Daniel Boller, Executive Chef, Shangri-La Maldives

Daniel Boller, Executive Sous Chef, Shangri-La Maldives

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I am Daniel Boller, the Executive Sous Chef of Shangri-La Maldives, recently promoted. This industry is a real passion for me and it was injected in me at a young age from my mother. She was my first mentor. Being able to open up a cupboard full of cookbooks from a vast variety of cuisines I was able to learn simple processes like how to make hollandaise from scratch, make scones on Sunday for the family, or even make bread rolls fresh for myself and sister’s school lunches. So I had a real passion for cooking and loved being in the kitchen with my mother every day after school. I was going to be a great rugby player but injury cut that career short and I fell back into cooking. Becoming a chef, I have no regrets. This is still a dream for me to be able to live my life doing what I love most.

Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
People only hear about angry chefs and how they scream and throw food at the staff in anger and hatred during a busy service, but sometimes it can get a little more heated and intense than you would believe. Here is my fondest memory of my first boss… I was in my third year cooking and I worked for an Australian chef who had a heart of gold. He was so helpful in teaching me everything I needed to know and also outside of work he was very thoughtful and helped me a lot in my young chef years. But when service started it was a different relationship: it was World War III at its finest!!! He would scream, yell, throw food, pots and pans, smash wine glasses – it was chaotic. One case he threw a full plated meal at me and smashed it against the wall and it was travelling fast. Lucky for me he wasn’t a good shot or I would have been hospitalised. The plate fragments went all over my prepared food for service and sauces and he basically said “throw all that out and re-set your bench NOW.” So I ran into the cold room and searched for my back up prep which luckily that day I had plenty of and re-set while he breathed down my neck waiting for entrees, continuing to scream and yell… We got through the service. It was mental 120 guests in an hour and half with him and myself in the kitchen. After the war he went to the bottle shop and bought a really expensive bottle of wine and sat me down and we drank it together. We laughed and chatted and he commended me for the hard work and said “You’re going to make it. Keep your head up,” and that was my fondest memory of my first boss. Brilliant!!

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of being a chef is that cooking will never be a dying art: there will always be something or someone with fresh ideas for the culinary world. Chefs just keep learning and discovering new styles of cuisines and skill sets.

For me the worst part of the job is being called out by a customer and belittled and downgraded just because this customer didn’t appreciate your style of food. This doesn’t happen often but when it does it can leave a scar if you take it too seriously, which in time I have learnt not to.

Working here does have certain limits into what you can eat, drink or activity you may want to do on your day off. There’s no shopping mall close by, but I find it so relaxing being able to walk to the staff beach on a hot day (which is pretty much every day) and listen to music, swim and lie in the sun. It is really peaceful and has no stress at all, which usually chefs are known to endure a lot.

What’s your favourite meal/ drink in Shangri-La Maldives?
My favourite meal here is going to one of the restaurants (Dr Ali) to enjoy traditional Arabic cuisine and a bottle of nice wine. It’s one of my favourite cuisines and the chefs are really talented here. They do a great job.

What’s one of the disturbing things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
One moment I can think if which is quite disturbing is when I asked one of my apprentices to cut and deseed 5kg chilies to make a jam, and told him not to touch any part of his skin for the rest of the day and to wash his hands thoroughly if he decided not to use gloves, in which he said “I’ll be right chef I don’t need gloves”. So anyway about an hour later he asked me if he could go to the toilet, and I said are the chilies done, which he replied yes of course and he went to the toilet, after 15 minutes I could hear this agonising screaming from the back of the kitchen. I walked out the back and this chef was holding his private parts and screaming “It burns…help me it burns!” I was running around in panic. I felt so sorry for him I quickly grabbed a bag of ice to help him and as I gave it to him to calm him down he wiped away the tears from his eyes and straight away looked at me “Oh no! Oh no…OHHH NOOOOOO!” and now his eyes was on fire and this poor kid started to go into a small panic attack as he was so lost and in shock of what was going on with his body. Turns out he rinsed his hands before going to the toilet but it didn’t take all the chilli off his hands. He had to go to hospital for treatment and couldn’t work for a week – he ended choosing another career path after the incident!

The perfect day off would be…
Trying not to sleep in and wake up early, have a nice breakfast, walk to the beach, enjoy a day in the sunshine having a couple of beers and listening to music while swimming and snorkelling, then enjoy a nice meal out with good company and maybe a movie before bed.

A day in the life of a chef is…
Long hours and stress… chefs learn to love it, it’s in our blood!!
A day in the life for a chef on an island is not as hectic as opposed to one in the city though. We are mainly busy based on hotel occupancy, but we find things to do if the hotels quiet like training and food experimentation. And if you start a few hours early, complete the preparation quickly you can enjoy a swim in the afternoon in the beautiful clear ocean of the Maldives – pretty lucky right! Then it’s a quick meal at the staff canteen then walk/ride to your restaurant to set-up for service, or in my case now, travel between each restaurants talking to guests and making sure my team are happy and working hard.

What do you do for fun?
For fun I enjoy playing cricket with the colleagues – it is very competitive. Also I like to relax on the beach when I get time. Also I love playing a round of golf if I get the chance.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Fashala Restaurant?
That we use fresh local products i.e. the tuna we serve is so fresh it’s caught that day and served that evening, it has a perfect setting on the edge of the island where you can enjoy the sunset whilst eating fresh and innovative food inspired from cuisines around the Mediterranean Sea.

What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
For me personally I can always enjoy a nice wagyu or Angus steak paired with a bottle of red, depending on your palate you can use a hearty shiraz from the Barossa Valley Australia, or maybe something that compliments that steak a little more like a cabernet sauvignon. Also New Zealand has a great variety of white wines to pair with great seafood, especially fresh fish, just last year I did a wine dinner with the Cloudy Bay range and it was such a treat to have the wine in every course, match with the high quality of seafood we were serving.

What’s your view on the food scene in your homeland Australia?
I have great confidence in Australia’s progress when it comes to food and wine and a great travelling destination for everyone around the world. We are catching up to those big name countries that have lead the way in F&B like Italy and France yet we still have a long way to go. But proudly can say for chefs in Australia it is exciting to be able to have a good range of products now that we can use to serve in our restaurants knowing the product is from here. Products like Wagyu and Angus beef is really getting popular around the world and we are exporting a lot of beef now due to high demands, which is great. Products like cheeses, truffles and chocolate is growing and the flavours are very impressive. I feel wine also is growing, especially Australian Shiraz, the climate is great for this particular wine and the people are getting to understand it a lot more and have a more perspective on drinking wine.

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
In the next few months I will be working hard here on the island, but also hopefully can take some time off in October to go for a little time away, I was thinking somewhere like Borracay (I know from one island to another island!) and just take a week to relax and enjoy some sun. We have an exciting Christmas/New Year’s here in Shangri-La Maldives where we will be inviting some celebrities to join the events and a pop-up restaurant, big new year’s party for the guests so we have a lot to look forward to but also a lot of planning and organising our team to be ready for the festive season!!

Check out some of Daniel’s dishes here.

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5 Comments

  1. Excellent post, so interesting! Have a great day! xoxo
    Vesna – Home Chic Club

  2. I am so glad he wasn’t hurt by that flying plate of food. Great interview!

  3. Love this post. I always try to wash, wash and rewash after working with chillies as we use them a lot at home!!!
    Have a wonderful day Diane

  4. It scares me to read about that flying plate experience. My sons love cooking but I am thinking twice if I should let them work in this industry. I don’t want them to be hospitalised due to injuries from flying plates. Haha.

  5. Oh dear! Must have been hell working for someone like his first boss, so temperamental.

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