With four-letter words flying about, high-tension tight-rope races to the finish and endless celebrity egos to be massaged, it is one of the hottest fortnight of the year inside Abu Dhabi’s kitchens. But the fruit of those labours make for fine eating over the now much-awaited annual fixture that is Gourmet Abu Dhabi which, this year, attracts 18 of the world’s top chefs and six of the best pâtissiers.
A main pillar in Abu Dhabi’s ambitions to be an internationally recognised gourmet destination, the event has expanded significantly in the past year and draws some of the best names in the business. But if you can’t take up residence in the capital for two weeks, don’t worry – we’ve picked the best meals to tuck into.
If you can only get to one thing this year, make it the opening. The red-carpet gala features the best local talents presenting the finest their kitchens can dish up in nice sample portions, so you can try a little of everything. Guests will be spoilt for choice with over 14 food stations, each prepared by a participating hosting establishment and its team of chefs.
Among the many city chefs plating up perfection are the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s John Cordeaux, last year’s Hotelier magazine chef of the year, Chef Ernst-Lothar Frank executive chef of the Armed Forces Officers Club & Hotel and the Emirates Palace’s Wolfgang Fischer, who runs a staggering 12 restaurants, five lounges, two bars and 126 kitchens and pantries every day.
Plus there’s the controversial, passionate food of Swiss superstar Gilles Perrin and Amrish Sood’s classic Indian delights that have made his Ushna restaurant a favourite as far afield as Dubai.
The details: February 2, 8.15pm, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, tickets Dh450
THAT BLOKE FROM TV
Renowned British celebrity chef, James Martin will headline his third Gourmet Abu Dhabi with a celebrity dinner this weekend. Expect the TV personality, the pin-up star of popular UK television shows “Strictly Come Dancing”, “Ready, Steady, Cook” and “Saturday Kitchen” to serve up his speciality British fare – combining traditional ingredients and cooking techniques with a modern twist – for up to 250 guests.
Martin burst on to the British cuisine scene when famous British chef, Antony Worrall Thompson, noticed the talented youngster’s work at Scarborough Technical College – where Martin was named Student of the Year three years running – and brought the graduate to his 190 Queensgate restaurant in London.
From there, Martin’s career has gone in one direction – up. After opening the Hotel and Bistro du Vin, the 21-year-old Head Chef made national headlines by daringly changing the menu every day. By 1994, Martin had established an adoring British and international fan-base through his varied television work for the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, UKTV and Sky Television.
The details: February 3, from 7pm, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island, tickets Dhs750
Inspired by Ferran Adrià’s revolutionary way of cooking, three-Michelin-starred Juan Amador is best known for his Hispanic influenced cuisine with innovative techniques that bring unique flavours, aromas and special combinations of temperature and texture to his creations.
Born to Spanish parents in Germany, he first dreamed of becoming a lawyer -- until later decisions pushed him into a culinary career. He was awarded his first star at the age of 25 and believes that his creations “should be unforgettable for my guests”.
The details: Epicurean Promotions @ Teatro, Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, February 3 to 6, price on request
The two-Michelin star chef is one of Europe’s top exponents of molecular gastronomy. An adopted orphan who was brought up in Belgium from the age of four, he started his gastronomic career as a sommelier before turning to cooking. Self-taught, Chef Degeimbre opened his two-Michelin-starred restaurant – L’Air du Temp in 1997 on the outskirts of Brussels. Disgruntled running his kitchen without any particular training, he ventured successfully into molecular gastronomy through a culinary school that uses scientific methods to create food with unexpected tastes and textures that leave the diner surprised at the mixture of ingredients.
At this special dinner, Degeimbre’s creations will be paired with concoctions from industry guest mixologists, Thomas Ånöstam and Ben-David Sörum, from Flow Cocktail and Hyde & Seek Gastro Bar in Bangkok, for a culinary adventure. It’s being billed a spectacular gastronomic indulgence to be savoured and relished to the fullest.
The details: February 7, 7pm, Al Raha Beach Hotel, tickets Dh750
Angela Pinkerton leads a team of master pâtissiers and baristas to serve up sweet and savoury chocolate creations that demonstrate the versatility of the cocoa bean.
Hailing from Ohio, Pinkerton discovered her passion for cooking while a student at Kent State University where she worked in a bakery decorating customised cakes. She currently heads the pastry team at Eleven Madison Park where she creates sophisticated and exquisite desserts that complement the restaurant’s modern French cuisine. Pastry making has always been a natural match with science and Chef Pinkerton’s creations are kaleidoscopes of colour, visually tasteful and stunningly palatable.
The details: Feb 12, noon to 4pm, Yas Island Rotana Abu Dhabi, tickets Dh550
FABULOUS FOIE GRAS
Three-Michelin-starred Chef Bruno Ménard from L’osier in Tokyo, the world’s food capital, pairs exquisite foie gras creations from his repertoire with exclusive vintages from German château Weingut Joh Jos Prϋm. At least four dishes promise to feature this star ingredient, but fans of new-age food will delight in the wasabi ice-cream.
Ménard is a firm believer in ‘neo-classic’ French cuisine. Having been was raised in a family with a deep culinary pedigree – both his grandfathers were chefs and his father a highly accomplished chocolatier – he was apprenticed, at 15, to the charming Domaine d’Orvault in Nantes in the Loire Valley and later joined the award-winning restaurants Charles Barrier and Jean Bardet, which nurtured his aptitude to ever greater heights of expertise. His Tokyo restaurant, L’Osier, is consistently awarded the highest accolades and has been voted one of the 10 Top French restaurants outside of France.
The details: February 10, 7pm onwards, Bord Eau, Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Dh1,200
For more information and to make bookings, go to www.gourmetabudhabi.ae.