Schilo van Coevorden, a chef nurtured in the traditions of classical French cuisine, was captivated from an early stage by the alluring aromas and unique textures of the Far East.
Through Taiko, he transforms his creative impulses into tangible culinary artistry. Alongside a dedicated team hailing from China, Japan, and beyond, Schilo upholds authenticity as the cornerstone while embracing the boundless realm of creativity.
Prioritizing freshness and exploring explosive flavors, his dedication mirrors that of a passionate artist. In a detailed chat with Emirates Man, he talks about his career trajectory and the importance of orchestrating an unparalleled dining experience for his guests.
Can you share more about your experiences working in different Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe and Asia and How did those experiences shape your culinary style?
By education, I was taught classic French cooking and started working in restaurants that had kitchen following French cooking style. Growing up as a chef, I believe that the baggage makes you a chef – more baggage, the wider the palate, flavours, colours, techniques and smells you will have. Born and raised in Amsterdam, the influence of my father was very strong, as he was in love with Japanese garments and culture. There was very little Japanese cuisine in Holland in the ’80s and ’90s. I felt the labels of Asian food products looked amazing so I went to Asia to learn more about it and I became a French trained chef in love with Asian flavours that led me to where I am today. I believe that in my pervious life, I was a sushi chef or a sumo wrestler.
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What inspired you to focus on Asian cuisine and merge it with local, seasonal produce to create your concept at Taiko Restaurant. How do you ensure that the fusion of cultures comes through in your dishes?
Being a chef of a hotel, I got the opportunity to create a new concept. The time was right for Amsterdam to open a restaurant where you mix with the respect of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean cuisines. There is also both restaurant and bar in Taiko Amsterdam and Japanese spirits, cocktails, Japanese food flavours have become popular such as wagyu and sashimi. Instead of importing ingredients from Asia, I use local ingredients that are fresh and in best quality mixed with Asian ingredients, and nowadays ingredients like wasabi, ginger, vanilla is grown in Holland so we don’t have to import everything. In Holland they grow wasabi, ginger, vanilla so don’t have to bring every ingredient from anywhere else.
With your extensive culinary background, how do you strike a balance between creativity and maintaining profitability within your Food and Beverage division?
In Amsterdam, Taiko is situated to next to top three museums – Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Modern Arts Museum. I am jealous that museums operate with sponsorships. Taiko is run by business and bringing good food and service in a very competitive market. We still have to make money in order to operate the restaurant. Every decision we make in the end is business and not charity. Sometimes it is difficult and it’s a challenge for every chef and restauranteur around the world.
Can you provide insights into how you collaborate with local suppliers and farmers to source fresh and seasonal ingredients for your dishes?
I work with growers who planted seeds for salads, herbs and vegetables and I even tell the fisherman to have a more Japanese approach of catching and handling fish. Without good product, you can’t make a good dish as in the end it’s the product.
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How important is sustainability and local sourcing to your culinary philosophy?
Philosophy comes down to seasonal cuisine where everything is fresh. When the ingredient is in season, it’s always the best quality and best price. To run an Asian and high-quality concept being so far away from Asia is challenging as you want to be sustainable. The philosophy is that vegetables, herbs and everything has to be local that comes from local farms. Tuna comes from Europe, Hamachi, crab is farmed in Holland and the only ingredient that is from Japan is wagyu. A modern-day Japanese restaurant will have wagyu on their menu so we can’t not have it on the menu. We buy wasabi from Holland and the soy sauce we use is made locally and the soy bean is grown in Holland. I hope one day I will also make this happen in Dubai, also work in new style of farming where leaves, mushrooms, fruits, chicken are grown in the UAE.
Given your experience opening and operating various successful culinary attractions, what advice do you have for aspiring chefs or restaurateurs looking to establish their own unique concepts in the hospitality industry?
Create your vision. It’s easy to learn from successful companies but it’s more important to learn from unsuccessful business as you can avoid mistakes. Don’t give up, work hard and keep believing. Listen to your clients and give what they want.
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How do you ensure that the dishes at Taiko Restaurant continue to evolve while maintaining the essence of your culinary style?
I went to Dubai from Europe in the mid-90s and Dubai shaped my culinary landscape. The city gave me a lot of flavours and smells like saffron, arabic spices, black lime from Oman which I am still using till this day. I fell in love with these ingredients in the ’90s and until today it’s on the menu. One dish is a sashimi dish where the fish is farmed in Dubai and the sauce is made with saffron and fresh pistachio from Lebanon with black Omani lime over it.
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