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Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta

  • Capital Place Jakarta, Jalan Jenderal Gatot Subroto Kav. 18, Jakarta 12710, Indonesia
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Marco Riva

Executive Chef
“The managers talk with the team here, and that is the secret of success. When you engage the employee, the employee will engage the guest.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 2016
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Current

Employment History

  • LIFE Luxury Group; Mandarin Oriental Hotel Pudong-Shanghai; Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok; The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Osaka, Japan; The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Jakarta; Montauk Yacht Club, Montauk, New York; Torre di Pisa, New York; Modern Restaurant Corporation, Ridgewood, New Jersey; Hotel Villa delle Rose, Lecco, Italy; Culinary Institute Aldo Moro, Lecco, Italy; Hotel La Corte, Como, Italy; Hotel Parco Belvedere, Lecco, Italy

Birthplace

  • Lecco, Italy

Education

  • Food Service, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Languages

  • Italian, Spanish, English

“For me, chefs are artists,” says Marco Riva of the fascination that has led him across three continents, two oceans and myriad food and beverage operations to become Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta. Growing up in Italy, where his family owned hotels along Lake Como, Riva was intent upon making his own way in the world. He began washing dishes at age 12. “Really, it was to save money for a motorbike,” he admits. “I would bump into chefs on the job. For me, chefs are artists. I have always admired the way they take raw ingredients and create something that wasn’t there before.”

Riva does plenty of that and more in his opening role for the return of Four Seasons to Jakarta. In addition to room service, catering and banqueting for special events, he oversees all of the Hotel’s dining experiences.

The main Palm Court restaurant offers an antipasti buffet at breakfast and lunch that is distinctly different from those found all over Asia, with an elegant environment illuminated by a grand chandelier dangling from a 15-metre-high (50 foot) ceiling and natural light pouring in from the Hotel garden. “Here we are doing traditional recipes twisted with modern touches,” says Riva, noting his use of wagyu for beef rendang, “which is traditionally made from lesser cuts of beef.” A small, semi-open kitchen provides views of chefs putting finishing touches on dishes prepared in the main kitchen. Meanwhile, afternoon tea in the Palm Court is a traditional affair, with fine-dining plated pastries to match the restaurant’s modern colonial setting. “It’s really an innovation in this market.”

Not far away on the same level, Nautilus Bar is similarly old school by design “like a private club in New York,” says Riva, who clicks off “dark woods, an amazing whiskey selection, and Indonesian dishes with twists on Asian styling” as enticing attributes. Also nearby, La Patisserie frames lip-smacking desserts in an inviting setting splashed with soft colors, with an onsite chocolate boutique lined with European and modern, locally inspired sweets. “So we have traditional praline as well as praline with lemon grass.”

Up on the 18th floor lies Alto, the Hotel’s Italian destination, with contemporary design, a bar with a balcony that “feels more like a lounge,” and drop-dead views of the city – “village on one side, skyscrapers on the other” – through long horizontal windows. “Alto means ‘tall’ in Italian,” explains Riva, whose menu is inspired by his personal belief that “Italian food is about family.” Traditional dishes are created with the very best ingredients, including authentic mozzarella di bufala, prosciutto di parma “from the best part of the ham,” and Tasmanian mussels for mussels marinara. Too many Italian restaurants veer away from tradition these days, he says: “In northern Italy, restaurants are almost French.” So Riva’s dishes at Alto are presented “properly, in a cosy way that goes along with the elegant design and makes people feel welcome.”

Riva is enamored of the local talent he found for his kitchen. “I worked in Indonesia back in 2005, and I always had a very good memory of the quality and skills of the chefs here. They’re not in it just for the job; they have passion and a desire to learn new skills.” He has also been very pleased with input and support he has received from the Hotel’s General Manager Christian Poda, whom Riva notes is “a Four Seasons guy at heart, different from the usual hotel GM. He’s very caring, open minded and quality oriented, which are all qualities I try to implement in my kitchen.”  

While Riva was raised in hospitality, his true passion growing up was basketball. He played semi-professionally in a secondary league in Italy before taking an opportunity to cook in the United States. He arrived in New York City in the early 2000s “when being a chef was beginning to give you status. It wasn't always that way.”

A few years later, in 2005, Riva was recruited by Ritz-Carlton to support an opening in Jakarta and, a few years after that, another in Osaka, Japan. In 2009, Shangri-La came knocking with an opportunity to oversee four hotel restaurants in Bangkok. Then yet another international hotel group expressed interest in Riva’s talents, and in 2012 he became executive sous chef on the opening team of a property in Pudong, Shanghai, with six restaurants and bars. “I took a chance on it, and quickly got promoted to executive chef.”  

Finally, in 2014, an acquaintance from the fashion world reached out to Riva for assistance in launching new luxury food and beverage concepts China. “There was a meeting. Someone was impressed,” he recalls. Riva managed to increase revenue for the operation after just three months, but within a year he began to miss hotels. “So I took a break to contemplate my future. That’s when an old colleague told him about the new Four Seasons in Jakarta.” A few phone calls and face-to-face meetings later, Riva was in: “I just fell in love with the people, the project, and Four Seasons way of doing things.”

Soon after his hiring, Riva began receiving emails from “higher ups” congratulating him on his appointment. “That had never happened to me before,” he says. “Every big hotel says it’s part of a family, but Four Seasons really embraces that. The managers talk with the team here.” And that, he concludes, is the secret of success: “When you engage the employee, the employee will engage the guest.”