“It’s strange to say but a kitchen/restaurant is where I am most comfortable and where I am happiest.” It’s a genuine revelation and makes sense of how Alex Haupt landed a career in hospitality as the chef-patron of 101 Gowrie, an emerging fine dining hotspot in Amsterdam.
Originally from Sydney, Alex has always embraced his identity as a truly global Australian– he’s of German and Japanese heritage and not only has he honed his cooking skills in Australia, he also lived and worked in London at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, a world-renowned restaurant which was ranked 5th in the world in the San Pellegrino list .
Though Alex has now relocated to Amsterdam, he did not forget his roots, indeed bringing them with him by naming his restaurant after his Sydney home address.
A former contestant of Netflix’s The Final Table cooking competition in 2018, the young Aussie chef saw this as a reflection of his desire to “do a deep dive to understand how each culture eats, why they eat in the ways that they do and what their customs and traditions are when it comes to food.”
Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications & Digital Manager, Advance.
What made you move to Amsterdam?
I first moved to Amsterdam together with my ex-girlfriend but that didn’t last very long. I actually had the desire to leave but was given the advice to stay and at least give the city a chance. I then decided to stay and after working in a few places and getting to know the city and its people, I really fell in love with the country. With this new found love for this country, I began formulating a plan to open a restaurant here focusing on what I have learnt about the country, its food culture and what I am continuously learning here as well.
What was your first impression? What surprised you most?
On first impression, I thought Amsterdam was and is beautiful. It has such gorgeous architecture and a rich history, it’s hard not to fall in love with it. I found it quite surprising how comfortable I felt here.
What’s your background? Have you always wanted to be a chef?
My heritage is half-German and half-Japanese but I identify as Australian, as I grew up in Sydney. I’ve always been involved in hospitality since I was 13 and a lot of my family is from the hospitality industry. It’s strange to say but in a kitchen/restaurant is where I am most comfortable and where I am happiest.
How did your work experience in Sydney and London prepared you for 101 Gowrie?
Sydney is where I learnt most of my foundation skills through my apprenticeship and working at great restaurants like Est. and Pendolino. I really tried to learn from as many different types of restaurants to gain a broad skill set that would set me up for the future. London was fantastic for refining those skills and being introduced into a very new culture and new environment. London really taught me resilience and working at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal really shaped me to become the chef and entrepreneur I am today. Dinner was so wonderfully organised and precise. I will hold onto the skills I learnt there and in Australia forever.
What’s the best and worst part about living and working abroad?
The best part is being able to immerse myself in a new culture and the quality of life in Amsterdam is so fantastic! The worst part about being abroad is being so far away from my family but luckily they do come to visit me as much as they can.
How important is food presentation?
Food presentation is important but what is most important are the flavours we present in the end. A dish can look fantastic but if it doesn’t follow through with flavor then the dish is essentially purposeless. I really love to focus on the storytelling aspect of food as I truly believe that the service a restaurant gives can elevate food further than appearance can.
What’s the hardest thing about working in the kitchen?
The hardest thing about working in the kitchen is maintaining consistency. There are no good or bad jobs, it’s all about maintaining a high level of cuisine day-in and day-out.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from taking part in Netflix’s cooking competition Final Table?
That I don’t know as much about other cultures as I thought I did. I would love to be able to discover all the food cultures in the world and really do a deep dive to understand how each culture eats, why they eat in the ways that they do and what their customs and traditions are when it comes to food.
What’s your favourite food spot in Amsterdam?
101 Gowrie. It is where I am most comfortable, it is where I can do what I love and it is where I can bring joy to not only the team we have working there but also the guests we have coming in to experience what we have to offer.
What do you miss most about Australia?
The beach! I miss swimming in the ocean and of course, I miss my family.