The Pro Chef, Issue 05

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RAMADAN FOOD! Flavour as it used to be


Flavour as it’s meant to be

ORGANIC FOOD! Flavour as it should be





EDITORIAL The customer is always right, except when he’s wrong. Or when his comments aren’t even investigated.


FROM THE WALK-IN Details of some recent studies - things heat up in the American sugar wars, a new enhancement of the commonly used life cycle assessment method (LCA) for foods and - guess what? - we’re all eating too much.


THE EGGS FACTOR What’s lurking in the home fridge of Indian chef Harpal Singh Sokhi? Lots of fresh produce but even more treats and surprises from his foreign trips.


OUT AND ABOUT The recent Apéritif a la française event at Atlantis The Palm saw over 40 French food and beverage suppliers demonstrating their products to highly enthusiastic industry professionals.


ON THE MARKET Amongst home cooks, organic is a growing trend full of excisting new developments. So why isn’t it impacting the professional fine dining scene?


A FINE SPREAD The Holy Month of Ramadan arrives again, influencing the local restaurant scene. How do chefs and F&B managers prepare for it and make the meals suitably exciting?


INGREDIENT The market is booming, but is the bottled water sector out of control? Water sommeliers? Whatever next...


INGREDIENT Milk - we take it for granted but look at its healthy properties as well as delicious taste.

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ON THE PASSE Dishes from Ossiano by Chef Wesley Berghoff.


PIMP MY PLATE The idea is simple: we take a favourite recipe and give it to a great chef. The challenge? Cook it as it’s written and then reinvent the dish to fine dining level. Our next victim is Head Chef at Al Badia, Robbie Stokes, who attacks Polish hunter’s stew.

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FACE TO FACE With a passion to make Indian cuisine the number one in the world, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is constantly busy. We manage to find a few minutes with him.

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BOOK REVIEW Post-war England - grey and dull. Then Elizabeth David arrived with the tastes and colours of the Mediterranean.

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TRAVEL Drop dead countryside, world class culture and a few food things to eat - Dave Reeder revisits Tuscany.

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THE LAST WORD Le Whif and Le Whaf? Say what?


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From the walk-in

The drive to meat

A recent study shows that the production of 1kg of beef in Brazil produces 335kg of C0², roughly the same as the emissions of driving an average European car for more than 1,600 kilometres.


esearchers have developed a fundamental enhancement of the commonly used life cycle assessment method (LCA) for foods, which appeared in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. The particular innovation is the integration into the calculations of the area used for production

in addition to the emissions resulting from the production of foods. Despite playing a central role for the climate, area use effects have been ignored in climate balances until now. Occupation of huge areas prevents natural vegetation from regrowing. This vegetation would absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in much

the same way a sponge would and stabilise the world climate. With the published enhancement for LCAs, the area demand of a product is added as a “missed potential carbon sink” to the emissions of the food production in the balance. The author, geophysicist and food scientist Kurt Schmidinger, warns of false conclusions: “Industrial livestock systems are simply not viable options, even if their climate balances sometimes outcompete pasture systems. Industrial livestock systems require enormous amounts of cropland, which is less available than pastures. ”This in turn threatens global food security. Global pandemics, antibiotic resistance, animal welfare problems, water pollution, soil erosion and many more issues are associated with industrial livestock farming. Plant based foods, on the other hand, perform significantly better when considering all ethical aspects of nutrition.”



From the walk-in


It’s too much! More than 80% of Americans eat out at least once a week, taking in an entire day’s worth of recommended calorie, fat and/or sodium intake in one meal.


veryone knows that portion sizes in fast food joints and casual family restaurants have increased over the years - remember Supersize Me? - but a new study shows they may be even worse than we think. According to new analysis from the RAND Corporation, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, up to 96% of America’s chain restaurant meals fell outside the range of the USDA’s recommendations for fat, saturated fat and sodium per meal. “If you’re eating out tonight, your chances of finding an entree that’s truly healthy are painfully low,” claims lead researcher Helen Wu, assistant policy analyst at RAND. “Items may appear healthy based on calories, but actually can be very unhealthy when you consider other important nutrition criteria.”

Her team evaluated 28,433 regular menu items and 1,833 children’s menus at 245 restaurants around the US, looking at USDA recommendations for maximum intake in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium. Not only did most dishes not meet the USDA’s 667 calorie limit for a meal, they did not meet the requirements for fat, saturated fat and sodium. These, according to US government regulations, should not exceed 767mg per meal. Sodium is the real problem. The report found that the average main course contains 1,512mg of it, which exceeds the recommended daily intake. Even worse, starters can be even more stuffed with calories, fat and sodium - often exceeding any other menu item. While fast food restaurants are often seen as the villains, the report found that ‘family-style’

Sodium intake from processed and restaurant foods contributes to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Decreasing our sodium intake to within the recommended limits could prevent thousands of deaths annually. We eat too much sodium, commonly as salt. High sodium consumption raises our blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death, respectively. Research shows there is a dose-dependent relationship between consuming too much salt and elevated blood pressure. When salt intake is reduced, blood pressure begins decreasing for most people within a few days to weeks. Populations who consume diets low in salt do not experience the increase in blood pressure with age that is seen in most Western countries. The US Institute of Medicine recommends 1,500mg of sodium per day as the adequate intake level and advises everyone to limit their sodium intake to less than 2,300mg per day.

restaurants often served dishes with “significantly more” calories, fat and sodium. According to the researchers: “Restaurants that made nutrition information easily accessible on Web sites had signifcantly lower energy, fat and sodium contents across menu offerings than those providing information only upon request.”


From the walk-in

Are you sticking with sugar? The battle lines are being drawn between the sweet guys. After what it claims are “a rash of inaccurate reports about all-natural sugar”, the Sugar Association is fighting back against the Corn Refiners Association - the manufacturers of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).


he sugar guys say these reports have continually misrepresented the facts surrounding several scientific studies, overlooked biological differences between all-natural sugar and man-made sweeteners and ignored government data. Rather than educating consumers, they have only contributed to greater confusion about sugar and its role as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. And, to make things worse, the HFCS guys

(including agri-conglomerates Archer Daniel Midland, Cargill and Corn Products International, amongst others) are spending many millions of dollars on advertising, suggesting that “sugar is sugar” and “your body can’t tell the difference” between HFCS and natural sugar. This is despite the fact that HFCS is a man-made sweetener, chemically distinct and derived from a different source (corn) than common table sugar. “Enough is enough,” says Sugar’s attorney Mark

Lanier. “Neither HFCS nor fructose is the same as sucrose, what consumers know as sugar and has been a part of diets for more than 2,000 years. Consumers need the facts about how sweeteners differ chemically and how the body can tell the difference between them. The Sugar Association seeks to educate consumers and encourages the media and researchers to embrace a scientific dialogue based on facts and not scare tactics.”


The perfect recipe for success from our chefs

At Unilever Food Solutions, we constantly dish out new ingredients, new recipes and new ideas to serve every need of the industry’s leading professionals. Solutions that save your prep time, keep your menu fresh and exciting as well as help you grow your business, naturally healthy. Unilever Food Solutions: Tel. +971 4 881 5552 | UAE Distributor: +971 4 347 0444 / +971 4 347 3455 For more information, email:

The eggs factor

What’s in the fridge? Every issue, we challenge a well-known chef to reveal the contents of their home fridge. What is lurking there? What secret food passions do they have? How many of the strange food items will they blame on the friends? This issue, we hear from Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi.


he popular fusion of Indian food with international cuisine is what made Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi’s name. A North Indian by birth, he graduated from the catering school in Bhubaneshwar and then spent some years in learning different international cuisines. However, he realised that his interest lay in unearthing the authentic regional Indian food and studied authentic Hyderabadi food under Ustad Habib Pasha and Begum Mumtaz Khan. With a keen interest in the origins of Indian cuisine, he researched the links between Ayurveda and food becoming recognised by many, in the process, as the creator of Ayurveda cuisine. He is known for bringing back ancient Indian herbs and unique vegetables in his cooking, with dishes such as Drumstick flower pakodas, Red pumpkin flower pakodas and Red pumpkin salad. He is also well-known for his partnership with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor of Khana Khazana, working together to open new Kapoor restaurants, such as the new Siganture by Sanjeev Kappor at the Melia Hotel in Dubai, as well as developing books and packaged food products. And somehow he finds time to host one of India’s most popular cooking show - Turban Tadka - on the FoodFood channel.


hat lies in a celebrity chef’s refrigerator? Let me share with you all, my fridge and, I’ll warn you right now, there might be a few items that may surprise you, even a few that might horrify you! When it comes to cooking, at home, most of the time, I am the mise en place chef as the Head Chef is my better half, Aparna. I try my best to help her out with all the cutting and chopping. And, when this happens, one can definitely find chopped onions, ginger-garlic paste, chopped chillies, chopped spring onions, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, tomato puree cooked in oil and so on stacked in the fridge, which helps us dish out a perfect quick meal. Since travelling is an integral part of me, my life and my profession because of culinary shows, restaurant launches and food festivals all over the world, I generally pick up a specific food, typical of a place and bring it back with me. The best place to store these perishable items becomes the fridge. Besides the Indian foodstuffs, my fridge really helps me to store my international picks


carefully so that they can be used as and when they are required. The most common and popular food item stored in my fridge which is generally used by me when I cook an international selection for family and friends happens to be various kinds of sauces. So, one can find everything ranging from a Teriyaki sauce, Hoisin sauce or Oyster sauce to a Hot garlic sauce, Tabasco, Red chilli sauce and many other South East Asian sauces. I always love to experiment with these sauces and one of my favourite dishes that is done with some of these sauces is Ginger and chilli oyster chicken. Next in line are some of the Middle Eastern herbs and spices like zatar and sumac which are used by my family as well when they are in the experiment mode - these spices can be sprinkled on regular Indian paranthas. The result is absolutely mesmerising. It also helps to break up those monotonous flavours, making it more palatable and likeable to everyone! On a recent trip to Dubai, my family tasted hummus and everyone totally loved it. When we returned, it had already found its place on our dining tables and this is the reason that you can now find tahini as well in my fridge. Also, being a full Indian at heart, chickpeas are very very common in my family meals and we now use them as extensions to a variety of hummus recipes. Besides all these, there are some exotic stuffs like pimentoes stuffed with feta, stuffed olives and stuffed brinjals with walnuts, which I recently bought back home from my trips to Bahrain have

found a place in my refrigerator. These do well in my barbecue parties. Also, Mejdoul dates are an absolute delight and melt in the mouth fruits and they are permanently in my fridge as their longevity increases when stored in this medium. One more international food item named Munaka honey, which I recently picked from New Zealand, can now be seen in my fridge. It’s ideal for a good, healthy breakfast when had with white oats. Let’s talk Indian now - the daily affair of food stuffs that is used in Indian households, like tomatoes, green chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander leaves, mint leaves, vegetables of the season, etc are always there in the vegetable section of my fridge. Fruits of the season are also there and are really handy while doing an exciting dessert. Thanks to the availability, my daughters, Anushka and Antra, now utilise their free time by making pancakes topped with bananas and honey. They also make some real good shakes with seasonal fruits with chocolate syrup and cocoa sprinkled on top. Besides these, an assortment of pickles from Varanasi, gongura pickle especially those from Hyderabad or Andhra Pradesh are common in my fridge. The Hyderabadi pickle holds a special place in my life as I was trained in the Royal households of Hyderabad, while the Andhras have their pickle with steamed rice, dried red chillies and with a dollop of ghee on top. Simple, yet delicious! Also, a bowl of green coriander chutney always has to be handy because my daughters are fond of grilled chutney sandwich in their tiffin for school and what better way to store it than to store in a refrigerator? Daily consumption items like milk and yogurt are always in bulk in the fridge - yogurt holds an important place in raitas as well as all by itself - be it a mixed vegetable raita or fresh pomegranate and potato raita which is tempered with cumin. Quick snacks like idlis and dosas can only be made when I have the batters in handy, stored in the fridge. These are also best for packing up a tiffin meal for my kids or as breakfast items and can be innovatively combined with various kinds of chutneys and International sauces as well.




A fine apéritif Apéritif à la française was the perfect occasion to announce the comeback of French beef to the UAE as the authorities have recently signed an agreement to restart the import of French beef into the Emirates.


ood food and fine wine are a key part of the French national psyche. That’s why SOPEXA (the international Marketing Agency for Food, Wine and Lifestyle) with the full support of the French Ministry of Agriculture originated the Apéritif à la française highlighting French products and brands. Dubai, together with six capital cities around the globe - New York, Tokyo, Montreal, Beirut, Mexico and Shanghai - was again selected this year to host this major event and promote the diversity, wealth, simplicity and availability of French food and drink. Over 40 French food and beverage brands brought together an excellent selection of France’s genuine high quality products: breads, pastries, cheeses, cream and butter, chocolates, deli products, pastry products, foie gras, oysters and other foods as well as wines, spirits, waters and syrups. Apéritif à la française was as well the perfect

occasion to announce the comeback of French beef to the UAE as the authorities have recently signed an agreement to restart the import of French beef into the Emirates. Professionals and consumers alike had the chance to savour the first piece of french beef for more than a decade and this high quality and much appreciated meat soon found a ready audience at the large live carving station, serving rib eye and tenderloin. Main sponsor, Lescure presented its products in a stunningly realistic farm setting reflecting the values of the co-operative of small producers behind the Lescure brand. This philosophy behind the brand guarantees the fullest respect of rural traditions as well as the quality and traceability of Lescure products. A fountain of cream was set up where guests could dip ripe French strawberries revealing the delicate and smooth flavour of this high quality cream. And two eye catching, full size cow replicas were brought from France specially for the occasion! Guests queue up for the tastings

Sharing information

The chocolate fountain waits!


Cold meats proved popular

Out and about

PARTICIPATING BRANDS Food: Beuralia - dairy products Bjorg - organic products Bongrain Group - cheese and dairy products Bonne Mamam - jams Bridor - bakery and pastries Chateau Blanc - bakery and pastries DGF - fine food Elle&Vire - dairy products Eurovanille - vanilla Gaillard - truffles GEF - beef Lesaffre - bakery Lescure - dairy products Lune de miel - honey Maison Francis Miot - jams and honey Michel Cluizel - chocolate Monbana - chocolate Mons - cheese Parcs Saint Kerber - oysters PatisGrance - pastry products Percheron - condiments Pierre Oteiza - delicatessen Panthier - fruit products Sabarat - fine food Sicoly - fruit products Soulard - foie gras Valrhona - chocolate Weiss - chocolate Beverages (non-alcoholic): Badoit - sparkling natural spring water Elixia - lemonade Evian - still natural spring water Teisseire - syrups Vittel - still natural spring water Beverages (alcoholic): Boutinot - wines Chateau Fleur la Mothe - wines Chateau Roubine - wines Domaine de Nizas - wines Hecht & Bannier - wines Langlois Chateau - wines Ricard - pastis Non-food: Bragard - uniforms Comatec - packaging Robot-Coupe - equipment Satisfying the sweet tooth

French beef on offer



Market focus

Organic - a F market in decline? Here’s the irony: across the Emirates, shoppers crowd out the shelves of organic markets and supermarkets sections, but restaurants report an almost complete lack of demand. So what’s going on?

our of five years ago, it seemed that the organic food movement, in Dubai was unstoppable. Organic Foods & Cafe was expanding, Spinneys and other large supermarkets introduced well-stocked organic sections, fine dining restaurants from Magnolia to az.u.r to Signatures were finding a ready audience for organic ingredients. And then, the market went into reverse. Well, it only went into reverse in the restaurant sector - consumers rush to local farmers’ markets, strip the shelves of new organic shops and, in general, seem keen to change their eating habits for good. So why, when they go out to dine, are they so reluctant to demand and then pay for organic produce? And, at the same time, become more vocal about traceability and local food? The simple truth, perhaps, lies solely in cost. As Gregor Schmidt-Kiefer, the Executive Assistant Manager at Four Points by Sheraton, explains: “The demand is not enough, no-one asks for it. It is very expensive and people aren’t prepared to pay for it in a hotel.” He claims costs, especially for organic dairy products, can be more than double normal supplies, leading to much higher menu prices. And that’s not a good thing in a increasingly competitive dining market. Organic foods are defined as those that use methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilisers. They are foods not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives. In other words, food just as most of the world’s farmers have produced it for most of our time on the planet. Argument comes over its benefits: despite the vocal claims of its advocates, most scientific evidence so far has failed to show a significant difference between organic and more conventionally grown food in terms of safety, nutritional value or taste. So, if the claims of fresh, healthy eating options are not quite as clear-cut as some suppose, is there another reason why people are flocking to buy organic and local produce? One clear one is the newly found sense of community that comes from shopping locally and feeling part of a movement of people on the path to a healthier, sustainable lifestyle. Never mind that we have to drive ten kilometres to buy a loaf of organic bread, we’re doing the right thing, aren’t we? We’re also theoretically saving on food miles, encouraging local businesses and supporting local farmers. What’s not to like? The problem is that when restaurants try to reach out to the largely Western expat population and young Emirati females who are the natural target for organic food, it just doesn’t work. At the start of the year, business lunch hotspot and media folk evening rendezvous Certo at the Radisson Blu in Dubai Media City offered a special organic menu for two weeks. The result, admits the hotel’s GM, Francois Galoisy, was not a success. “Yes, we sold some but not enough to do it on a regular basis,” he recalls. And, despite discounts on some of the new dishes, only about 6% of the


Market focus total dishes sold in the period were organic and, on average, those dishes were over 20% more expensive than equivalent menu items. “Organic produce is bound by definition to be more expensive, because it produces lower yield, the shelf life is shorter and in most cases organic food is flown in,” explains Daniel During, the managing partner at hospitality consultancy Thomas Klein. “There is a limit to how much you can charge.” What may make a different in the medium term is increasing interest in organic food from both the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Ministry of Health. The former has already set a target of 3,000 hectares of agricultural land to be dedicated to organic farming. The government is also working to regulate the organic food industry and is expected to complete the process next year and, claims Juma Al Hosani, Chairman of natural products company Organic, there will be strict monitoring and limiting around the importation of some European countries and the USA. It may also certify locally-produced organic foods. Currently, there are over 40,000 farmers in the UAE... To take the temperature of the fine dining waters, we tracked down a number of chefs and industry watchers, quizzing them about organic produce: Mark Patten, Vice President, Culinary, Atlantis, The Palm Dubai. Paul Lupton, Head Chef, Rhodes 44, The St Regis Abu Dhabi. Michel Jost, Executive Chef, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi. Gaby Omar, Director, Restaurant Sciences. Yves de Lafontaine, Head Chef, The Farm, Dubai. What is customer demand for organic produce? Patten: Honestly it is not a great deal. We are finding it a lifestyle choice from our guests so we do see it coming through from time to time but not in any significant numbers to say ‘Wow - everyone is jumping on the organic wagon!’ It would be a conscious choice from a very small minority of guests that know and choose to eat organic products if they are available. Lupton: Talking about organic produce from the

fine dining prospective, customers like to see it on the menu. It is still quite a niche demand and seen more as a luxury item by the mainstream. I believe people in the main are demanding wholesome food that is well sourced in a sustainable manner. This is more important than the tag ‘Organic’. Jost: The trend shows that there is a growing interest for guests and people in general towards a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet programmes in the last four to five years and organic fruits and vegetables are part of this approach. One can see that even in most branded supermarkets the shelves of organic food products get increased attention and a larger floor space year after year.

Omar: People will always prefer to eat organic, fertilizer and pest free food, if it is affordable and easily available throughout the year. Currently the demand in the UAE for organic produce surpasses the supply with a few specialized retailers like Organic Foods & Café in Dubai, Mazaraa in Abu Dhabi and the fresh local produce, grown by local Emirati farmers available seasonally at Union Coops in Dubai. Is that demand growing? By how much over the last year? Patten: As I mentioned, not a great deal. If I placed an organic station on one of my buffets


MARK PATTEN Vice President, Culinary, Atlantis, The Palm Dubai.


PAUL LUPTON Head Chef Rhodes 44, St Regis Abu Dhabi.

MICHEL JOST Executive Chef Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi.

GABY OMAR Director Restaurant Sciences.

YVES DE LAFONTAINE Head Chef The Farm, Dubai.

Market focus naturally grown produce may not be demanding or buying it in large numbers due to the price factor. If organic produce were available at the same price as non-organic, who would not prefer to eat pest and fertilizer free food? Certainly awareness of benefits of organic food is now growing in this region but still needs to continue to achieve mass awareness. A factor that favours the UAE is that traditional practices and natural methods have been the way of life for many years. We still have modern families that follow Grandma’s remedies and natural methods, so organic is not a new alien way of life but more of going back to how things used to be. Lafontaine: Even with a slow rate of adoption the demand for organic produce still surpasses the supply. More consumers are changing their lifestyles and diet to make the switch to organic produce, or simply to experience the product at its best naturally, either freshly grow fruits and vegetables to meat, poultry, seafood, dairy or dried grains and legumes. In the UAE the demand is definitely on the increase not only as retail items but more and more in good dining establishments the word organic will pop up on the menus.

and highlighted it ‘organic’ you would be shocked to realise it is not consumed any more than the other stations offering non-organic products. Only a small percentage of guests would consume it and I believe it is a combination of both what we have available currently in the volumes required and consistency of the delivery of the product that also impacts us within the industry to select organic products for our operations. Lupton: People are become more knowledgeable about where their food is coming from and also about the environmental impact that farming has on the world. So demand has grown in the whole. Also as people have become more health

conscience, they like to be more aware of what they are putting in their bodies. Jost: It is difficult to quantify. We actually started three months ago with fruits and vegetables - but we certainly have seen an increased interest from our guests. We receive our products by mid-day and we know that they were picked the same morning. Quality and taste is just amazing and the guests can feel this. Omar: There may not be accurate figures for growth but some statistics according to hospitality and retail feedback show that it is far more expensive to source organic food than non-organic. Again, consumers while aware of the benefits of eating

Do you highlight organic produce on your menu? About what percentage of the produce that you use is organic? Patten: A very small amount with some yogurts for breakfast, chicken and certain one off vegetables or fruits that come in season. Lupton: We do use and highlight organic produce on our menus. A good example of this is organic salmon which is far more sustainable than wild salmon and of a much higher quality than regular farmed salmon. We are proud of this and of course highlight the fact. I would say about 30% of our produce is organic and that is because we choose the best produce available - it’s generally produced using organic methods. Jost: If we place it on a buffet, we indicate that the items are organic. On the a la carte menu, we do not indicate so far as we do not want the full menu to have signs and notes indicating the origin of our products. When visiting a luxury



hotel, many guests expect premium products and this is what we want to deliver. Omar: I think it’s a good idea to highlight the benefits of anything offered on a menu - healthy, low carb and diabetic-friendly as much as it is to highlight organic! Consumers like to know what they are paying for and would appreciate such healthy options if they are both highlighted and well priced. Lafontaine: As a main component of the dish we do label its origin and if it is organic. In general we use organic where ever possible. How have suppliers responded to requests for more organic produce? Patten: The challenge is once you’ve highlighted and selected a product and want to use it in the operation, it is then being able to have consistent supply of product in the volumes we would require it in. It’s okay for home use or maybe in smaller establishments but in Atlantis it’s sometimes like having a parachute in a submarine - no impact. Lupton: Certainly, the suppliers are stocking more produce than ever before. The supply lines in the Middle East have grown considerably over the past few years. Jost: We work mainly with an organic farm in Abu Dhabi that produces certified organic produce only. The farm is located about 20 minute drive from the Yas Viceroy. They have fruits, vegetables, poultry, eggs and other meat items. Overall, we get a great variety of products. Management is passionate and professional, with highly organised facilities and a genuine interest in producing top quality organic produce, with an interest in their customers’ needs. Omar: We spoke to the Supervisor at Al Barsha Union Co-op vegetable section, which stocks an amazing amount of locally grown vegetable at shockingly low prices. A local farm in Dhaid that grows organic produce supplies this. They have record sales with Emiratis and expats visiting the supermarket just for this organic produce, through word of mouth more than any actual marketing efforts. They are able to stock sufficiently during the cooler months but find it a challenge to bring sufficient supplies in during the hotter summer months. Lafontaine: The demand growth has made it very profitable for suppliers to have a line of organic produce and even in the last few years an increase of suppliers has surfaced to supply only organic. More local farms are growing organically - all making better access to the raw product. What organic produce is hardest to source here in the UAE? Patten: In the volumes we require, it in mostly

everything! However in small volumes it’s possible to obtain high end organic products for specific one off dinners or restaurants when they would like place a special dish on the menu and use maybe an organic feta cheese as part of the dish, for example. Lupton: General vegetables are the hardest to source and I would say this was due to the smaller volumes which are requested. Jost: We are very close to the organic farm, so nothing is really hard to find when working directly with the producer. We are in a privileged location, so I can understand if other hotels may have difficulties sometimes to get their products if case they need to source them through an import channel/distributor. Omar: Meats, poultry and fish are always low in stock in organic retailers. Fruits and vegetables are available though at a high price and are seldom fresh when imported, as the expiration of organic produce is far higher than non-organic that uses preservative chemicals while exporting. Most grains, wheat, rice and cereals are the easiest produce to source. Lafontaine: A good selection of certified organic fruits are not always the easiest thing to find in the region. Are diners willing to pay a premium for organic ingredients? Do they understand why some dishes using such products are of necessity more expensive? Patten: No, not in this market because if you say it is organic and charge a premium on a menu you better make sure it is and I am not sure if guests would select a dish purely due to an item which is organic and then be happy to pay 30% more for it. I cannot see it myself. Lupton: A hard question to answer. If you look at it from the mainstream, then I still believe people see organic produce as a luxury item, when they come to the restaurant, sit down and see organic chicken on the menu at whatever price, they don’t understand, it’s just chicken right? But the taste of that organic chicken that has been bred for flavour, been given a wonderful life with space to roam free, it simply does not compare to the mass produced chicken in the supermarket. Of course there is the foodie section of the market who are willing to pay out for what they understand to be a better product. Jost: Our guests understand that for a meal that is prepared and served professionally and with premium products, the price is not going to be the same as for a B-grade product. While enjoying such dishes and meals, most guests will recognise when textures and tastes are as they should be: fresh, clear and strong flavours, without having

to go to the extent of using additives as msg or flavourings as found in certain type of restaurants. Omar: In certain affluent areas of town, stylish and up-market cafes and restaurants may be able to market highly priced organic menu items. Again, the principle of marketing any food item on a menu is the taste, price, portion, presentation and the right marketing tools that convey awareness, excitement and give value for money. If all these factors are built into the offering, organic food can definitely be offered with success. Regarding paying premium price, yes consumers are primarily priceconscious but if the benefits are well highlighted and the consumer is educated through small notes or write ups of these benefits on a menu, the price factor could be overcome in favour of the advantages of organic ingredients. Is the move to organic produce more the result of customer demand or your wish to use what may be superior produce? Patten: I think for home use, yes, organic has increased and is in demand, but you’re dealing



Market focus

with smaller volumes and making a lifestyle choice so you decide what you and the family consume. In the industry it is a different story. I have 15,000 meals consumed a day here at Atlantis and our guests really are not demanding organic produce and we honestly could not afford to use it. Lupton: The bar has been raised in the Middle East without a doubt. As the market has grown, customer expectation has grown. We have always demanded superior produce. Jost: It is purely to satisfy the guests’ needs and to keep our promise to use the best quality produce in our kitchens. On a professional level it is very satisfying to be able to guarantee our guests real quality food and authentic tastes. Omar: Ideally, this should be a combination of both. As consumers awareness grows it would suffice to have a small section of organic dishes to satisfy the educated, well informed and concerned consumer. In this case, chefs and marketeers should meet demand with small tested offerings on menus, developing these with tact and market feedback to finally understand the right mix of organic and non-organic items through regular menu engineering. Lafontaine: Better awareness of good produce and better understanding of organic from the consumers will make it their first choice at the table. Not only are they choosing a more superior product but thinking also of the overall lifestyle benefit. The small added cost is always overlooked as the end result speaks for itself.

Do you see the availability of organic ingredients on a menu as a differentiator in the competitive UAE dining scene? Patten: No you can get everything here. Okay, some items are harder to find but again in smaller quantities and not in consistent supply. Lupton: I do see it as a differentiator. I believe it shows that the chef cares about the produce he serves his guests. Jost: Definitely, guests who purchase and eat organic in their homes will immediately recognise organic from non-organic if going to a restaurant. The tastes are completely different and they will make their choice. Omar: To stay competitive and deliver more healthy options, organic ingredients on menus may become a regular appearance in most dining venues. Until that happens, consumers preferring organic options may choose to dine in venues that currently offer them, which are still few. The competitive edge to attract the consumer’s dining dollar may then be on the side of outlets that meet this need. Lafontaine: We have a great selection of organic produce in the retail side of The Farm which gives us wide access to some wonderful produce and keeps us unique. Is the future optimistic or is organic food just a passing fad? Patten: Again it’s a lifestyle choice for people that specifically want to eat organic produce. For me, it is not a fad and it would be for some a way of life.

Lupton: The future is optimistic. More and more people are becoming passionate about the food that they eat. Jost: Organic is the option for people who want true authentic tastes, for people who want food that is healthy for their body and health, food that has nutritional value. It is a passing fad for people who never had the opportunity to see the difference between organic and non-organic, for people who do not understand the seasonality of products or have never visited a farm and also for people that still believe that milk only comes from a tetrapack. Omar: It’s a sign of times to come! The whole world is getting more conscious of health related issues that have increased with mankind’s abuse of natural resources. We may have progressed in cures and medicines in the last century but we also have more diseases than we did 100 years back! As people become aware, their demand for natural alternatives increases. Organic dining may not just be another fad! It actually has longterm benefits, which are a key factor that determine a lifestyle change rather than a passing fad! The UAE has a very cosmopolitan mix of nationalities and one of the fastest markets for great dining experiences. Rather than a passing fad we hope and anticipate that organic may become the only way to eat! Non-organic food is popular for its low cost, if organic food is affordable to all; non-organic toxically loaded produce stands no chance! The move should be to encourage more organic farmers, have import rebates and tax-free produce to make this healthy and delicious option available to all and not just for a few affluent members of society. The world needs to realise that we don’t need a thousand brands on our supermarket shelves but just a few good ones, good for our health and our children’s health. Lafontaine: Organic is here to stay and it will grow. For sure it’s not an overnight fad. Finally, in your own personal food shopping, do you seek out organic produce? Patten: Sometimes. Lupton: I scour the world looking for the best produce there is. Jost: Yes, at least 30% of my fruits and vegetables are organic. It is a habit we started about 12 years ago when raising our children. Omar: Yes, we most definitely do! We actually look for and seek organic food in various markets and it is refreshing to see that even the most commercial ones have a slowly growing section of organic produce. The country is ready and has a market for organic produce. One of our favourite haunts for organic produce in Dubai is the Union Co-op in Barsha - we have been able to eat 100% organic vegetables during the lovely winter months, just by shopping in their well-stocked ‘locally grown’ organic section. Support organic, support local farmers and organic retailers. Volume sales will help them source better rates and pay this forward to consumers through lower prices. Lafontaine: Personally I’m always looking for the next best organic produce and while shopping I’m always dropping something new in the basket.


The name Ramadan is taken from the name of this month, but the word itself is derived from an Arabic word for intense heat, scorched ground and shortness of rations. Despite those unfortunate images, it is the most venerated and blessed month of the Islamic year, with Muslims focused more than usual on praying, charity and self-awareness, as well as the more visible signs of fasting.

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t is fasting in Ramadan which has the greatest impact on other residents and visitors to a Muslim country. With no public eating or drinking between dawn and dusk, Muslims and non-Muslims alike develop a new respect for food and its value, as well as a deeper understanding of those less fortunate than themselves. Fasting during the day for Muslims means that food and energy has to be taken early and late. The pre-dawn meal of Suhoor is critical to health, as no food or drink is then taken until the the fourth prayer of the day, Maghrib (sunset), is due. In the evening, food brings communities and families together, whether they eat at home or in special Ramadan tents. For non-Muslims, this presents a special opportunity to sample a wide selection of Arabic dishes. Ramadan kareem! However, the month also brings real challenges to any F&B department: different work hours with the impact on staff, heavily reduced day time revenues, the need to deliver lavish spreads night after night and the requirement of balancing the needs of fasting believers with the curiosity of non-Muslim diners. We asked a selection of chefs and F&B professionals how they face the challenges. They are: Christian Gradnitzer, Resort Executive Chef, Madinat Jumeirah.

Hans Gfrei, Director of Food and Beverage, Park Hyatt Dubai. Chef Harald H Oberender, Director of Kitchens, Dubai World Trade Centre. Chef Max Grenard, Culinary Director, Dubai Golf. Chef Bhavesh Rawal, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Hotel Dubai. Sudqi Naddaf, Executive Chef, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates. Chefs Feras Obaid and Suhaib Omar, Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi. When did the F&B team start planning for this year’s Ramadan dining? Gradnitzer: We usually start planning right after Ramadan and always keep on developing. Reports from previous Ramadan dining experiences are set up and used for improvement purposes. Gfrei: Usually we start several months in advance regarding concepts, decoration and any possible sponsorship or partners. Oberender: In principle, we are constantly looking at how our events have been, how we can make improvements and what we can do better next time. Similarly with Ramadan, planning goes on for the entire year as this event has its own presentations and menus, especially for Iftar and Suhoor. Our efforts are more concerted three months before Ramadan. That is when we start having meetings with departments including

chefs, sales, service and marketing. Grenard: We start planning all major events at the beginning of each year to ensure that we have everything in place. This includes event logistics, marketing and sales collateral so that we can offer the quality and experience that Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club is known for. Rawal: We start planning three to four months before Ramadan to ensure availability of products, so we can finalise menus and have everything on schedule to avoid any last minute challenges. Naddaf: Ramadan is an important and very special time of the year for us and we spent a lot of time planning for the Holy Month of Ramadan. We pretty much started this year’s preparations as soon as the festive season’s decorations were taken down and then they were safely stored in the hotel’s basement! Obaid/Omar: Planning for Ramadan usually starts eight to nine months prior as we need to contract the suppliers of the tent, the shisha, as well as other caterers related to the month long venue. This is when we do go through the previous year’s debriefs to ensure we renew what worked well and obviously not invest in whatever didn’t take off as planned. What are the particular challenges it brings? Gradnitzer: There are no real challenges. It is a slight change in the way we normally operate,


CHRISTIAN GRADNITZER Resort Executive Chef Madinat Jumeirah

HANS GFREI Director of Food and Beverage Park Hyatt Dubai

CHEF HARALD H OBERENDER Director of Kitchens Dubai World Trade Centre

CHEF MAX GRENARD Culinary Director Dubai Golf

CHEF BHAVESH RAWAL Executive Chef JW Marriott Hotel Dubai

SUDQI NADDAF Executive Chef Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

FERAS OBAID Chef Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi

SUHAIB OMAR Chef Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi


Ramadan Ramadan working hours. A big focus goes, of course, towards the preparation and planning of both Iftar and Sohour. Gfrei: Our whole workload during Ramadan is concentrated over few hours of Iftar as well as late operations for Sohour and reduced work hours for staff. Oberender: At Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), we host over 500 events annually ranging from our own mega shows like Gulfood and Gitex, to exhibitions like Big 5 and Cityscape. The last few years have seen an increase in other events such as concerts, AGMs, graduation ceremonies, corporate events and congresses. We also organise events off-site and many corporate events and weddings at various locations across the UAE. DWTC is used to dealing with all kinds and sizes of events and as such, Ramadan does not prove a challenge. In terms of timing, the demand is spread out during the course of the day. We have an international audience for which we offer meals during the day time. During Ramadan, we also operate during Iftar and into the night. Teams can be stretched throughout the day and this timeframe can at times be a challenge. Grenard: The biggest challenge would have to be overcoming the summer heat, which requires a great deal more planning in providing our guests with sufficient cooling in the Ramadan tent throughout the Holy Month. Rawal: During Ramadan we’re not challenged too much with deliveries of products and prudent planning minimises the challenges that may occur during this time. Naddaf: With Dubai being such as cosmopolitan

JW Marriott - Arabic sweets


“THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FOR US IS TO TRY TO GO BACK TO THE ESSENCE AND TRADITION OF RAMADAN AND TRY TO RECREATE IT THROUGH OUR RAMADAN BUFFETS. WE TRY OUR BEST TO INCLUDE LOCAL CUISINE BUT WITH A MODERN TWIST TO APPEAL TO A WIDE RANGE OF GUESTS.” - Christian Gradnitzer, Resort Executive Chef, Madinat Jumeirah. city in the Middle East, we have guests and visitors from literally all over the world staying with us over Ramadan. The biggest challenge is balancing the needs of our Muslim and non-Muslim guests and ensuring everyone feels comfortable and well looked after from an F&B perspective. Obaid/Omar: The operational challenges Ramadan brings are mainly staffing. Our Ramadan tent, known as the best and biggest in the whole of Abu Dhabi, spans over 2100 square metres and holds up to 1,000 people. Plus Ramadan service hours are longer at night. Organising the right staffing levels affects vacation plans for the entire year. On another practical level, the tent is built over the outdoor swimming pool and surrounding palm tress. Putting up the 12-metre high structure is not a simple job and takes a lot of planning and co-ordination to get through the stages without

affecting the daily work or disturbing guests who are staying or dining at the hotel. Do you adopt a traditional approach or try to bring a more modern flavour to the dishes? Gradnitzer: We are trying as much as possible to connect our Iftars to the local cuisine - we are one of the few who will be offering traditional Emirati dishes in our Iftar buffets prepared by our very own Emirati Chef. To keep it modern we try to put a great focus on healthy and digestible dishes, bearing in mind the lifestyle changes that occur during Ramadan, which can affect the digestive system. The main base of the dishes are based on traditional Middle Eastern dishes with a selection of international cuisine. Buffet style for Iftar is offered and a la carte for Sohour. Gfrei: Cafe Arabesque is very popular with its traditional Levantine cuisine. In Traiteur this year we’re trying to have a different approach and will offer a mix of traditional Arabic, Western and some Indian dishes to cater for Muslims from many various nationalities, as well as non-Muslims looking to try something traditional, yet having menu items guaranteed to suit their tastes. Oberender: DWTC is known for being at the forefront of innovation. Although we have a traditional background and our Emirati kitchen is highly reputed, we tend to take basic traditional ingredients and give them a modern twist that suits the tastes of our guests. Grenard: We adopt a very traditional approach in many respects during the month of Ramadan which is reflected through the Iftar and Suhour offerings throughout Dubai Golf. During Eid we try to be creative and add our own twist to some dishes to keep things new and exciting. Rawal: We try to be as traditional as possible for the authenticity of the food but also will be having international dishes too so we can entice a wider market of guests. We again concentrate on providing the authentic flavours with a more modern presentation. Naddaf: Tradition is key for people that follow their cultural celebrations. One has some space to differentiate around things like food presentation, but the core items need to be there to satisfy peoples’ need for the things they remember from childhood.

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Ramadan Obaid/Omar: Ramadan Iftar would not be the same without its traditional offerings so Arabic dishes are offered in a traditional way and flavours. Buffet is the norm, starting with thirst quenchers to end with the traditional sweets and there is always an immense array of these. We do integrate as well international dishes giving them an oriental twist. As for the Suhour meals under the tent, we sub-contract a traditional fetir maker: this baked bread with different fillings is a core item for the early morning breakfast or the late night snack. A Ramadan tent without fetir on the menu would be a miss. How do you cater between the twin audiences of Muslims breaking their fast and non-Muslims wishing to experience local culture? Gradnitzer: We cater for both guests the same way. Non-Muslim guests enjoy experiencing true traditional food and we often see them trying to fast so that they can also experience the genuine Ramadan tradition. Gfrei: Our main focus is set on Iftar for Muslims but we also have non-Muslim guests joining and experiencing the occasion. As mentioned above, we are introducing Traiteur as a venue with different menu options (alongside the traditional dishes) this year, and additionally we have The Thai Kitchen which is serving the regular dinner menu throughout Ramadan and which mainly caters for non-Muslims during the month. Oberender: We are very particular to ensure that fasting guests are not offended. We keep catering to restricted areas for non-Muslims. This is strictly as per the regulations of Dubai Municipality and abides by the guidelines set by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. Grenard: We are primarily catering for Muslims so the whole set up for the Ramadan tent and the food we serve reflects this. Non-Muslims are more interested in experiencing something that is authentic so our approach is to consider the core values and traditions as a priority, which in turn provides a wonderful opportunity to experience the local culture for all guests. Rawal: The interests of these two groups are not conflicting. Muslims break their fast traditionally, non-Muslims participate and experience this practice

JW Marriott - Spices

Kempinksi Hotel Mall of the Emirates - Sweets of waiting patiently for the sun to set. At the JW Marriott Hotel Dubai our multicultural guests will observe the local culture in the Arabic dishes, our screening of the popular Arabic soap operas and live Arabic sweet-making all for the essential spirit of Ramadan. Naddaf: Being adjacent to the mall we do have many non-Muslim guests who visit our outlets during the day. We do offer regular mealtimes at our restaurants during Ramadan for those that are not fasting, but we do make sure there is no advertising or visibility for those that are fasting. At evening time we take great pride and care in creating an impressive buffet for Iftar and

we always encourage our non-Muslim guests to come and experience this important part of the local culture. Obaid/Omar: The hotel’s restaurants are open during Ramadan every evening after Iftar, so nonMuslim guests can enjoy dinner at their own time and flavour! We do guide newcomers though to discover Ramadan traditions and eating habits. Some guests like to experience Iftar but since they are not fasting, they tend to arrive after the break hour so there is no real clash between the two groups of diners. As for the tent and Suhour hour, it is more of a tradition related to the region more so than to the religion, thus customers are



Ramadan of all nationalities and faiths. Suhour tents have that special ambience that is purely Middle Eastern and the buzz around the place, its décor and the whole atmosphere reminisces of stories of the Thousand and One Night! How closely do you work with nutritionists to ensure dishes are properly balanced? Gradnitzer: We have our own Resort Wellbeing chef, Chef Gabriele Kurz who always creates healthy and well-balanced dishes for our resort guests. Gfrei: So far we have not really worked with nutritionists and instead cook dishes that our guests enjoy. If guests request certain dishes based on their specific dietary requirements (such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten free or dairy free dishes), then all our restaurants are ready to prepare something special. Oberender: As DWTC, we have a healthy meals programme called Healthtrendz. Overeating can be a big issue during Ramadan. To avoid this, we work closely with nutritionists to ensure that all dishes are properly balanced. Healthtrendz has the back-up of qualified and experienced licensed dieticians who ensure that the Healthtrendz Ramadan menu is prepared in view of long hours of fasting. The menu has options, for example, for slow digesting foods that are rich in fibre, very filling and delicious.This helps guests go about

Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi


their routine with raised energy levels and also makes them feel less hungry during the day. We have also seen a demand for healthy options (like salmon wrap or soy bean salad) during Ramadan and we work with our nutritionist to ensure these are available to guests. Grenard: I work closely with a qualified dietician from Bespoke Wellness/Nutrition to ensure that our menus are balanced and nutritious. We are working very closely on providing a range of healthy options throughout all of our venues including the QD’s Ramadan tent. For Ramadan in particular the emphasis is on controlling blood sugar and how we can provide dishes appropriate for those breaking their fast. Rawal: We keep a very healthy mix as we always prepare Arabic dishes in olive oil, using traditional ingredients which are also healthy such as dates, camel milk, dried fruits etc. While Muslim guests fasts for the entire day, we avoid giving them extra rich dishes as it would be difficult for them to digest. Naddaf: We have a very experienced in-house culinary team and we work very closely together in creating the various dishes we offer during Iftar and Suhour to ensure they are not just tasty and well presented, but fresh and nutritious as well. Many of us have very extensive experience in preparing food especially for Ramadan and for us it’s one of the most exciting times of the year. Obaid/Omar: We try to balance heavy traditional

recipes with healthy international options, to provide the guest a wholesome meal made of all food categories rather than starch and sugar. But if we look at Ramadan and its real meaning, Iftar is meant to be scarce and healthy. It is more of a sharing time with loved ones and inviting the less privileged, unlike the dining extravaganza that it had been turned into over the years. Do you compare what other outlets are offering? If so, did you adopt any ideas last year for implementation this Ramadan? Gradnitzer: We always of course look around and see new and unique trends in other outlets, but we also look at what we have previously done and take the best parts with new and inspiring ideas. The greatest challenge for us is to try to go back to the essence and tradition of Ramadan and try to recreate it through our buffets. We try our best to include local cuisine but with a modern twist to appeal to a wide-range of guests. My philosophy is to try to offer our guests what they would expect from someone’s own kitchen. Gfrei: We constantly do competitor checks and internal reviews but try to go our own way, which has proven to be quite popular considering the return guest rate. Oberender: As a business, we are always in tune with what our competition is offering and ensure that we provide high-quality food and world-class facilities and services that are at a par with the best global standards. Grenard: We always look at what other venues are offering during this period, but our Ramadan tent has been operating for a number of years and we have taken it upon ourselves to evolve this offering and improve year on year. This includes developing a wider range of dishes, working with dieticians and nutritionists, guest feedback and competitive pricing. Rawal: Some of the ideas that we had last year are going to be adopted for this year such as the live saj station, grills being cooked in front of the guests so there is a more interactive feel to the whole experience of the Iftar. We strongly believe that there is nothing better than freshly cooked food and that’s a reason we will concentrate a lot into the live cooking. Naddaf: We have built a tradition of our own over the past few years which we thoroughly enjoy organising for our guests. As part of our Ramadan offering, we will once again this year be serving Iftar in the snowy surroundings of our Ski Chalet so guests can take in the views of Ski Dubai directly from their window whilst they enjoy a special set menu. Obaid/Omar: We are always looking at the competition and learning from them as well as they do with us. The mix of ideas from our own staff and their own experience is also a great source of inspiration to present our Iftar buffet. Clearly Ramadan represents a financial hit to F&B with limited dining and lower alcohol sales. What percentage of annual F&B revenue does the month represent? Gfrei: Ramadan combined with the summer, which

Ramadan is traditionally slower than the rest of the year, has a big impact on F&B revenue which is indeed considerably lower. Grenard: For us this is actually a good revenue generator as the venue would normally remain closed for the hotter summer months. As we now have the semi-permanent air conditioned tent it allows us to generate additional revenue of upward of 5% per year. Rawal: This is very hard to say. It depends a lot again on how many Iftar groups we get during Ramadan. We have created special packages for companies to come and have Iftar with us. If this all works the way we have planned, I am not very worried about this. Naddaf: For us Ramadan has always been a strong month and in some years it represented as much as 12% of our annual F&B revenue. Obaid/Omar: Ramadan affects alcohol sales by 100 % but the food sales sort of make up for it since the banqueting is full all month through as are daily Iftar meals. And Suhour inside the Ramadan tent makes up for the restaurants that close for lunch. On the other hand Ramadan is the time where major annual maintenance works take place, when also holidays are taken by staff, overall revenues are budgeted with allocations to the drawbacks in beverage sales. Have you taken on board calls from some quarters recently that meals should not be so lavish and waste cut back? Gradnitzer: We are always focusing in limiting waste and that’s why we moved from offering a widespread buffet to offering live cooking stations. The buffets that we prepare are always very well calculated and prepared according to bookings to minimise waste. Gfrei: Unfortunately during Ramadan there is lots of wastage which we try to fight through close observation and control of food costs based on how much business to expect and how much is generally consumed. Cutting back on food variety and food quality however is certainly not an option for us. Our guests have been visiting our outlets year on year expecting a certain calibre of food quality/ variety and service and we aim to please and surpass these guest expectations year on year. Oberender: We give advice to our clients of the various options that are available. It is eventually up to them to make the decision. Grenard: We are always very conscious of concerns about waste and this is partly why we plan so far in advance, which allows us to minimise waste. Rawal: The menus we have are not lavish or too extravagant but a good balance of traditional Arabic and International cuisine which should satisfy all our clients and reduce the waste of the Iftar as our aim is to have a generous mix of all nationalities as diners. Naddaf: There are many ways to work with food presentation in order to reduce waste. Lavish doesn’t have to mean mountains of food and adding more OS&E to the presentation helps. Instead of the large platters you make small individual portions - it still shows a certain size, but as there is more

Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi porcelain and glass in the presentation, you use less prepared food. This benefits the guest as well, as people can help themselves to a small yet nicely decorated version of the traditional larger platter. Obaid/Omar: There is not supposed to be any waste since all meals are prepared to fit the number of diners. We know how many people can be seated at one time therefore buffets are designed with the number in mind. We could argue the opposite saying that Iftar buffets have less wastage because they do not last hours as, for example, brunches do. It’s hardly one hour and there is only so much you can serve in that span of time. Are there lessons from Ramadan dining that could be implemented during the rest of the year? Gradnitzer: The main lesson we would take with us is trying to offer traditional dishes throughout the year instead of limiting it to Ramadan only. We started introducing Emirati dishes in our daily buffets around a year ago and it has been a great educational experience for our guests who are usually not introduced to such dishes when they visit the country. Gfrei: Nothing specific. Oberender: If there is one lesson, it would be to not assume you know what your customers want. During Ramadan, people definitely enjoy eating scrumptious, filling meals. Yet, there are others who want healthier options. By our continuously taking customer feedback on board, we offer a mix in our Ramadan menus so we have something

on offer for everyone. Grenard: It shows us that people enjoy the opportunity to experience something different and come together with family and friends. The traditional element also holds much appeal to all cultures and nationalities as people are seeking a new dining experience. This can be recreated by providing special events and food festival throughout the year that celebrate a range of different cuisines from around the world. Rawal: We try and keep a good amount of Arabic cuisine running through The Market Place, our international restaurant (live grill station, hot and cold mezzeh) as we feel that it should not only be during Ramadan that these dishes should be offered so as being in an Arabic country we should embrace the cuisine of the region as best we can. Naddaf: Being conscious of the gift of food I think is really important. In Dubai we are very spoilt for choice and there can be a tendency to forget the fortunate position we find ourselves in. I also think it’s important to appreciate the work that goes into preparing the food and the efforts of the many people making it possible for us to have blueberries in February and Kobe beef from Japan in Dubai. Obaid/Omar: There are always lessons to be learned from experiences. Ramadan can teach the spirit of sharing and building a convivial meal around one theme which is always a successful dining experience.


Water, water everywhere Although tap water here in the UAE is potable, its taste does not make it all that drinkable. Hence the ubiquity of bottled water in homes and restaurants. However, a new trend is emerging - high-value ‘designer’ waters are being imported from as far away as New Zealand and Norway. We take a look at the market.


ccording to Euromonitor International, the market for bottled water is now exploding right across the GCC - up more than 30% over the last five years. And there’s no end in sight. Saudi Arabia alone - it is believed - will consume 2,000 million litres of bottled water in just two years time, whilst the UAE should rise 50% in consumption by 2014 to more than 765 million litres. All of which means a very competitive market with new players entering the regions all the time, at precisely the time that authorities have banned the export of UAE bottled water in order to conserve stocks. However, key growth is not in semi-generic local product, but in increasingly niche designer waters being imported by players such as Fine Waters, keen to fill a part of a market that sees the average consumer get through more than 250 litres of the product every year. “The bottled water market has become the most competitive market in the Middle East,” claims Ahmed Ghaly,

CEO of Fine Waters. To many it seems as if this booming market is an ideal one to enter, but more mature players warn of a lack of understanding. General high disposable income and a desire for exclusivity may be important for a certain segment of the population, but the number of complaints in the media about the cost of bottled water in some restaurants shows a more cautious approach by many consumers. They may feel a real need for bottled water through a combination of high heat, distrust of tap water and so on, but that doesn’t mean that they will go crazy for an everyday item. And they certainly have a wide choice of product: leaving aside the local water companies, there are currently over 1,500 brands of bottled water (including different sized containers) that are registered with the Municipality. But success can be found even in a market as spoilt for choice, as recent entrant Antipodes discovered. In just four years, it has doubled sales



NEW TO THE MARKET Classic French sparkling water Badoit is the latest high-visibility entrant into the local market, from Danone. Positioned as premium sparkling water, it is being aimed at the fine dining restaurant business. According to Evian Volvic Export GM Elio Pacheco, Badoit, acts as the perfect match to still Evian, already capturing much of the high-end market. Until now, Badoit was not available for export and, to match local requirements, it had to be redesigned and rebranded for the Middle East. “It is not overly carbonated, Pacheco insists. “It’s a premium sparkling brand in the market that is naturally sparkling from source - a key differentiating feature.” Danone believes that, the water’s non aggressive nature makes it ideal for fine dining and that it can be priced at the higher level. It’s different, it’s special, it’s priced higher is the messaging.

and is finding that more and more F&B managers are willing to be more experimental with brands, given higher margins. If, the argument goes, diners are willing to pay a premium for food products, why not for water. Many also point to the French experience, where some mineral waters are regularly chosen as a choice of aperitif over alcohol. Typical of the new high-level entrant is the Canadian luxury water Gize, gold-filtered. It is already being positioned as ideal for the diner who doesn’t want to drink alcohol but wants a product on the same luxury and special level as champagne or fine wine. Overall, the drive now is towards quality and exclusivity. Brands such as Antipodes and San Benedetto rely on focused distribution through F&B outlets, thus increasing the desirability of the brands in customers’ eyes. Expect to see more of this, especially as F&B exclusive brands offer the chance of a mark-up that customers may not recognise. A restaurant demanding a 100 or 1,000% mark-up on a brand readily available in groceries is soon going to be caught out by aware diners... Another trend that we can expect to see grow is the arrival of the water sommelier. Although still not as advanced as some other territories, growth of product knowledge is a clear way of increasing sales, especially of high-profit lines. If suppliers can work with chefs and sommeliers/ waiters to increase intelligent food and water pairings, this can only help the whole industry. Nestle Waters Italy, with key brands Acqua Panna and SanPellegrino, already has an F&B manager education scheme in place and SanPellegrino has an enviable gobal reputation of being linked to fine dining. Consumers need educating too. One example of this in Dubai is the Water Bar which imports


Water brands Iskilde, Mondariz, Tasmanian Rain, Te Waihou and Ice Age. Commendably, it is focused on glass bottles and is a carbon neutral company, part of the UN Global Compact Group, and the only distributor in the Middle East that has a complete recycling programme for home and office deliveries. Many water companies are also looking at the example of the United States where, despite perfectly safe and pleasant tap water, bottled water is now the fastest growing beverage - it already outsells coffee and tea, is closing on sports drinks and beer and may well overtake tap water before long. According to John Sicher Jr, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, a trade publication. “The issue is convenience and shifting consumer preference.” Concern is growing about the environmental impact of so many plastic bottles. “More than 90% of the environmental impact from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,’’ claims Dr Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration and, in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills. “The bottle is going to have to change,” he said. “I’m seeing more interest in this than any time in the last 30 years.”

GIVE IT FLAVOUR It started with a twist of lemon or lime, but expect to see soon an explosion of flavoured bottled water. Fruit may be the obvious one, but manufacturers are increasingly now experimenting with herbs, botanicals and spices. Aroma is now as important as taste. At present Danone in leading the market and Nestle Waters is in fourth place with its mainly plain water portfolio. So look for the four variants: Plain water - mineral, spring or purified water without added flavourings. Flavoured water - mineral, spring or purified water with added flavourings. Flavoured functional - mineral, spring or purified water with added flavourings and with added functional ingredients - botanicals, vitamins, minerals, oxygen or other, as well as flavoured waters marketed with functional positioning. Water Plus - a general term for flavoured and flavoured functional waters.



Drawn from protected organic land, high in the ochil hills, perthshire, which means our water is as pure as it can possibly be.


P.0.Box. 5771, Dubai,uae, Email:,



Got milk?

Our thirst for milk and the endless nutrients and creamy flavour it provides remain strong. Many of us were raised drinking milk with every meal and we can probably recall our own favourite milk moments: pairing milk with a freshly baked biscuit or, come winter, warming up with hot chocolate. Beyond tasting great, time and again research has proven that consuming dairy products can do everything from keeping our bones healthy to keeping weight off.


ave you ever walked down the dairy aisle at the market and wondered which milk is best for you? The CMPB (California Milk Processor Board), the creator of the iconic GOT MILK? ad campaign, and the Dairy Council of California have been working together to educate consumers on how their choices could make a difference in their overall health. “Dairy milk has been a part of the American lifestyle for centuries, but families still have many questions about this beverage,” says Ashley Rosales, who is the Registered Dietitian for the Dairy Council of California. Here, she answers some typical questions about milk: Are all milks created equal? It’s always best to consume food and beverages closest to their natural state. Almonds, rice and siy beans are great foods to eat but processing them and substituting them for another food group does not help consumers get the nutrients needed for a balanced diet. A comparison of nutrient facts for whole almonds, soybeans and rice reveals that they are much more nutrient-rich in their whole, not liquid, forms. When it comes to milk there’s nothing more natural, wholesome and nutrient-rich than good old-fashioned dairy milk. Milk is the healthy, affordable choice. Who should drink whole milk versus low-fat and fat-free milk? Thankfully, milk is offered in a variety of options to support the health of people based on their individual needs. Whole milk is recommended for toddlers between one and two years old because they need fats in their diets for nerve and brain development. Beyond age two, it really depends on the individual’s needs and preferences. For




people looking to cut calories, choose low-fat or fat-free milk. Whole, low-fat or fat-free, all dairy milk has the same amount of calcium and contains nine essential nutrients for strong bones, muscles, hair, teeth and nails. For adults, drinking the recommended three servings of milk a day can lower the risk of osteoporosis and high blood pressure and ward against diabetes and certain types of cancer.


Ingredient Can consumers drink milk if they are lactose intolerant? Health professionals recommend that people visit their doctor first to check the cause of symptoms. But even people with lactose intolerance can typically enjoy milk and milk products in their diets and benefit from the important nutrients they provide. Lactose-free milk is now widely available to buy.

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW MILK? Fiction: All ‘milks’ are the same. Fact: For starters, alternative ‘milks’ like soy, rice and almond beverages aren’t even milk! They’re actually juices extracted from plants. While they may be fortified with a few nutrients like calcium, they don’t match the complete nutrient package of cow’s milk. Vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium are at much lower levels in these processed beverages and, even though the drinks are fortified with extra calcium, our bodies absorb 25% less of it from them than they do from natural cow’s milk. Fiction: Milk is only for kids. Fact: Milk is for everybody, no matter what age. There is a lifelong value with dairy as we move through different life stages and that’s true for men and women. That’s why health authorities recommend three servings each day for a range of health benefits, including lower risk for osteoporosis, high blood pressure and certain cancers. Fiction: If you’re lactose intolerant, you can’t drink or eat milk products. Fact: Good news: most people with lactose intolerance can consume certain dairy products with little to no symptoms. Try sipping small amounts of milk with your meals, or eating hard cheese and yogurt - both are delicious and low in lactose.

Selma Hayek got milk!


Did you know‌ The United States is the world’s largest cheese producer, with an award-winning portfolio of over 400 premium cheese varieties, from European-style cheeses to American Originals

Enhance your culinary creations‌ with cheese from the United States

Pepper Jack: Crafted in the

ed Unit


, ca s e t a t


che g n i t a iv

fs around the world

Roasted Mushroom and U.S. Pepper Jack Ravioli Makes approximately 140 raviolis

“The U.S. Pepper Jack cheese makes a nice creamy blend with the deep avors of the roasted vegetables. The pepper heat from the cheese is a great combination with a rich red sauce, but also works well in a white sauce. Don’t forget to top the dish with some U.S. Parmesan or U.S. Asiago.â€? –Chef John Esser, Consultant Chef for USDEC



1k cremini mushrooms, quartered 300g yellow onions, chopped 150g garlic cloves, chopped 200ml olive oil 2 tbsp Italian herbs, dry 1 tbsp salt 1 tbsp black pepper 700g U.S. Pepper Jack cheese, shredded 15g at leaf parsley, minced Pasta sheets, thawed (or your own fresh house-made sheets)

Pre-heat convection oven to 200 C. Place mushrooms and onion in a large bowl. In small bowl mix garlic, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper; pour mixture over mushrooms and toss well. Place mixture on sheet pans in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes; decrease oven temperature to 140 C and roast for another 30 minutes. Take mushroom mixture, chop ďŹ ne and chill. When chilled, mix in cheese and parsley. Place 10g of mixture into each ravioli and seal tightly. Filled ravioli can be steamed or boiled; they can be fresh frozen on parchment paper for later use.

U.S. cheese is already available in your market, check today with your local importer/distributor or contact USDEC for a list of local suppliers: # $! )* . !#(+* ! &'& . % #$ %- %! , !(# &!* $ . "'&!

The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) is a free resource to help you ďŹ nd additional information on U.S. cheese applications and distribution channels. We are a non-proďŹ t, independent membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders.

On the passe

When great Catalan chef Santi Santamaria opened his ďŹ rst restaurant outside Spain, Ossiano at Atlantis The Palm, it combined exquisite food with one of the most dramatic settings in Dubai: complex, multi-course tasting menus based on seafood against a backdrop of an entire glass wall looking into the resort’s aquarium. When he died of a heart attack last year, a tricky question arose: who could replace his vision? Step forward Wesley Berghoff!


On the passe


On the passe


On the passe


eeting the young Wesley Berghoff, Chef de Cuisine of Ossiano, there’s only one possible opening question: how can he fill Santamaria’s rather big shoes? “I always want to set myself a real challenge,” he replies. “It’s just my thing.” Growing up in South Africa, food was never a major passion for him or his family. “My mother produced solid, traditional food and I was never even allowed into the kitchen. I don’t think I even fried an egg before I was 18. We lived on things like stews.” So what inspired him to become a chef? “I was in my late teens and I just happened to see one of Keith Floyd’s TV shows. And that was it - all I wanted from then on was to become chef.” With almost zero experience, he then attended catering college, soaking up lessons both from his tutors and more experienced fellow students. “Many of them had done, you know, a couple of years in a kitchen and so had skills I had no idea about. My experience was on the level of toasting a cheese sandwich but I watched them and learned from them. I discovered a real love of food and work in a kitchen. A lot of people see what we do on TV and think it’s a very glamorous life but from the start I just loved the pressure and the stress and all that constant movement during every service.” While still studying, Berghoff got his first real experience as a commis at the Atlantis Beach Golf Estate in South Africa. After college, he was Chef De Partie at the Ambassador Hotel and then worked in a number of five star hotels and restaurants, including Westcote Inn (UK), Villa Italia-Christies Leisure Group (Channel Islands) and Table Bay Hotel (South Africa). “My career has really taken me to all sorts of places from gastro pubs to brasseries, banqueting to fine dining, all across a wide range of cuisines such as classical French, Italian, British and Asian. I think my move to the UK really changed my perception of food. Back home, people were really conservative about food and, even in a fine dining restaurant, would demand the kind of stews or well done meat that they were used to. Then, suddenly, I was in a country where people were ordering medium rare burgers or adding duck confit to a Caesar salad.”

Berghoff next got a major career boost as the Senior Sous Chef at MAZE by Gordon Ramsay at the One&Only Cape Town. “I worked for Gordon but never with him. He was only in the place for three days a year and then he really did nothing, cooked nothing, but he had a real presence. I can remember we had a major function and he just came in, said a few words, got the whole team in order in just a few seconds. Great attention to detail. As a chef, you know when someone is a real chef - in the kitchen there’s nowhere to hide. But really I worked closely with Jason (Executive Chef Jason Atherton). With Jason, it was always about the food - he’s still in the kitchen every day, he cooks and works in every section, training people. I remember a very telling comment from Marco Pierre White from years ago, when he said that people went to eat Pierre Koffman’s pig’s trotter because Koffman cooked it.” Berghoff is clearly still heavily influnced by Atherton. “I worked for Gordon Ramsay but I’m a Jason Atherton chef,” he insists. “A lot of the style of Gordon’s restaurants came from Jason - the style and the class. When he left, I think the whole standard dropped. I’m lucky I think to have worked for that crowd of chefs, who all came from the same kind of background - Marco’s legacy. What really impressed me was the total precision and attention to detail: if the salt is here on the plate today, then it needs to be in exactly


the same place tomorrow and the day after. It was such an efficient brigade at MAZE and what I loved was the lack of hostility. Everyone worked as a team and looked out for each other, acting as internal quality control.” In the end, though Berghoff felt the need to move on. “I could have stayed in a really cushy job in the Ramsay world, working with Atherton but I needed to know of I had it in me to be able to stand next to them and deliver my own food to that standard. In other words, did I have it in me to take over? Could I stand toe to toe with the big boys? I have my own take on food and I needed to cook it. I believe in simple food, food that tastes like it’s supposed to taste. A chef should cook what he loves. When I started in the kitchen, everything was about food looking impressive and I really welcome the shift back to an emphasis on reality and taste.” He joined Atlantis The Palm, working in Seafire and he quickly made his mark, winning last year’s Time Out Young Chef of the Year competition. “I didn’t enter because I thought it would bring me attention - I’m a very shy guy and you’ll not see me chasing for a TV show! I did it because I love a challenge and because I have passion. The people I’ve worked for taught me not to let standards slip and never to accept that what you do is good enough. For me, it’s about passion and precision. I can go a bit crazy at time though. We do a crispy scallop dish and one day part of the crust had been dislodged - why would someone give me a plate like that?” However, perfection isn’t easy. He recalls that over 80 chefs passed through MAZE in the 18 months he worked there. “Not everyone is cut out for food at that standard, but the team we ended up with was so solid. In fact, I’ve got three of them with me now and there’s another three I’d take in a moment. You need good people if you want to move onwards and upwards.” He’s found success at a relatively young age. How did he tackle the challenge of taking over Ossiano? “To be honest, for obvious reasons the place was tired when I arrived. Nothing had changed since Santi’s time - the menu was old, the brigade weren’t excited still cooking the same dishes week after week. I hadn’t eaten at Ossiano before but I tried some of the dishes and got an idea of the style. But things had to change before, on a Friday night, there might have been five to ten covers, now we’re doing 20 to 50 on a quiet night and more than 100 on a busy night. For a multi-course menu that’s a lot of work! What we’re working on now is making the menu Mediterranean as a whole, instead of Spanish or Catalan. Seafood will still be central, of course, but we want to play with flavours from southern Europe, from the western Mediterranean, from north Africa. I can sum up what I’m trying to as classical sauces with new perspectives and food that tastes real. Part of our problem is that people have expectations of a fine dining restaurant there must be expensive ingredients like foie gras, Dover sole or truffles - but I want to change that. What’s wrong with simple mackerel or a tomato consomme made with great produce? Look at


On the passe

“PEOPLE HAVE EXPECTATIONS OF A FINE DINING RESTAURANT - THERE MUST BE EXPENSIVE INGREDIENTS LIKE FOIE GRAS, DOVER SOLE OR TRUFFLES BUT I WANT TO CHANGE THAT. WHAT’S WRONG WITH SIMPLE MACKEREL OR A TOMATO CONSOMME MADE WITH GREAT PRODUCE? LOOK AT THOMAS KELLER HE CAN SERVE TOASTED CHEESE BUT THE QUALITY IS AMAZING.” Thomas Keller - he can serve toasted cheese but the quality is amazing.” What he is determined to do is deliver food that diners understand. “And they need to know that it’s my food too. We’re clearly in a transition to our new menu in September but people can expect a lot more influences in the new dishes. The more international a dish can become the better - simple but rock star! Ossiano is still a real destination restaurant so we’re not going to turn into a burger bar. Why should I do Italian food when Locatelli does it so well? Why Japanese when Nobu is great?” A passionate supporter of seasonal food, he struggles a bit with the Dubai food scene. “It’s not as bad as South Africa where people would go to a 5-star restaurant and demand peasant dishes like boborti, but the problem here is rather the opposite: we can get anything we want but then it stops being special. I’d love to do seasonal menus. I’d also like to source more ingredients locally but, apart from some great fish, I’m really

not impressed with locally grown produce.” What he’s promising is evolution not revolution in the new menu. “I like food to be light, fresh, seasonal and, to some extent, playful.” Which means? “Well, maybe taking a Caesar salad and using mackerel instead of anchovy. We need a bit of fun - everyone seems to play so safe. However, I’m not going to be dramatic for the sake of it. All great chefs have discovered everything we know about food - how can you reinvent that? I still remember one of Jason’s desserts. It was a pannacotta made from maize with rehydrated berries. It was so simple but at a whole new level to a normal pannacotta. I’d like to deliver food like that - maybe start the meal serving coffee and a macaroon. You’d have people thinking, what’s going on? This should come at the end, surely? But the coffee would be mushroom soup and the macaroon a savoury one with foie. Anything that puts a smile of people’s faces is a winner and there should be nothing that stops us having fun. Dining at Ossiano will still be an event.”


Pimp my plate

In a right stew The idea is simple: we take an old recipe and give it to a great chef. The challenge? Cook it as it’s written to understand the heritage and then reinvent the dish to restaurant standards. Up for service this month is Executive Chef Robbie Stokes from Al Badia Golf Club by Intercontinental Dubai Festival City. All he has to do is reinvent the Polish classic Bigos or Hunter’s stew to suit the casual, sharing style of Spikes restaurant.


hen last month we asked Head Chef Scott Stokes and Sous Chef Adrian Bandyk from Rivington Grill to suggest another chef who’d be up for the challenge, Scott’s immediate thought was to put his elder brother Robbie in the frame. “He’ll be up for it!” he promised. Then, in a moment of cunning, Adrian suggested a “nice simple” Polish classic. What could possibly go wrong with the idea? Stokes Senior’s first hurdle came when he asked Polish friends about the dish. “Why would you want to cook that?” they asked, the dish being so common in Polish households that they didn’t consider it could be improved. The next came when he went shopping for ingredients. “Have you tried to buy game out of season? And where do you find Polish sausage?” However, he persevered and, he thinks, came up with a novel reinterpretation of the dish, which is popularly thought to have originated in Lithuania

though, with a six hundred year or more history, national borders have been a little fluid over the centuries in Eastern Europe. One thing is certain: the dish is now central to Polish food culture. Yet for a dish that supposedly represents a patriotric love of cuisine, bigos has no set recipe. Like many other one pot dishes from peasant origins, it’s basically pragmatic - a general combination of ingredients depending on what was available but with a shared cooking style. Originally the dish combined whatever a hunter had shot in the woods together with smoked meats stored for lean times. The quality of all the ingredients may not always have been the best, so a process of slow cooking and then marination in the cooking liquor for some days would have extracted maximum flavour and tenderness. the word itself means ‘confusion’ or ‘trouble’, which reflects the mix of ingredients. So there is no single recipe for this savoury stew of cabbage and meat - recipes vary from

Step 3: Different cuts for all the different meats

region to region and from family to family. You would normally find white cabbage, sauerkraut (kapusta kiszona in Polish), different cuts of meat and sausages, often whole or purèed tomatoes, honey and mushrooms. The meats could include pork (often smoked), ham, bacon, sausage, veal, beef and venison, plus whatever leftover cuts are to hand. It will be seasoned with spices such as pepper, caraway seeds, juniper berries, bay leaves, marjoram, pimenta, dried or smoked plums and other ingredients. “The real challenge for me,” recalls Stokes, “was this: How do you make something so everyday into more of a fine dining dish? To be honest, I’d never heard of bigos, but after making a traditional one, I was very impressed and it got eaten very quickly in the kitchen!” Stokes is a relative newcomer to Al Badia, who arrived in March of this year. “It’s been great and we have good plans for the future - this location is just superb and once

Step 5: Piping the cream for final table presentation

Step 1: Removing the meats from the marinade

Step 2: Slicing the meats for final presentation


Step 4: Mixing the sour cream and sundried tomatoes

Step 6: Arranging the meats on the serving platter

Pimp my plate



Pimp my plate people discover it, they love it.” He started working at one of Kent’s finest championship golf courses and progressed to the Michelin starred Chapter One, working with one of his culinary mentors John Wood before then following him to Cliveden And Pavilion Spa, which itself gained a star within a year of their arrival. He moved to Dubai and was part of the launch team at the Burj Al Arab, rising to Chef de Cuisine in Al Muntaha and working stages in his various vacations at world class restaurants such as The French Laundry, Tantris, Hotel de Paris and the Plaza Athénée. In 2007, he moved to the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok as Chef de Cuisine to Chef Norbert Kostner before becoming the pre pening Head Chef at the Polo House in Marbella. Prior to his return to Dubai, he spent over two years in Switzerland, firstly as Executive Chef at Gamma Catering and the as a consultant. So how did he approach the challenge? “As I said, I cooked the dish in a traditional style - I found several recipes on-line and saw similar things in cookery books that I brought from Switzerland. That meant, for the reinvention, that I could take ideas from different countries where they have similar dishes.” Finding no set recipe, he fixed on four central ingredients: cabbage, Polish sausage, duck and shoulder of beef. “My first thought was to go a German route and incorporate something like spetzel or maybe deconstruct the whole dish. But I had two problems: I loved the taste of the original and I wanted a final dish that matched the Al Badia style. We serve rustic food in Spikes, so I came round to the idea of serving the meal cold on a wooden board. You know, middle of the table, everyone joining in and sharing. Originally,

it’s a real family dish and serving a sharing plate reflects that.” Having developed his core them, Stokes then thought of a variety of accompaniments. “Back home, with a plate of cold cuts you’d chutneys and things, so I came up with an interesting trio - an apple/cider mustard, some of the cooked cabbage with its nice acidity and a sour cream and sundried tomato relish. All fresh and sharp against the rich meat.” Instead of the original bread or heavy potato accompaniment, he opted for some light potato flatbreads to serve with the platter “So, basically, we cooked everything much as you’d do traditionally but then served it cold in a different format. I think it works really well. There’s almost a fajita feel and it’s a really nice sharing idea. We’re in Dubai in the summer nobody’s ever going to want a heavy stew at this time of year!” His only further problem was how to name the new dish. “Bigos isn’t something most people would understand and ‘Cold Polish meats’ isn’t too exciting a menu item, is it? I think it’s a dish that would need explaining to customers but I think it would take off well - our members do like homecooked food and this is something different.” But no recipe from him for sauerkraut? “To be honest, we bought it in. For small quantities it’s really not practical to get involved in all that fermenting of the cabbage and so on.” Overall, did he enjoy the experience? “Yes, it’s been great fun. And I do think there’s real scope for Polish food here in Dubai, but probably only for three or four months a year - you know, when it gets ‘cold’.”

Polish bigos - The Chudy Family recipe Serves 8 Ingredients: 165g pitted prunes 276ml chicken stock 15g bacon fat 105g white onion, peeled 18g cepe powder 453g sauerkraut 225g fresh white cabbage 181g smoked Polish sausage 181g Polish sausage 181g beef short rib, boned out 181g beef chuck 181g pork shoulder 360g whole vine tomato 1,800ml water 1 fresh bay leaf 2g juniper berries salt and pepper to taste 181g duck confit Method: 1 Rinse the sauerkraut, combine in a pan with fresh cabbage and water then boil for one hour. 2 Finely dice the onions and fry in the butter until golden. Add to the cabbage pan. 3 Carefully wash the porcinis, finely slice and boil in a small amount of salted water for 20 minutes. Strain the stock and add to the cabbage, reserving the porcinis. 4 Add the spices, prunes and porcinis. 5 Add the roast meats and sausage in whatever mix you like and let the pot simmer for one hour. 6 Add the tomatoe puree and parika and simmer for a further hour. Then season to taste, adding more water if necessary. 7 Bigos is best after several days in the fridge and reheated when serving. It should be served with a good sized piece of bread.

Step 8: The platter finished!

Step 7: Slicing the cornichons

Step 10: Bread chef gets busy!

Step 9: Preparing the flatbreads

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Deep frying the calamari

7/18/12 12:21 PM

Pimp my plate

Bigos style meat platter with potato flatbreads Serves 8 Bigos Ingredients: 500g sauerkraut 500g white cabbage, sliced 500ml water 2 large onions, sliced 70g butter 4 dried porcini or more to taste 2 bay leaves 4 white allspice 6 black peppercorns 4 juniper berries 10 prunes, stoned 1/2kg roast meat (selection of chicken, beef, pork and smoked sausage) smoked bacon, to taste 2 tbsps tomato puree 1 tsp sweet paprika powder salt and pepper to taste country bread 50ml virgin olive oil 30ml lemon juice 50g Morecambe bay cockles (cooked and shelled) 2g dill, chopped

Method: 1 Soak prunes in stock for hours. 2 In a medium pan, add the fat and onion, browning, then add cepe powder and raw cabbage. Cook on medium heat for two minutes, then all other ingredients apart from duck, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 90 minutes. 3 Cool and store in fridge until the next day When ready, remove cold meats from the cooking liquid and slice as preferred.

sticky dough. Dust the worktop and hands with the rest of the flour, divide dough into eight balls. Cover with cling film. Roll each ball out in turn into disks 2mm thick. 4 Lightly brush hot pan or Saj machine with clarified butter and cook flatbreads for 3550 seconds on each side. Stack cooked flatbreads divided by greaseproof paper and cover in a damp tea towel until serving. Accompaniments

Potato flatbreads Ingredients: 120g sour cream Ingredients: 400g desiree potato 60g sundried tomato fresh black pepper to taste 30g unsalted butter 30g fresh whipping cream Murray River salt to taste 75g pickled baby gherkins 2g caster sugar 1/2 head frisee lettuce 120g white flour 80g grain mustard salt and pepper to taste Method: 1 Make just before serving. 2 Boil the potatoes in their skin until tender, drain and leave to cool at room temperature without covering. Then peel and mash, add melted butter, cream and sugar. Mix. 3 Add 100g of flour and form a soft, slightly

Method: 1 Roughly chop tomatoes and mix with sour cream, season to taste. Pipe into serving container. 2 Slice the gherkins and then arrange around the meats with the frisee. 3 Pipe mustard into serving container. 4 Pipe cooked cabbage into serving container.

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7/18/12 12:21 PM

Face to face


Face to face

Aiming for number one In a world where celebrity chefs seem almost wall to wall, Indian chef and entrepreneur Sanjeev Kapoor seems to exist on a different level. Take just one example: his TV career. He’s the star of Khana Khazana, which is the longest running show of its kind in Asia, broadcast to more than 120 countries with more than half a billion viewers. Recently he opened his third restaurant in Dubai - Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the new Melia Hotel.


rowing up in Delhi, Sanjeev Kapoor started in the hospitality industry in 1984, joining after college the India Tourism Development Corporation under their kitchen management scheme. He worked his way up through After working in many hotels, he became the Executive Chef of the Centaur Hotel in Mumbai. From there he branched out into books, CD-Roms and consultancy, as well as launching his own line of Khana Khazana ready-to-cook meals. Awarded the title of ‘Best Chef of India’ by the Government, he continues to inspire cooks worldwide. His dream? Making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering Indian women to become selfsufficient through the power of cooking. Are you going to open on time, given they’re still painting and you have the gala dinner tomorrow? It’ll open, believe me. I remember some years back in New Zealand we were preparing for the offical opening of a new restaurant. We left the place at nearly 2am after getting ready for lunch the next day for the Prime Minister. Suddenly we were called back - the place was flooded! We’d been curing the tandoor and hadn’t thought about the sprinkler system! Anyway, we swept the water out and were ready. Pressure is fine - you just need the expectation that you can deliver. How many restaurants are you involved with now? Over 20. I don’t go to all the openings, but we keep in touch. Some we own, some are part owned but the majority are licensed - there’s no fixed rule, it depends on the partner and

the opportunity. We believe we have good quality controls in place but we’re still quite a small company playing on a global stage and so we need to have trust in our partners. Sometimes we’ve had to take the license away and that’s hard. It’s not always a problem, maybe just that the partners may look at things in a certain way. We can hand hold and perhaps we can be too compassionate in continuing to work with some people, even to the extent of it harming our brand. So how does a typical roll-out occur? Well, let’s take this restaurant. We would work jointly with the hotel on things like decor, with our designers working with the hotel’s. Some of our elements and menu items are pretty standardised and we always pick the key kitchen team and guide them. When they aligned with us, then we can give them some freedom within the overall concept - we don’t want to strangle talent. Ultimately, though, we have a veto on the chef. How did you end up with Melia? They approached us. I heard it was going to be in Bur Dubai and, frankly, I wasn’t interested but the COO of our restaurant division got me on the phone and, after 30 minutes, he convinced me! I know how to take risks and business often works when you do something people don’t expect. Our main problem is that Melia doesn’t yet show our TV channel - we’ll have to change that! Was the fact that Marco Pierre White was opening Titanic here a deciding factor? With all respect to him, that was not the incentive. Was there some comfort in the hotel having a fine dining focus? Well, maybe it was an insurance.

Take us back to your move from in-house chef to your entrepreneurial world. When I left that high-end world, I had a desire to deliver that kind of product feel to a wider audience and TV was a way to do it, being able to reach out to millions. I truly believe we need to reach out to more and more people - that’s also in line with a general trend that the industry is embracing of delivering good products at a lower price point. If your customers will pay any price, then you can’t go wrong but that’s not how the business works for most people. So, to return, I took up something that was challenging and to be frank it was seen as a mistake by some people. But I had reached the top early and I wanted to explore other things. What happened is that many viewers didn’t know I had worked at that level, I was just a TV star. However, now I think people are no longer confused. What is the thinking behind Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor? This is a market where people know Indian food, whether it’s North Indian, South Indian, upscale or value for money. The Dubai market is one I’m comfortable with and I wanted Signature to define the Indian food of today, what I aspire for it to be. So the idea was this: let’s look at tradition and then add our touch and make it relevant for today’s needs. That way when people look, taste and eat, there’s no confusion about whether it’s Indian food or not. It’s not dated food but not too avant garde. Is it contradictory to say that we’ll create tradition here? Okay. However, I think that people can feel uncomfortable if food is too experimental but it can still be progressive, as long as there’s a familiarity that people can recognise.

“When I left that high-end world, I had a desire to deliver that kind of product feel to a wider audience and TV was a way to do it, being able to reach out to millions. I truly believe we need to reach out to more and more people.” 47 46-51 Sanjeev Kapoor - Face to face.indd 47

7/10/12 9:53 AM

So how do you update? Our way was less about taking different ingredients like zatar but trying different techniques. There’s a way in some parts of India where they use a gharha - an earthenware pot - to keep water cool. We began to think about using a gharha as a cooking container. Is that an idea worth developing? I think it’s boring just to say ‘We’ll do this but not this’ - instead let’s assume there are no rules and see what happens. Everything evolves - people, traditions. You can’t stop this. One of our problems as Indians is that we’re a very possessive people - we want to keep hold of what is ours and that includes traditions. Yes, I’m a patriot - I want Indian cuisine to lead the world. I’m curious about why you keep referring to ‘Indian food’? Surely it’s should be Andhra food or Bengali food or Goan food and so on? You’re absolutely right. Indian food by Sanjeev Kapoor is a positioning thing, nothing more. Do you recognise limits in experimenting? If I made quantum leaps then I think people would complain. Extreme experiences tend only to be understood by the cutting edge. But if, for example, I serve green tea in a savoury context, is that extreme? Things may not work, but you have to experiment. Many chefs are uncomfortable with the term ‘fusion cuisine’... Often, in India, if you change one element of a dish then there are almost riots in the street. I don’t know whether I’d like to copy a dish from another cuisine and make it ‘Indian’. Could you make Indian sushi - yes, the rice is there and we like fish, but... However, it’s important to remember that fusion and experimentation are nothing new - people were combining chilies and ice cream 25 years ago! I remember too we did this one trick on a manager back in the hotel days. He was always in the kitchen snacking so we battered some butter and deep fried it, offering it to him as a special treat. He bit into it and hot butter went all down him! But if you were serious, could you do something with an idea like that? Of course. When you’re not in your own restaurants, what sort of food do you enjoy the most? I was recently in Spain and I sought out good, homestyle food. I like honest food. Food with warmth and no pretention - what you can call traditional food, if you like. After that, I’ll always seek out someone doing true justice to the ingredients of an area - on that Spanish trip, I drove over two hours to eat with a young chef who grows and picks his own vegetables, fruit and herbs. The food was just stunning. At time too, of course, I’ll visit famous or celebrated places and experience really good food. What else? In Thailand, it’s all about the street food, of course - that’s something interesting and very exciting


that Thailand can call its own and it’s 100% honest. And in Dubai? I do like to seek out food of the region and I used to love Automatic Restaurant! It seems to me that Indian food is really food of the family. Apart from canteens there’s no real tradition of fine dining, is there? And, of course, in many parts of the world, ‘Indian’ food isn’t really Indian at all. How can you resolve all these contrasting realities? I believe that the only way to do Indian fine dining is to do real Indian food, rather than overelaborated dishes. Restaurant food can be cheap or it can be expensive but the problem we face is that home food does not travel well into restaurants. I think it’s fine to customise the food as long as you’re honest, but the danger is that it can just develop into a marketing thing. When I became a torch bearer for Indian food, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t leave any part of our food behind. It’s all about respect and cherishing food and recipes from all parts of the country. Of course, not everything is amazing all regions have good food, bad food, average food. The question is: what can we deliver that is honest and good? India is such a vast canvas and I keep seeing so many new things for the first time - maybe an ingredient or a technique. At times, I wish I had my TV crew with me to capture it and spread the information. How do you define being ‘honest’ with your own food? I don’t change the taste for other palates. Some dishes are hot, some are not - it depends on the reality of the dish. For me, this is how we, as Indians, would eat the food. The challenge for us is to change expectations perhaps. Who would you expect to be the main customers here at Signature? I think it will begin with hotel guests and then we’ll reach out to people through word of mouth. The restaurant will find its own clientele of people who have been exposed to good Indian food and are not scared to try new things. Do you see a time when you’ll slow down? Perhaps focus more on one or two things you really enjoy? It’s never enough! Unless a business gains a reasonable size, then you can’t really do justice to the parts of it. However, if I lose interest in something then I lose control over it. If I see that happening, I will stop. For instance, I used to have a radio show but I slowly lost interest in it and so stopped. It wasn’t driving me. For me, there should be nothing I have to do, but instead what I want to do. In fact, I don’t look at life in terms of challenges - I smile and convert them into opportunities. My personality drives me - if you want to stop me doing something, then I’ll do it. But it’s all still fun? Yes, even if it can be frustrating at times!

Gharha roasted leg of baby lamb, au jus Serves 4 Ingredients: 320g lamb, boned and cubed 480g lamb shank 200ml oil 5g green cardamon 5g cloves 4g black cardamon 2g bay leaf 5g black peppercorns 800g onion, sliced 50g ginger garlic paste 10g powdered fennel seed 5g powdered green cardamon 4 portions red chilli paste 5g garam masala 250g curd 3 portions lamb stock Method: 1 Heat oil in gharha (earthenware pot) on a mild flame, then add the green cardamoms, cloves, black cardamoms, aniseed, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Stir at medium heat for half a minute till it begins to crackle. 2 Add onion and stir fry at medium high heat till it turns light brown in colour. Add ginger garlic paste and stir at medium heat for one minute. Add mutton pieces and stir to mix well. 3 Add salt, fennel powder, cardamom powder and red chilli paste and stir at medium heat for two to three minutes to coat the mutton well with spices. 4 Add yogurt and stir to mix well. Then cover the ghara with lid and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. Remove the cover and add garam masala, then stir at medium heat for five minutes. 5 Add the mutton stock and seal the ghara using flour dough and keep it on low flame for one hour or until the mutton is tender. 6 Remove the shanks and then strain the gravy before reducing it on a slow flame to the desired consistency.

Face to face

Tamarind glazed tandoori chicken with couscous upma and chutney hummus Serves 4 Ingredients: 1.6kg chicken 20g ginger garlic paste 40ml lemon juice 3g cumin powder 6g degi mirch (chilli powder) 2g kasoori methi (fenugreek) 40g tamarind pulp 3g tandoori garam masala 5g salt 40g clariďŹ ed butter for basting

Ingredients for tamarind glaze: 150g tamarind pulp 5g salt 15g brown jaggery 100g hung curd 5g red chilli powder 2g chat masala 20g butter


4 Method: 1 Take whole chicken and cut into half on the bone. Make a marination using ginger garlic paste, degi mirch, lemon juice. Keep in chiller for 30 minutes. 2 Make a second marination using hung curd,

5 6

kasoori methi, red chilli powder, cumin powder, tamarind pulp, garam masala and salt. Marinate the chicken again with this marination. Take a vacuum pack bag, place the marinated chicken inside and seal. Heat water in a pot at 50C submerge the vacuum packed chicken, cooking for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool. Once chilled, remove from vacuum pack, skewer and roast in tandoor for ďŹ ve to eight minutes. Meanwhile prepare glaze by heating all the tamarind glaze ingredients for ten to 12 minutes. To serve, glaze the chicken. Serve hot, with couscous and mint chutney hummus.


Honey mustard chicken chat puffs with green mango chutney Serves 4 Ingredients: Chicken tikka: Marination 1: 80g chicken breast, boneless 10g white marination (cream, yogurt, processed cheese and lemon juice, seasoned with salt) 30g ginger garlic puree 30ml lemon juice 5g salt Marination 2: 15g honey 60ml cream 3g powdered green cardamon 2g salt 20g mayonnaise 5g Pommery mustard 20 semolina puffs Green mango chutney: 70g raw mango, sliced 5g salt 2g black peppercorn, crushed 5g garlic

25ml lemon juice 100g coriander leaves 10g green chillies, slit 5g chat masala Shooter: 300ml mango juice 10g green chillies 10g coriander 30g salt Method: 1 Marinade chicken tikka with ginger garlic paste, lemon juice and salt. Leave it in the chiller for two



4 5

hours. Then rub white marination and second marination ingredients together and apply on the chicken. Leave for three to four hours. Thread onto a skewer and half cook for three to four minutes. Reserve and, at serving time, cook for a further four minutes basting with butter. To make the chutney, heat oil in a pan and sautee the green chili, then add mango and toss. Cook out and add remaining ingredients, then cook for eight to ten minutes. Cool. For the shooter, blend and strain.Cool. To assemble, pour the cooler into glass cones, then add the puffs filled with chutney. Finally, top with oven roasted chicken tikka.

Dum nariyalli prawn Serves 4 Ingredients: 1.2kg prawns (16-20) 10g green chillies, chopped 1g kasundi mustard 5g curry powder 25ml fresh coconut milk 2kg tender coconot shell, for serving 1g salt 4g yellow chilli powder 40ml coconut cream 40ml fresh cream 20g curry leaves 20g chopped garlic Method: 1 Marinate prawns with ginger garlic paste and then keep aside for one hour. 2 Heat oil in a pan, put chopped garlic and toss till golden brown. Then add slit green chilli, curry leaves and cook for one minute. Then add curry powder, kasundi mustard, yellow chilli powder, coconut milk, coconut water and salt. Add the prawns and cook for just two minutes, finishing with a touch of cream. 3 Fill a tender coconut shell with the cooked prawn curry, seal with flour dough and cook in a 180C oven for five minutes. 4 Serve hot with steamed basmati rice, cutting the dough casing at time of serving.


Face to face

Traditional trio of bhapa doi, gulab jamun and ras malai Serves 4 Bhapa doi Ingredients: 200g curd 200g cream 200g condensed milk 2g green cardamon Method: 1 Mix all ingredients together, then pour into a glass serving dish and steam bake for 12 minutes at 120C. 2 Remove from the steamer and keep in chiller to cool. 3 Serve garnished with saffron.

Gulab jamun Ingredients: 10g cottage cheese, grated 10ml milk 100g khoya 500g sugar 10g refined flour 5g almonds 5g pistachios 200g ghee 5g green cardamon



syrup is formed. Keep aside. Meanwhile fry the dumplings in a deep fat fryer using the best ghee until golden brown, over a very slow flame. Next poach the fried dumplings in the sugar syrup till they absorb the liquid completely.

Ras malai Ingredients: 100ml milk 1ml lemon juice

Method: 1 Rub khoya gently in a bowl with paneer and refined flour, then add the green cardamon. 2 Make round dumplings of the above mixture approximately 50g each. 3 In a thick bottom pan, boil the water and sugar together till a thick sugar

Method: 1 Bring milk to the boil and curdle using lemon juice. Strain, cool and keep aside. 2 Make small dumplings and then poach in boiling water until they float. 3 Soak the dumplings in sweetened milk syrup. Serve chilled.

PLATE IT PROPERLY Last issue, we reported on the regional heat of the Chef of the Year competition, organised by UFS (Unilever Food Solutions) and showed the winning dishes from Paul Bussey, Executive Sous Chef at Bonnington Hotel in STARTER: Salmon and langoustine tortellini, slow roast cherry tomatoes and coriander volute and eggplant crisps

Dubai. Unfortunately, we included two incorrect photographs of his dishes sorry, Paul! Here are his actual dishes.

MAIN: Pan fried chicken breast with seared foie gras onion puree, poached asparagus, roast fricase vegetables oregano, demi-glace

DESSERT: Vanilla pannacotta, cherries and raspberries, plantain crisps

Paul Bussey


Breaking eggs Almost singlehandedly, Elizabeth David revolutionised British cooking, dragging it kicking and screaming from post-war rationing and austerity into a brave new world of sunshine, Mediterranean avours and authenticity. Dave Reeder looks back at those days. 52

Book review


t seems almost impossible to believe these days but barely half a century ago in Britain olive oil was an ingredient that couldn’t be bought in grocery stores. Instead, it was sold by chemists! How would Jamie have fared? I was a child in London in the 1950s and my main memory is greyness. Grey weather. Grey buildings. Grey food. Today, when travel and food programmes on TV continually show us happy families eating local food bursting with flavour and colour under the olive trees or vine-draped pergolas, it’s hard to remember back to a time when our reputation for cooking in Europe was deservedly bad.

Vegetables cooked till all the goodness had vanished. Boiled beef. Thin mince. Fruit reduced to small cans of over-sugared tangerine slices. Salad leaves with industrial mayonnaise. It really was that bad. What was strange was that my parents had travelled abroad. My mother had spent the first years of her life in Shanghai. She’d done a semi grand tour in her late teens that took in - at least - Gibraltar, Italy, Egypt, Singapore and Australia. She’d even spent a summer with French friends in Brittany. My father was less travelled, but had spent much of the war in the Sudan and Egypt. And we were based for six months of the year until I was seven in West Africa. In fact, my earliest food memories come from those days: bananas straight from the trees, salted peanuts in a twist of newspaper on the beach and socalled African curry, a strange but delicious mix of meat or fish in a curry sauce accompanied by a dozen or more small bowls of things to add to it like shredded coconut, sliced oranges, chopped tomatoes and onions, sliced bananas and so on. It was the only ‘foreign’ dish in my mother’s repertoire back in the UK and we felt lucky to have it once a year. Other foreign food? I’m not sure Macaroni cheese or canned Spaghetti in tomato sauce count. And apart from that? Virtually no memories the food really was so unmemorable. Apart from the occasional afternoon tea or a visit to the new phenomenon of the Wimpy burger bar, I have no memory at all of eating in a proper restaurant until just before university, when I was taken as a reward for gaining a place. Food at university? A blank just like those six years of three meals a day at boarding school - nothing at all stuck in the brain. At university we must have eaten something! For most of my time, I lived with friends and I know we cooked but can’t picture ever buying food. After that, I moved back to London and discovered Chinese and Indian restaurants. And then. And then, sometime in the late 1970s, I came across a secondhand copy of ‘A Book of Mediterranean Food’, Elizabeth David’s first book from 1950. It was a heady mix of writings centred on the Mediterranean from authors such as Lawrence Durrell, Gertrude Stein, DH Lawrence, Osbert Sitwell, Compton Mackenzie, Arnold Bennett, Henry James and Théophile Gautier, with David’s simple recipes. It was like opening the windows and letting bright sunshine and perfumed air into my food awareness. Over the next few years, I tracked down copies of her other books - all simply written with a love of fine food, honest ingredients and the sheer conviviality of food. London over the next few years was changing fast as well. The discovery of the first South Indian restaurants seemed like a lightning flavour bolt after eating ‘traditional’ British high street Indian food. Italian restaurants began to loosen up, led by concepts like Pizza Express. I got a job editing a travel magazine and was able to eat at restaurants run by revelatory chefs like Marco Pierre White at Harveys, Nico


Ladenis or Anton Mosimann at the Belfry. Inspired by David, I began to travel in France. When I was not doing that, I was discovering a world of ethnic ingredients and produce in London’s markets and speciality stores. Instead of no food memories, after David opened my eyes, there were almost too many - the first platters of oysters, discovering sushi, grilled vegetables in olive oil, Moroccan food etc etc. And, following after Elizabeth David, a whole revolution of cooking unfolded. Food became hot, chefs our new celebrities, ingredients more and more authentic. Olive oil would never again be condemned to a shelf at the chemist’s! But who was this woman, whose books are still continuously in print and who still inspires new generations of domestic and professional cooks and chefs? Her own story is fascinating. Born just before the Great War into an upper class family, she broke the rules all her life, studying art in Paris, becoming an actress, eloping with a married


Book review man before working for the British government in Cairo during the Second World War. Post-war, she returned to England and, horrified by the state of food in the country, starting writing about Mediterranean food in both articles and books. Slowly, the tide changed and certainly her influence made foods such as pasta, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salami, aubergines, red peppers and green peppers, courgettes and more regular items on most people’s shopping lists. Her writing was simple but evocative, such as this description of her time in Cairo where she employed Suleiman, a housekeeper cum cook from Sudan. She wrote: “For three or four years I lived mainly on rather rough but highly flavoured colourful shining vegetable dishes, lentil or fresh tomato soups, delicious spiced pilaffs, lamb kebabs grilled over charcoal, salads with cool mint-flavoured yoghurt dressings, the Egyptian fellahin dish of black beans with olive oil and lemon and hard-boiled eggs‚ these things were not only attractive but also cheap.” She could also be incisive, as these words about her return to England her shock at the food show: “There was flour and water soup seasoned solely with pepper; bread and gristle rissoles; dehydrated onions and carrots; corned beef toad in the hole. I need not go on.” Even in 1963, as the youth revolution began and society changed, David recalled: “In Soho

but almost nowhere else, such things as Italian pasta and Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salame and occasionally Parma ham were to be had. With southern vegetables such as aubergines, red and green peppers, fennel, the tiny marrows called by the French courgettes and in Italy zucchini, much the same situation prevailed.” She also found critical acclaim. In a review, The Times Literary Supplement wrote: “French Provincial Cooking needs to be read rather than referred to quickly. It discourses at some length the type and origin of the dishes popular in various French regions, as well as the culinary terms, herbs and kitchen equipment used in France. But those who can give the extra time to this book will be well repaid by dishes such as La Bourride de Charles Bérot and Cassoulet Colombié.” My own food voyage is probably fairly typical for those of us growing up in those post-war years. Where I have reached now is the result of many influences, tastes, experiences, people and places. But perhaps most of all to Elizabeth David, who opened a door for me and then encouraged me to step through and explore an exciting world of flavours. What she achieved was this: to spread the belief that food was a great pleasure and that choosing and preparing it was exciting. She changed the way we think about food and any chef should read her work.



THE BOOKS 1950: Mediterranean Food 1951: French Country Cooking

1954: Italian Food 1955: Summer Cooking 1960: French Provincial Cooking 1970: Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen 1977: English Bread and Yeast Cookery 1984: An Omelette and a Glass of Wine 1994: Harvest of the Cold Months 1997: South Wind Through the Kitchen: the best of Elizabeth David

2000: Is There a Nutmeg in the House? 2003: Elizabeth David’s Christmas 2010: At Elizabeth David’s Table

Tuscany - sensory overload It’s not enough that its dialect is the basis for modern Italian, or that the Renaissance blossomed in its borders, or that it contains six World Heritage Sites, or that its cooks were loaned by Catherine de Medici to the French court and invented classical ďŹ ne dining as we know it, Tuscany is also a destination where it’s almost impossible not to eat simply and well, wherever you travel, explains Dave Reeder. 56




hink of Italy and iconic images and cliches abound. Fashion and fast cars? Milan. Classical architecture? Rome. Gondolas? Venice. La dolce vita? The Amalfi coast. Leaning Tower of Pisa? Tuscany. Michelangelo’s David? Tuscany. The Palio horse race? Tuscany. The classic Italian countryside of winding roads and cypress trees? Tuscany. Truth is, if you want a single destination in Italy that has everything - history and culture, scenery and cuisine - then Tuscany is hard to beat. And communications by modern road and rail are so good that a two city tour - fly to Florence and drive south to Siena - is simplicity itself. What is curious, however, about Tuscany is that very little is known about its founders, the Etruscans. Only two short, incomplete texts have survived, together with some grave carvings, so nobody can read or write the language. Very few artifacts remain, possibly because the Romans managed to wipe out most evidence of the them as they built their empire. About all that is left is the place, Tuscany. A common local belief is that the Etruscans ceded the nightmare of governing and money making to the Romans, so they could focus on art and the finer things in life. And focus they did. Tuscany’s rich artistic legacy means it’s widely regarded as the true birthplace of the Italian Renaissance - Petrarch, Dante, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci all flourished here. Its museums (most notably the Uffizi and the Pitti Palace in Florence) are all mustsee stops on any holiday. Unfortunately, they are also must-see stops on everyone else’s, so get there early! You’ll also want, in Florence, to check out the Duomo and the stunning complexity of Brunelleschi’s dome - one of the classic architectural solutions of all time. I’d also, whilst you’re still on a culture kick, direct you across the Arno to the classical Boboli Gardens for some much needed rest and shade. That will be all the more pleasant, of course, with a picnic! You will, it goes without saying, as food lovers already have discovered how close the Duomo is to Florence’s central food market just off the San Lorenzo market - built in 1874, the iron and glass structure has two full floors of food stalls! The fruits and vegetables are beautifully stacked like paintings. Cheeses arrive here from across Europe. And, for the carnivores, everything from from filet to offal is on display, with more prosciutto and cured hams than you could imagine. Pick up your ingredients here, if you manage to resist the temptation to eat in the many small restaurants round the market, not forgetting of course to



THE ITALIAN MEAL For Italians, a meal is a time to come together with friends and family, so daily meals can last longer than you’re used to. However, whilst the multi-course traditional Italian feast has largely died out except for festivals and special celebrations, most meals are now limited to three or four courses, although the menu still presents the old structure for you. Increasingly, Italian chefs are following wider trends and presenting single course plates (carbs and proteins together) instead of the traditional way. Expect a menu to be structured like this: Aperitivo is a drink meant to sharpen the appetite before the meal, perhaps served with olives. Campari, Vermouth or even Prosecco would be typical. Antipasti is a selection of hot or cold appetizers served, literally, ‘before the meal’, such as cold roasted vegetables in olive oil or a carpaccio of beef. Primo is the first course, usually a hot dish like pasta, risotto or soup. Secondo is the second or main course and will be fish or meat. Contorno is a side dish, such as a salad or cooked vegetables. Formaggi e frutti represent the first course of dessert - cheese and fruit. Dolci are cakes or other desserts. Café. Digestivo is the often much-needed liqueur such as grappa required after such a mammoth feast! There is no obligation to eat all of these courses! And, obviously, in a place serving pizza then the structure would be much less formal.

WHAT TO EAT Here are some regional favourites: Finocchiona (aromatised pork) Caciucco (fish soup) Cèe (new-born eel) Soppressata (spicy sausage) Prosciutto ham Ribollita soup (vegetables and bread) Bean and lard soup Spelt soup Pappardelle pasta with hare ragù Tomato pappa Black rice Florentine steak Desserts like cenci, panforte and cantucci


Travel sample some of the famous Tuscan wines: Chianti, Morellino di Scansano or Brunello di Montalcino. Because that is the real beauty of a holiday in Tuscany - the serendipitous discovery, the lack of a need for a plan, the idle walk that leads to another great work of art, or food shop, or street market or irresistible menu. But let’s finish your cultural necessities first. Well worth the excursion is Siena, home of the annual horse race round the central piazza that is perhaps merely the best known of a host of medieval traditions and celebrations kept alive in Tuscany. You can never really understand the fervour with which the Siennese hold their Palio, but Siena is also a stunningly beautiful medieval walled city, in large part pedestrianised. Plan your trip via small but breathtaking San Gimignano and you’ll start to understand how, for centuries, Tuscany was composed of smaller warring city states. That history has created a sense of locality that makes more common Italian regionality seem merely an affectation. However, food in general (except for those dreadful ‘tourist’ menus) is simple, based on the freshest and best quality products. Everywhere, you’ll see locally produced legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit. Local olive oil is ubiquitous as are, in October and November, white truffles from San Miniato. Tuscans are proud of their beef, specifically a breed known as Maremma which is used everywhere for Florentine steak. As is common in Italy, pork products are everywhere. Fortunately or unfortunately, overindulging is all too easy to do in Tuscany. Whether it’s the food or the sheer magnificence and quantity of the art, your senses will be on overload. Like millions before you, you’ll fall in love with the place.


DINING OUT Perhaps more than any other country, Italians prefer a very defined role for their eating establishments. In Italy what a place calls itself gives you major clues about what food to expect. Here are the key ones: Agriturismo - a working farm that normally only feeds staying guests. Bar - an all-day place that serves coffee, soft drinks, juice and alcohol. Will have simple food like sandwiches (tramezzini) or tapaslike snacks (spuntini).

Birreria - a bar serving beer. Caffe - same as a bar. Frasca/Locanda - wine bars run by the producers, that may also offer food. Osteria - simple restaurants offering regional food. Paninoteca - daytime sandwich shop. Pizzeria - serving wood fired-pizza. Polentaria - serving polenta. Ristorante - fine dining restaurant. Spaghetteria - serving pasta. Tavola Calda - serving regional dishes, cafeteria-style. Trattoria - a family-run restaurant with cheap meals.





FIND THESE IF YOU CAN! In Garfagnana and part of Serchio Valley, the tradition of making this potato bread, also called garfagnino, lives on. It’s a combination of 85% wheat flour and 15% mashed potato. The huge 1-2 kilogram loaves are often sliced and served with the salty cured meats of the Garfagnana, a traditional Tuscan pairing. Garfagnana Biroldo is an old-fashioned blood sausage made with boiled and boned pig’s head, blood and spices and is seasoned with wild fennel seeds, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, sometimes garlic, salt and pepper. The only Tuscan native pig breed to avoid extinction, the Cinta Senese has a long snout and a black coat with a white band around the chest - hence the name, cinta meaning ‘sash’ in Italian. The meat is evenly veined with fat, with an outstanding flavour and aroma. A whole range of cured meats are made with various parts of the animal: lardo, rigatino, gotino (or guanciale), prosciutto, salame, capocollo and so on. The Chianina ox is the largest extant breed of cow in the world. Earlier selection for work animals had produced a very large animal


with a docile disposition. T-bone and porterhouse steak cut from Chianina oxen are used to prepare bistecca alla fiorentina. Cited in Boccaccio’s Decameron, the Certaldo Onion is a symbol of its town of origin. There are two varieties: the Statina is round in shape and purplish in colour with succulent flesh and the Vernina bright red and pungent. Both varieties are excellent for soups and for francesina, a dish of boiled beef and puréed onion. In Orbetello, the art of preserving fish was probably introduced by the Spanish, who were smoking eels and dressing fish with escabece, a vinegar sauce, as early as the 16th century. They still make anguilla scavecciata (eel in vinegar) and anguilla sfumata (smoked eel). Bottarga (from the Arabic botarikh, meaning salted fish roe, has always been produced locally from the roe of the grey mullet. Wrongly believed to be of lesser quality than tuna, the Tuscan Sea Palamita is a delicacy best enjoyed conserved in oil with bay leaves, pepper and chili. Palmita is a member of the tuna and mackerel family fished throughout the islands off the Tuscan coast.

The Valdarno chicken is tall and loose-limbed with sturdy thighs and a small breast. The bird grows slowly and reaches optimal weight after four to six months. Both meat and eggs offer excellent flavour. The eggs have ivory shells and, though smaller than the battery variety, have much larger, yellower yolks. Valdarno Tarese is a very large pancetta - known locally as Tarese. It is made with both the back and stomach of the pig and is seasoned with red garlic and a mix of pepper, orange peel and spices. Zeri sheep are pastured all year round, save for winter. The milk is very high in nutrition (especially protein) but is used only to feed lambs. Because of this diet of mother’s milk and pasture grass, the lamb’s meat is very tender and wonderfully scented. The most traditional local preparation is agnello al testo (roast leg with potatoes). Zolfino beans are small, round and yellow with a soft skin. When cooked, they melt in the mouth like butter. They are eaten boiled, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and piled on toasted bread or served as a side dish.

The last word

Object of desire Inventor David Edwards turns physical food into a cloud, which dieters inhale to “sate chocolate or caffeine cravings” with no more than a single calorie. Is he serious? Apparently so, as the founder of Artscience Labs, a network of experimental invention hubs including Le Laboratoire in Paris and at Harvard University, he’s on a mission to change the way we approach food.


tart with the names of David Edwards’ two inventions: Le Whif and Le Whaf. Next, throw in typical French hyperbole: “An invitation to experience an explosion of culinary sensation in the smallest imaginable form. At the origin of the experiment: an encounter. That of Philippe Starck, creator of international renown and David Edwards, founder of Le Laboratoire, Harvard Professor, and creator of the new field of aerosol cuisine. Their commonality? The re-invention of daily experience. Their exploratory ground? The immateriality of taste and texture. From their encounter comes WA|HH Quantum Sensations, a

mini spray of flavour.” However, cut away the hyperbole and the opportunities are exciting and numerous. Edwards made his money in the field of medical aerosols back in the States and then moved to Paris with his French wife. He set up a combination think tank, laboratory and art installation centre to explore the areas where science and the senses meet. And his latest innovation creates edible clouds that exist at the nexus of molecular gastronomy and science fiction, as well as looking cool. Edwards’ first experiment with breathable food

was with Le Whif, a lipstick tube-shaped contraption that worked like an asthma pump, filled with powdered chocolate, coffee or vitamins. ‘Diners’ breathed in the powders in one calorie puffs which was, supposedly, enough to satisfy their cravings. Strange though it sounds, the device has found remarkable success - over 200,000 were sold last year at around the $6 mark. The latest device - Le Whaf - can be seen as an elaborate humidifier. If you get technical, it’s controlled by piezoelectric crystals that vibrate rapidly in order to turn liquids into gas. So you buy a specially-prepared liquidised version of a dish which contains a mix of the ‘essences’ his team have created, press the ‘on’ switch and, shortly, a cloud of tiny droplets forms in the bowl. It’s being promoted as “good for dieters” - a ten minute binge of a dish formed this way equates to around 200 calories. All of the taste, none of the weight, they say! However, we can’t help feeling that you’re getting little of the sensual pleasure of eating. Le Whaf is certainly a talking point and would be great to try, but as a constant companion to the dinner table, it seems to make eating a rather clinical experience. Edwards sees real commercial opportunities though: “We are starting up a new food inhaling company in London based on the experience with Le Whif, called Breathable Foods. There are three opportunities in diet, energy and vitamin markets - that’s how to commercialise these fluid experiments. It might seem like luck, but it’s more about people who are listening carefully.” We shall see.


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