Making dessert for George Bush is all in a day's work for Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace executive pastry chef Alexander Haebe.
A day in the life of the Emirates Palace pastry chef
Alexander Haebe took on the role of the executive pastry chef at the Emirates Palace in October. Originally from Germany, he moved to the Middle East in 2002 to open the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh. He has worked in places including Kuala Lumpur, Berlin, Bahrain and Cairo and cooked for the likes of Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, Queen Elizabeth, and George Bush.
My kids wake me up sitting on my belly. I prepare them for kindergarten. I make them every morning a lunch box. I make fried eggs for breakfast.
I arrive at work and have coffee. I go through the fridges and freezers and check what is available and place my orders. We don't have a budget: we need what we need. We spend maybe US$2,000 [Dh7,345] on gold leaf a month. I organise the day for my staff of 30. There are 10 in the bakery and the rest are in pastry. We operate [for] everything: breakfast; lunch; dinner; amenities[such as the coffee shop]; outside catering; banquets.
My staff arrives and we meet for 15 minutes. They get to know what functions we have that day and the next. Then we have 15 minutes of training on hygiene or operational things.
We start. Everyone runs in his direction. We have 14 restaurants in the Emirates Palace. I have seven different sections with different timings. The hotel business is like lastminute.com. A sheikha [once] called and asked to come in at 10am the next morning for a tasting. She liked it so she said, 'OK [dinner] tonight for 450 people.' That day we already had 1,500 people for a banquet. There is always excitement in this environment. The Emirates Palace has top VIPs who have special requests. They also see a lot of the same thing. I learnt from scratch. You must learn your product but then you give the basic things a twist. Providing something different is what the five-star experience is about.
The executive chefs have their morning meeting. We go through what we have on, what we need to order, what is missing, what we did, what we did not achieve.
Lunch starts so I go to to the outlets to check what is going on. I personally don't eat. I have coffee, coffee then maybe a coffee. Lunch ends about 2pm, then there is afternoon tea. Then we start for dinner. Tonight we have 500 people, which is a small function. A bigger function is 2,000 people.
The good and bad part [about dinner] is that the pastry is always at the end. But the good part is that from 7 to 9 when everything is prepared there is time to sit at the computer. I do costs, prepare, create new ideas, write recipes. At the moment I am also setting up kids' cooking classes.
We serve dessert.
I finish. Normally I have two days off at the weekend. That's when I see my kids.
* Lianne Gutcher