Each year, Gourmet Abu Dhabi culminates in a gala to honour the best chefs and restaurants in the capital. For the chefs involved in putting together the elaborate meal served that night, there is no room for error.
At this year’s finale at the St Regis Abu Dhabi, there were about 350 guests expecting an evening of excellent food and service. Among the leading chefs for the gala were the Executive Chef Danny Kattar from the InterContinental Abu Dhabi, the Emirati chef Khulood Atiq, the banquet chef Samson Seelan and the head chef Paul Lupton from the St Regis Abu Dhabi, plus the chef Theo Randall, who was visiting from the UK.
The chefs began meeting months ago to work out the logistics. To serve flawless food seamlessly to 350 guests – all at the same time – does not happen by accident. As Kattar says: “It’s all about planning and organising. It’s about properly executing things.”
One might assume the kitchen on a night like this would be bustling with chefs racing to plate dishes, shouting at each other across kitchen stations and colliding at every turn.
Randall described the kitchen as “very busy, of course. Stress levels are high. It is what we do every day, but on a much bigger scale.”
But, barely an hour before the start of the gala, there was no outward sign of stress in the kitchen. The chefs and servers were poised, calm and oddly … quiet.
As guests munched on canapés at the gala reception, in the kitchen chefs were putting the finishing touches on months of hard work, thoroughly inspecting every dish as plates were completed.
Each of the five courses was exquisitely presented. A mass of waiters quietly served courses with timed precision. Guests feasted on salmon and shrimp timbale; foie gras and mushroom meringue; lobster stew with hammour; herb- and pine nut-crusted rack of lamb; and a minty chocolate dessert.
The chefs may have seemed calm before Gourmet Abu Dhabi’s biggest night, but they certainly felt the pressure. As Lupton put it: “We are perfectionists in our trade. The success of an event [like this] reflects on us collectively – as individuals and hotels.”