Al Manzil's head chef talks about anchovy pizza, cooking for heads of state and his favourite ingredients
Head Chef, Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels.
What was the last thing you ate? A pizza with anchovy capers and fresh tomato.
What are you going to have for dinner tonight? Some fruit, because my wife decided to put me on a bit of a diet. I think she’s right [laughs].
You just scooped the Chef of the Year award at the Middle East Hotelier Awards 2007. Why do you think you won? I’m asking the same question because all the boys who were in line with me were great. It was challenging – but I had the right amount of luck.
You serve Mediterranean, Eurasian, tapas and Italian dishes – which do you like to eat the most? Mediterranean. My heart lies in Italy, although I also love Spanish and Lebanese food. They all come from more or less the same source. Italy has honest food – they only cook ingredients when they’re in the best condition.
Food epiphany? When I was in Qatar I had two chefs from Germany with me. Each of them had one Michelin star. I had the pleasure to stand behind them and look over their shoulders.
Most famous person you’ve cooked for? I cooked for all the heads of state at the Islamic Summit in 2000, all kings and presidents. I made everything – but they mainly loved the French cuisine.
First job in food? I grew up in Germany where I did my apprenticeship in 1979. That reminds me that I’m old! It was when new cuisines started to come over from France to Germany. I learnt my job at the right time in that respect.
Why do you cook? Because with cooking you don’t have to give your work to somebody else to see the end result. This is quite unique in a job. Normally you prepare something and then hand it over to somebody else and they finish it, and it becomes far away from you.
How many hours do you spend in the kitchen each week? In my current job I’m heading two hotels which involves a lot of office admin work, which I hate. To relax I go to the kitchen. So altogether, 45 hours in the office and 45 hours in the kitchen.
Favourite ingredient and why? Tomato. It’s diverse, you can do so many things with it – salads, desserts – so many things.
Where do you go out to eat in Dubai? I do not have a specific restaurant, I like to move on and go to new places. Casa Mia at Le Meridien Dubai sticks in my mind though. It’s a superb Italian place. I just ask for a good bit of pasta and see what comes along.
Which things do you cook differently in Dubai? I’m not so keen to offer pork, because there are so many alternatives. If I want good pork I’ll go back to Germany.
Which dish do you enjoy cooking the most and why? A really good chocolate mousse. I love patisserie; I love pastry.
It’s your last meal. What are you cooking and where will you eat it? A pot roast with a good mustard and a pint of beer.
Waiters… should be invisible, but on the spot when you need them. Kitchenhands… should be friendly to the guests as well.
Sommeliers… should be down-to-earth and not artificial.
Customers… should leave and be happy with everything, and be specific with their complaints.
Chef Bernd cooks at the restaurants in the Al Manzil and Qamardeen Hotels in Old Town, Burj Dubai: The Conservatory, Esca, Lobby Lounge, Mokaroma, Nezesaussi. 04 428 5888.