; international hotels in Switzerland, Fiji, Philippines, China and Australia

Birthplace

  • Hanover, Germany

Education

  • Culinary Training, Braunschweig Trade School

Languages

  • German, English, French

Ralf Dohmeier spent 26 years gaining experience in kitchens around Asia before landing a job with Four Seasons – and right off the bat he is leading one of the company’s grandest dining experiences. “All of the bigger hotels in this market have multiple food and beverage outlets, so it was a good idea for Four Seasons go wide here,” says Dohmeier, who joined Four Seasons Hotel Seoul as opening Executive Chef at the start of 2015. “Seoul is one of the cities that is putting Asia on the map, so we have the perfect opportunity to make a scene.”

Seven scenes actually. The Seoul property counts a Chinese restaurant – “the décor alone is mind blowing,” observes Dohmeier; an Italian restaurant – “fantastic design with a windows over the lounge and the street”; and a two-story Japanese restaurant with a sushi bar and a sake bar – “it’s bright, light and beautiful, I have never seen anything like it.”

There is also a bar and a lounge, an open-concept market, and grab-and-go retail with fresh delights for customers to prepare at home. Whatever the outlet, much of the food is prepared in full view to enhance the guest experience, including a barbequed duck station in the Chinese restaurant, a gargantuan pizza oven in the Italian restaurant, and nimble-fingered oyster shucking in the marketplace restaurant. Wrap all of the above in Four Seasons renowned service standards and, says Dohmeier, “our dining experience is over the top.”

Dohmeier previously worked in Seoul in the early ‘00s. Much has changed since, he says, noting better access to quality ingredients and the ongoing development of local farming. “Ten years ago there were a lot of restrictions and problems with consistency of product. Now the farmers have improved tremendously and we don’t need to import as much.”

The service talent in Seoul has risen as well, led by young adults who have travelled widely and honed their hospitality skills and multiple languages along the way. Dohmeier notes that when the name Four Seasons drops on a market, “everybody wants a job.” He was like “a kid in a candy shop” staffing the Hotel’s kitchen and front of the house, he says. “I was able to put together a team just the way I liked.”

Dohmeier has plenty of experience building teams, having worked at hotels throughout Asia and the Pacific Rim. He was drawn to the region by longing and opportunity. Growing up near Hanover in Germany, his grandfather owned a hotel and his father was as a waiter as well as a maitre d'. “I jumped in and got jobs as a dishwasher as I could and was always helping my mom in the kitchen,” he recalls. “I liked to cook and I liked to eat.”

He eventually entered the industry in Switzerland and along the way met people from all over the world. For some reason – he can’t quite put his finger on it – Dohmeier always liked the idea of going to Canada or Australia. “When I left Europe in 1989, there were not a lot of openings for sous chefs and chefs de partie at my level. But Australia opened up a bit, and once I got accepted I was in.”

With his first Executive Chef posting for three years in Incheon, Dohmeier fell hard for the culture and the people of Korea, whom he calls “very professional and very generous. I told my wife one day we would go back, and here we are,” he adds. “I always had a good feeling about this place.”