Culinary powerhouses face off in Battle of the Kitchen
It’s no secret how competitive Dubai’s five-star hotels are when it comes to food. So when chefs from three of the city’s top hotels – the Fairmont, the Shangri-La and The Meydan – agree to go head to head in a culinary showdown, it’s time to take notice.
Battle of the Kitchens, on October 28, will pit the three teams against each other in a live cook-off to see who can create the tastiest dishes. Though the event will be held in the spirit of good fun (and good food), as well as doing its bit for charity (a percentage of the proceeds will go to good causes), it’s still been a tough job for Battle of the Kitchens organiser Sascha Winter to persuade high-profile hotels to let their chefs compete. There is, after all, a lot of pride at stake.
‘Having spoken to all the five-star hotels in Dubai, I received responses ranging from “we don’t see the value” to “not interested at all” and even “I’m not confident in my team”,’ says Sascha. ‘We assumed that hotels would jump on the idea, although it did prove very difficult to convince them to participate.’
Happily for Sascha, the three competing hotels were on board almost from the outset of the project, which has been in the making since November 2010. They, like him, see the opportunity for exposure and the start of an event that is likely to grow in future. ‘We’d like to further develop the concept – to have a competition with up to eight hotels cooking against each other at the same time in front of an audience, within a strict time frame,’ continues Sascha. He envisages eventually refining the competition to focus on specific cuisine types.
Until then, the format of the event is straightforward: teams of three (an executive chef supported by two of their trustiest kitchen assistants) will receive a ‘magic basket’ containing mystery ingredients, which they must use to create a dish within 50 minutes. Additional items from a common-use pantry are also at their disposal, as well as a full cooking station and all the necessary appliances. Once the first course is created, plated and judged, a second basket will reveal additional mystery ingredients for the second course of the competition.
As well as creating a fun spectacle in the spirit of TV shows such as Ready Steady Cook, Sascha believes the event will be a stage on which to showcase raw talent here in Dubai. After all, Michelin-star names may hog the limelight, but it’s really the people on the ground and in the kitchen who matter. ‘The impetus is to demonstrate that, in the midst of all the global brands and celebrity chefs, top-tier talent from the local hospitality industry should take centre stage,’ says Sascha. ‘It’s their time to shine.’ Battle of the Kitchens is on Friday October 28 at 7pm at the Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888). Tickets are Dhs190, including a soft drink, buffet and entry to the after-party. www.timeouttickets.com
The Meydan Executive chef Ashley Goddard (centre) Nationality: Australian. Inspiration: Dieter Müller, formerly of German Michelin-starred restaurant Schlosshotel Lerbach. Signature dish: Ashley says he enjoys preparing Mediterranean fare using seasonal products. However, if he had to pick just one dish, it would involve braised meats, such as lamb shank or lamb shoulder, baked potato mash and a fully cooked pan jus. Least favourite ingredient: Oysters.
Pastry chef Budi Setiono (left) Nationality: Indonesian. Inspiration: Chef Goddard (of course), Benjamin Ramboud (the first executive pastry chef he worked with) and Michael Belcher (the pastry mastermind at the Crown Casino in Melbourne). Style: In his own words: ‘A little bit of this and a bit of that’, though he does enjoy the exotic flavours and fragrances of Asian ingredients. Least favourite ingredient: Truffle oil.
Sous chef Iman Faumi (right) Nationality: Indonesian. Inspiration: This 18-year culinary veteran cites executive chef Andrew Skinner from the Bulgari Resort in Bali (a leading expert in Balinese cuisine) as his mentor. Style: ‘Fusion’ – Chef Iman’s signature dish is sea bass with orange and artichoke. Least favourite ingredient: Any type of frozen food. The Meydan, Nad Al Sheba, www.themeydan.com (04 381 3231)
Shangri-La Hotel Executive chef Laurent Brunacci (centre) Nationality: French. Inspiration: Renowned French chef Alain Ducasse, of three-Michelin-star restaurant The Dorchester in London. This may account for Laurent’s down-to-earth and uncomplicated culinary style, which he hopes will come in handy in the Battle of the Chefs competition. Signature dish: Though citing no particular signature dish, Brunacci does confess that his style lends itself towards a variety of food, from roast chicken to seafood. Least favourite ingredient: Beef shank, an ingredient that takes at least three hours to cook – something he says even the most talented of chefs would fail to prepare in a 50-minute competition.
Executive sous chef Driss Daabaz (right) Nationality: Moroccan. Inspiration: Ditier Hurllien, the former culinary director of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts. Style: ‘Simple and modern, with an emphasis on genuine flavours and a straightforward presentation.’ Least favourite ingredient: Marshmallows.
Sous chef Prasad Subasinghe (left) Nationality: Sri Lankan. Inspiration: Firebrand Michelin-starred British chef Gordon Ramsay. Style: ‘Varied. I can cook everything from comfort food from Sri Lanka to traditional Italian eats and Thai dishes, particularly southern Thai dish massaman curry.’ Least favourite ingredient: Gummy bears. Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.shangri-la.com (04 343 8888)
Fairmont Dubai Executive sous chef Hugh Styles (right) Nationality: Scottish. Inspiration: Hugh doesn’t cite one person, but says he finds inspiration from his colleagues and chefs that he works with daily. Bless. Signature dish: He also claims he doesn’t have a signature dish per se, but he can turn out complete meals from almost anything that can be found in the fridge. Least favourite ingredient: Sheep testicles.
Sous chef Matthew Piercy (left) Nationality: Canadian. Inspiration: Matthew cites French chef Alain Pignard, of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, as a mentor. Style: Although a novice in Dubai at the moment, Matthew is no stranger to culinary trends in North America. He says his signature dish is a cold duck salad with pineapple, watermelon and cashew nuts. Least favourite ingredient: Bubble gum.
Chef de partie Rajiv Subba (centre) Nationality: Nepal Inspiration: His mum. Style: Rajiv’s style has formed from memories from his childhood, as well as from the influence of chefs he’s worked with in the past. Ultimately, he says his culinary style leans towards Asian flavours and Thai cuisine. Least favourite ingredient: Truffles. The Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.fairmont.com/dubai (04 332 5555)
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tony Feb 08, 2012 06:23 pm
seabass with orange and artichoke, to be honest, its not a food!! rubish! please before making food pairing, go through from your nature point, where the fish come from, what vegetables, animals, herbs, spiced are around with them, in the way you can fully understand the meaning from gastronomy food, culture includes your preparation and taste its self. please pictures well if you do herbs and spices for your own food, make them clear about the best each ingredients to get paired with.