The executive chef for Donald Trump's forthcoming D.C. hotel is already embracing the Republican presidential candidate's penchant for superlatives.
"I'm going to have a killer crab cake, and it will be the best crab cake in the city," says chef Oliver Beckert, who will oversee the luxury hotel's 24-hour room service plus banquets and catering.
"Our pizza will be one of the best in the city," he adds. And also: "The chicken is probably going to be the best chicken you're going to taste."
Beckert comes to the Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office building from the Four Seasons, where he's spent more than 20 years at locations in Vancouver, London, Miami, Hawaii, New York, and most recently, Baltimore. He also worked for four years at the D.C. Four Seasons in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
"Obviously, I'm ambitious, but at the same time, I set myself goals... Our goal is to be five star, five diamonds," Beckert says of his new employer. While he admits it won't happen overnight, "I think we will be the best hotel."
Beckert says he doesn't follow politics closely: "I have too much to do with opening a hotel in the near future... I think the media gives it their own spin, so I stay out of that."
He also says he's not concerned about the ongoing breach-of-contract lawsuits between the Trump organization and celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian. Both chefs backed out of deals to open restaurants in the Trump hotel last summer because of the real estate mogul'sderogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants.
"I'm here every day. This is my home," Beckert says. "Some of the celebrity chefs they have a number of restaurants, and for them, it's just another add-on to their empire. I'm going to be here every day. And I'm going to make this a great hotel."
In a counter-suit against the Trump hotel, Andrés contended that Trump's comments would make it difficult to hire Hispanic staff. But Beckert, who was born and raised in Germany, says he's not worried about that.
"I have worked with very diverse teams," Beckert says. He's already started interviewing some job candidates, "and I can tell you they are very international... I've worked with many great Mexicans, and I think some of them might join me again."
Beckert has met Trump a couple times, and the two talked food, not politics. "Mr. Trump likes a good burger, and I love a good burger as well, so I think we have things in common," he says.
You can bet the Trump hotel will serve a burger and basics like a club sandwich, but the menu will also have some "signature local dishes" including that "killer crab cake" (which Beckert assures will use local crab).
Because he's coming from Baltimore, Beckert plans to use many of the same purveyors of local and seasonal ingreidents that he worked with at the Four Seasons. ("I don't want to have a good product. I want to have the best product.")
Given the international clientele the hotel aims to attract, Beckert says his food will also be international. The German-born chef plans to prepare some version of a schnitzel and make his own sausages. The banquet menu will focus on the mid-Atlantic region, but Mexican, Italian, Asian, and other cuisines from around the globe will be available.
"My food is pretty clean," Beckert says. "I'm going to use not too many flavors on the plate, not too many ingredients which makes it confusing. I like to keep it simple."
Beckert will also work closely with the chef of BLT Prime, which replaced Andrés' restaurant as the hotel's new flagship eatery. "They're going to bring a big name chef on board in the near future," Beckert says.
"We're going to make it the best steakhouse in Washington, D.C."
Photo courtesy the Trump International Hotel