Gourmet Abu Dhabi expands influence as Emirate builds culinary credentials

Gourmet Abu Dhabi expands influence as Emirate builds culinary credentials

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) has unveiled the third edition of Gourmet Abu Dhabi, the 16-day annual culinary festival which runs across 13 of the emirate’s fine dining outlets from February 2nd next year and hailed the premium event as the catalyst to its soon-to-be-launched, unique hotel and tourism food and beverage (F&B) outlets classification system.

Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011 will boast a range of new features in 11 hosting restaurants – the finest dining venues in the UAE capital -  as a hallmark stellar cast of 13 masterchefs, with 22 Michelin-stars and three Chefs Hats between them, four special guest chefs, six master pâtissiers and a horde of celebrity guests headline a programme of epicurean promotions, culinary masterclasses, a celebrity dinner, château dinners, an Emirati Royal Dinner, Gourmet Golf Experience, charity dinner, Middle Eastern feast and the Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Gala Dinner.

“In just three years, Gourmet Abu Dhabi has inspired the transformation of this destination’s culinary credentials,” said His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA. “This gastronomic lifestyle event has prompted an industry-wide uplift in standards throughout Abu Dhabi’s F&B sector.

“F&B is an increasingly important element in the revenue profile of our growing number of accommodation providers. In the first ten months of this year, sector revenues grew by 6% on the same period in 2009 and now account for 36% of all hotel income, compared to 30% this time last year.”

In a strategic drive to further develop industry standards and deliver confidence in Abu Dhabi’s F&B profile, ADTA has pioneered a first-of-its-kind mandatory classification system for the 320-plus F&B outlets across the emirate’s hotel establishments and tourism outlets.


“This classification system was, in true Abu Dhabi style, created in consultation with our stakeholders and will be governed by transparent implementation mechanisms geared to delivering quality throughout the entire hospitality chain,” added Al Muhairi. “Five focus groups - representing hotels throughout Abu Dhabi - served on the technical committee which oversaw the system’s progression, with a series of industry workshops conducted at each development stage.”

The classification system, which combines both mandatory and scoring methodologies to deliver a quality standardisation system, will encompass annual inspections to ensure quality is maintained and will have four distinct categories covering: restaurants, spanning all-day, speciality and fine dining categories; cafés, both sit-in and take-away; night-clubs and bars. 

The classification process will begin next month when ADTA launches the minimum standard criteria. With service a key element of the public-private sector initiative, outlets will then have six months to implement ratings criteria before specific classifications are awarded by the end of 2011.

Via issued classifications, ADTA will compile the top 20 establishments in each of the four outlet categories to create a ‘Best of Abu Dhabi’ guide to dining in the emirate.

“First and foremost, this system is a management tool to deliver to the rising expectations of our increasingly discerning visitors,” said Nasser S. Al Reyami, Director, Tourism Standards Division, ADTA. “We will be getting the message out during Gourmet Abu Dhabi, which laid the foundations for the emirate’s evolution into a global culinary destination. The system is very much aligned to this event in that they both assure uncompromising quality.”

One of the headline masterchefs of Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011 will be Bruno Ménard, a Frenchman renowned for exporting ‘neo-classic’ cuisine to Japan’s three-Michelin-starred Restaurant L’Osier – widely regarded as the Far East’s premier French fine dining establishment.

With a personal style that intertwines classic technique and traditional French cooking with modern sensitivities derived from scrupulous ingredient selection and preparation methods, Ménard, who includes a ‘Lobster and caviar cream of leek pesto pistachio nori’ among his signature dishes, will host a masterclass session on February 9th and a Foie Gras Dinner at Bord Eau in the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi on February 10th.

While Chef Ménard’s exclusive dinner is expected to be a sell-out, the masterchef retains the belief that team-work is as important as individual flair in achieving culinary success – a lesson he urged Abu Dhabi to follow.

“At Restaurant L’Osier, we keep 45 people on staff to satisfy the needs of our expectant clientele because creating cuisine to the standard that is L’Osier’s hallmark is not a one-man job,” said Ménard, who is on the panel of judges for the Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Awards - the ‘Oscars’ of the local hospitality industry.

“Similarly, improving the culinary credentials of an entire city cannot be achieved through one chef or the prowess of a single establishment. While I am the public face of L’Osier’s work and creation, it is the passion and devotion of the entire team that drives our success. Gourmet Abu Dhabi, I believe, can play a similar role in evolving Abu Dhabi’s standing in the world of haute cuisine by inspiring the growing team of local professionals.”

Abu Dhabi’s culinary credentials have risen exponentially over the past five years with its licensed hotel stock growing from 62 properties to 118 today and an increasing number sporting major restaurant brands.

“Gourmet Abu Dhabi has gone a long way to convincing these culinary leaders that Abu Dhabi is a brand for them and the figure is expected to grow,” added Al Reyami. “The event’s standing as a festival for those with a passion for fine food created by those with a refined passion for hospitality has now taken hold.”

One of the latest to announce a signature outlet in Abu Dhabi is Juan Amador – a German chef of Spanish heritage who will host another of the 23 open-to-the-public masterclasses at Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011. Later in the year Amador, who was awarded the Bertelsmann Restaurant Guide’s ‘Best Chef’ award in 2007 and 2008, will open a signature restaurant at Abu Dhabi’s Park Rotana.

Another Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011 ‘first’ is the Charity Dinner, with special guest chef, Willin Low - one of Singapore’s most celebrated chefs. The owner of Wild Rocket, Wild Oats and Relish – three of Singapore’s leading restaurants - will present a myriad of popular culinary delights in aid of the Donate a Brick charity’s campaign to build a Special Care Centre in Abu Dhabi.

With over AED 10 million (US $2.72 million) already amassed in a project that requires investment of AED 25 million (US $6.81), the Donate-a-Brick campaign is simple: each brick costs AED 5 (US $1.36) and there are five million bricks to collect.

Taking place at Park Rotana Abu Dhabi’s Teatro restaurant on February 16th, tickets for the Charity Dinner cost Dhs950 (US$259), with ADTA pledging a portion of the proceeds to Donate a Brick.

Amid all of Gourmet Abu Dhabi’s new initiatives, returning favourites have been remodeled and revamped to retain their freshness. After two years at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Gourmet Golf Experience – a memorable day of leisurely F&B-related fun around the golf course – will now be hosted at the Gary Player-designed, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

Finally, Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011 will – as is tradition – culminate with the Awards Gala Dinner – the ‘Oscars’ of the local hospitality industry. Sumptuous five-course fare, prepared by selected participant masterchefs and establishments, will be served to recipients of the Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Awards - accolades bestowed on individuals or restaurants that are acknowledged for their achievements and contributions to the evolution of domestic and regional F&B industries.

After an online polling session where the public could cast their votes for some 134 industry professionals and 57 outlets, final nominations for the 10 coveted awards are:

  * John Cordeaux, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr; Patrick Bischoff, Beach Rotana and Wolfgang Fischer, Emirates Palace for ‘Executive Chef of the Year’
  * Ahmed Issa, Shangri-La, Qaryat Al Beri; Joulian Ibrahim, Beach Rotana and Paolo Marro, Al Raha Beach Hotel for ‘Food and Beverage Manager of the Year’
  * Al Mawal, Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton; Diwan L’Auberge, Emirates Palace and Marakesh, Millenium Hotel for ‘Regional Cuisine Restaurant of the Year.’
  * Haitham Gayad, Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton; Milad Anwar, Marakesh, Millenium Hotel and Zakaria Charaf, Diwan L’Auberge, Emirates Palace for ‘Regional Cuisine Manager of the Year.’
  * Khadija Mannar, Marakesh, Millenium Hotel; Mohamad Rida, Al Mawal, Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton and Serajudin Nasari, Anar Restaurant, Emirates Palace for ‘Regional Cuisine Chef of the Year.’
  * Indigo Restaurant, Beach Rotana; Rangoli, Yas Island Rotana and Rodeo Grill Steakhouse, Beach Rotana for ‘Restaurant of the Year.’
  * Amrish Sood, Ushna, Souk, Qaryat al Beri; Gaurav Gaur, Indigo Restaurant, Beach Rotana and Nitin Raheja, Rangoli, Yas Island Rotana for ‘Restaurant Chef of the Year.’
  * Amir Sabry, Atayeb, The Yas Hotel; John Rajan, Rodeo Grill Steakhouse, Beach Rotana and Morgan Martinello, Mezzaluna, Emirates Palace for ‘Restaurant Manager of the Year.’
  * Alex Cale, Chamas, InterContinental, Marie Irene Vinluan, Ushna, Souk, Qaryat Al Beri and Yeray Gutierrez, Amici, The Yas Hotel for ‘Restaurant Host of the Year.’
  * Anup Sunil Chaubal, Beach Rotana; Chinthaka Bandara, The Yas Hotel and Josef Lorenz Teuschier, Emirates Palace for ‘Pastry Chef of the Year.’

The nominations will now go before a five-strong panel of local and international judges that comprises: culinary moderator Suzanne Husseini, popular Middle East TV cooking programme host; Claudia Habets, Academic Dean of the European International College of Hotel Management and Tourism; Ian Fairservice, Managing Partner, Motivate Publishing; Susanne Drexler, Chief Executive Officer of Gourmet Connection, and Chef Bruno Ménard.

Meanwhile, Gourmet Abu Dhabi’s partner S. Pellegrino has confirmed that Gourmet Abu Dhabi tables this year will be graced by its recently-launched Missoni San Pellegrino limited edition bottle. The bottle features the famous zig-zag branding of the Italian fashion house and is now adorning the tables of fine restaurants worldwide.