Those who believe food can sit comfortably at the intersection of art and luxury have probably already taken 10 days off work to devote to the gastronomic extravaganza that is Gourmet Abu Dhabi.
Fanning the flames of excitement in the capital until next Saturday, the event, organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, brings together chefs at the rarefied pinnacle of haute cuisine with the best vintages for some true adventures in fine dining. "I expect it will put Abu Dhabi on the map as a gourmet destination," says Ernst-Lothar Frank, Executive Chef at the Beach Rotana, who is hosting three of the chefs during the week.
But don't liken it to festivals we have already seen, says entrepreneur Peter Knipp, pictured, whose firm has been commissioned to organise the event. "It's like comparing a Skoda and a Ferrari. They're two totally different levels." he booms. "Gourmet Abu Dhabi promotes gastronomy and hospitality, it encourages gastrotourism and by encouraging an exchange between players in the hospitality industry from all over the world, directly improves the quality of restaurants here." (When asked how much it cost, he only says that a "substantial" investment is being made.)
So it isn't all simply about sitting back and doing justice to some truly memorable meals at food promotions by the world's best top chefs, including Heinz Beck and Charlie Trotter. The event also schemes in free masterclasses, many already sold out.
Knipp cites the example of Lebanese American chef Philippe Massoud, whose innovations with traditional Arabic food, he says, will show UAE restaurants how they can better exploit their own product.
To that end, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority will also recognise quality culinary talent with the Abu Dhabi Gourmet Stars Awards, which are being given away for the first time on Tuesday. Eight awards will be made, to chefs, restaurants and service staff.
And what of the credit crunch that has already lowered spending on food and beverage in the country? Knipp says it will impact the event somewhat, but chooses to stay upbeat: "Business is still running, food is still on the table and life continues. Organising an event of this calibre at a time like this only shows the true strength of character of everyone involved."
Haute cuisine, then, can also be about substance.
Gourmet Abu Dhabi. Until February 14. www.abudhabigourmetsummit.ae
An evening with Ian Wright
The English adrenaline junkie talks about his interface with the world's cultures as he travels the planet for Discovery Travel & Living. From 7pm at Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi tonight. Tickets Dh550+. Call 02 674 2020
This culinary tour tomorrow features three cuisines at the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri; plus dessert from Michelin-star chef Santi Santamaria and gourmet coffee from top barista Andrea Lattuada. From 6.30pm, Dh600+
Arguably Italy's most famous chef, German-born Beck has three Michelin stars under his belt. A Mediterranean cuisine specialist, he showcases his culinary prowess at Vascos, Hilton Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Call 02 692 4247
The self-taught three Michelin-star chef is known across Europe and Japan for her inventive yet down-to-earth cuisine. She is in residence at Emirates Palace's Mezzaluna from Wednesday to Saturday. Call 02 690 9000
The man behind the first three-star Michelin Catalan restaurant combines fresh seasonal ingredients, traditional recipes and a meticulous attention to flavour at Pearls and Caviar, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri until Sunday. Call 02 509 8888
Often called the vegetable magician because he only uses organic vegetarian produce grown under his supervision, the three-star French chef takes over Bord Eau at the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri next weekend. Call 02 509 8888
The first Indian chef to win a Michelin star, Kochhar, best known for his British-Indian food, returns to the UAE for a three day residency from Wednesday at the Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi's Indigo. Call 02 697 9011
An informal dinner where guests can observe the flurry of activity in a commercial kitchen. In the kitchens of the InterContinental Abu Dhabi's Jacques Rossel next Tuesday. From Dh450+, dress smart casual. Call 02 666 6888
One of the world's finest chefs, self-taught Trotter likens cooking to jazz in that no two dishes are ever the same. The multiple James Beard award winner plays Etoile at Emirates Palace on Thursday, Dh950+. Call 02 690 9000
Attention chocaholics – this day-long event does more than release your endorphins with seminars on new ways of using chocolate, whether in savoury dishes or as décor. At the Armed Forces Officers Club, Dh100+.
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