Chef Phoebe

Interview with Chef Phoebe Donko-Hanson, Executive Chef of Aloft Hotel Kuala Lumpur

What do you do and how did you get into the industry?

I am the executive chef at Aloft Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I used to work as an insurance claims adjuster but decided to follow my passion… so well, here I am.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

The best part of the job is when everything runs smoothly, and guests are happy.

The worst part is when “Murphy’s Law” is in effect. That day that everything that could go wrong does and it’s almost as if the universe is taunting you on days like that.

What’s your favourite meal/ drink in the Aloft Hotel?

We have the coolest rooftop bar. It’s called Mai Bar and the view is incredible, with an infinity pool to boot. Just imagine…sunset in the pool with the warm hues of the setting sun playing peek-a-boo with you through some other building while sipping on cold, crisp glass of white wine and nibbling on a mushroom and brie pizza topped with arugula, pine nuts and a light zesting of lemon. I’ll bet that your mouth watered… just a little bit.

The perfect day off would be…

… a picnic in the park with a good book.

Okay, no… That’s what sounds good, but really, my ideal day off is sleeping in. I would still get with the book in my waking hours though, after I cook something and am sitting down to break bread.

A day in the life of a chef is…

Long, fast paced, full of constantly changing targets, moments of learning and humility and guests and staff who are satisfied or dissatisfied to varying degrees with different ways of expressing it, some really brutal lows and some really exhilarating highs as well as everything in between that.

There are some really zen chefs out there that maintain an outwardly calm demeanor all the time, but they are one in a million and I’ve never met one. I’ve only heard about them.

What do you do for fun?

I cook, sleep, eat, and read. Not necessarily in that order.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Nook Restaurant, Aloft Hotel, Kuala Lumpur Sentral?

There is a team of chefs here that are passionate about food and filling your belly with yummy goodness. If you are ever here, speak to one us, especially if you have any kind of special dietary restrictions. We LOVE to feed people.

At the restaurant, Nook in Aloft Hotel, my team and I strive to capture this essence of welcome in our venues. Our buffet is quaint and cozy. Almost cute, if one was to compare us to the Hilton or Le Meridien, which happens to be a Sister property, (shout out to Chef Antoine). Our space isn’t the biggest, but we make up for that by crafting our menus to offer a little something for everyone. In addition to that, you speak to me or one of my team and within reason, we will work to accommodate your request.

What’s your favourite (s) food and wine pairing?

I like Riesling, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, but when pairing with food, I am more of a steak and a beer type of girl.

What’s your view on the food/ luxury travel/ spa scene in Kuala Lumpur?

I haven’t done any luxury traveling here (or maybe I have. It’s about the perspective, I guess), nor any spas, but I can talk to you about the food. The food in Malaysia, KL, specifically, is dangerously delicious. It’s so varied and nuanced. Whatever you may have a craving for, you can get it. A 13 course tasting menu? But, of course! A quick bite at a street vendor stall? Oh yeah. Some Italian? Yup.

I find it both amazing and delightful that there is so, so much to choose from and it is all delicious and comforting in different ways

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

Oooohh. I am very excited about what we have coming up in April. I get to showcase a bit of my heritage. Aloft Hotel will be having “A Taste of Ghana”. We will still have some Malay, Chinese and Western food on the buffet, but we will have a fair amount of food from Ghana. The coolest thing about this is that there are so many connections and similarities between the cuisines of Malaysia and Ghana and it is going to be a pleasure to introduce that to our regular guests. And we look forward to welcoming anyone who would like to experience crossing a bridge and finding that connection by way of their palate. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Find the Ghana food promotion at Aloft Hotel here!

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8 Comments

  1. I am so glad you interviewed her! As soon as I saw her photo I liked her right away! She sounds like such a lovely person, and I think she is definitely in the right field!

  2. Oh, I love that woman – I love her story I recognize myself in her… a picnic in the park with a good book… that is perfect!!
    Thank you for this brilliant interview, Monica… 🙂

  3. Truly an amazing chef. So proud of your success

  4. Sir Richardson

    Hey Phobe! Wow, always knew you would go far, but not in the literal sense! Sounds like you landed exactly where you are meant to be.

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