Restaurants in Abu Dhabi will be accorded a Michelin-star classification by the end of 2011 that makes eating out an easier decision for punters.
The ranking will be mandatory for all tourism and hotel food and beverage outlets in the emirate, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority said in a statement.
"F&B is an increasingly important element in the revenue profile of our growing number of accommodation providers," said Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA. "In the first ten months of this year, sector revenues grew by six per cent on the same period in 2009 and now account for 36 per cent of all hotel income, compared to 30 per cent this time last year."
"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."
Over 320 F&B outlets will be categorised in four distinct categories that cover restaurants, spanning all-day, speciality and fine dining categories; cafés, both sit-in and take-away; nightclubs and bars.
The system will take into account both mandatory and scoring methodologies and will factor in annual inspections to ensure quality.
The process begins next month, when the ADTA announces its minimum standard criteria. Over a period of six months, outlets must then implement these, before specific ratings are handed out by the end of 2011.
The new rankings were announced at a conference to unveil the the third edition of Gourmet Abu Dhabi, an annual culinary event that will span 16 days and 13 outlets next February.
"In just three years, Gourmet Abu Dhabi has inspired the transformation of this destination's culinary credentials. This gastronomic lifestyle event has prompted an industry-wide uplift in standards throughout Abu Dhabi's F&B sector," Al Muhairi said.
The top 20 establishments in each of the four outlet categories will then be listed in 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."
Gourmet Abu Dhabi 2011 will boast a range of new features in 11 hosting restaurants 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, a Middle Eastern feast and the Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Gala.
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."
Among the latest top chefs to launch in Abu Dhabi is Juan Amador, the 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.
The event also aims to do its bit for charity, and special guest chef Willin Low - one of Singapore's most celebrated chefs - 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.
But for food professionals, the highlight of Gourmet Abu Dhabi is its awards, billed the 'Oscars' of the local hospitality industry. 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 are as follows:
* 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.
Bookings for Gourmet Abu Dhabi can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.