It’s the most exciting event of the year for food lovers in the capital. Gourmet Abu Dhabi – the food festival you won’t want to miss – starts on February 4 and ends with the much-anticipated awards gala on February 19, where Abu Dhabi’s Executive Chef of the Year will be crowned.
Abu Dhabi’s finest restaurants will play host to international, Michelin-starred and celebrity chefs over the 16-day celebration. The visiting chefs will dish up innovative culinary promotions at their hosting restaurants offering food lovers across the UAE a taste of something new.
There’s a lot to do and see so get out your calendars. With more than 20 chefs visiting from around the world, there will be plenty to eat.
Already a celebrated chef in the UK, Gary Rhodes is making waves with his three restaurants in the UAE (two of which are in Dubai). He’ll be at his Abu Dhabi restaurant, Rhodes 44, during Gourmet Abu Dhabi, whipping up new dishes just for the event.
“I am looking forward to not just showcasing my craft, but sharing my passion for cooking alongside the chefs from some of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi,” Rhodes says.
Two dishes you’ll find on the menu during Rhodes’s lunch promotion: sumac prawns and sticky toffee pudding.
“Guests will have the opportunity to sample my take on dishes that are beautifully simple to create,” he says.
Rhodes is optimistic about the UAE’s culinary future: “Abu Dhabi has been blossoming into a world-class destination for culture, shopping, the arts, and increasingly becoming a hub for epicurean connoisseurs. The UAE is a melting pot of cultures, serving as an ideal playground for culinary fusion.”
Rhodes 44’s special lunch promotion at The St Regis Abu Dhabi runs from February 15 to 18, from 12pm to 3pm. Alternatively, splurge on the Gastronomic Dinner with Gary Rhodes, on February 15, from 7pm to 11pm at the Al Mudhaif Ballroom. Dinner tickets are Dh850. For reservations, visit www.gourmetabudhabi.com.
The international master chef Massimo Bottura hopes to make his first visit to Abu Dhabi a memorable one. “I am very much looking forward to my trip. I can’t wait to meet the food enthusiasts in the city,” he says. “There is a lot of interest in contemporary cuisine in Abu Dhabi and I find that very exciting.”
Bottura’s themed opera dinner at Mezzaluna in Emirates Palace is a highlight of Gourmet Abu Dhabi (it’s already fully booked). The three Michelin-starred chef from Modena, Italy, will offer guests a heightened dining experience in which they will be treated not only to Bottura’s accomplished culinary skills, but to live opera performances.
“My menu for the opera dinner is designed as an invitation to taste Italian cuisine with new eyes and an open mind. I will be taking the guests on an imaginary journey around my country … seeking out flavours they think are familiar but in surprising combinations, shapes and forms,” says Bottura.
Bottura says opera and fine dining are a natural combination. “I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that holds my 10,000 vinyl record collection. For me, opera touches on so many emotions. It talks about many things, history, family, love and society, all at once.”
Bottura’s restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena has been listed in the Top 5 at The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards since 2011. Although Bottura’s opera dinner is sold out, you can still snag a seat for his demo on the culinary creation stage at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa on February 7, from 10am to 4pm. Tickets are Dh200. For reservations, visit www.gourmetabudhabi.ae.
The baker Rainer Scharold brings something different to Gourmet Abu Dhabi. While others are cooking up main courses across the city, Scharold will share bread-baking secrets that date back 130 years when his family first opened their bakery in Germany.
“I’m the fifth generation of bakers in my family so I think I was born a baker. To be in the backstube (bakery) is so nice,” he says. “It’s warm and cosy, you feel the dough between your fingers and it’s one of the oldest trades in the world.”
Scharold is excited that Gourmet Abu Dhabi will shine a spotlight on the art of baking. “Bakers are not so common in the people’s culinary minds because the chefs are very often on TV shows – they write cookbooks, they are noticed much more than bakers. Everybody knows Paul Bocuse, Jamie Oliver or Anthony Bourdain, but do you know a baker so well? I hope I can change that situation a little bit.”
Scharold currently manages the Scharold Family Bakery in Friedberg, Bavaria, Germany.
Cafe D’Alsace at Yas Marina will host a bread and cheese promotion featuring Scharold’s baked goods from February 5 to 8, from 7pm to 9pm. Tickets are Dh300. For reservations, call 02 496 3412.
With more than 1.27 billion people living in India, you’ll have no problem finding a lengthy list of notable restaurants there. In a country that size, it takes a lot to stand out. But Chef Srinath Sambandan has done just that. He is the executive chef at The Park, Visakhapatnam and his menu at the Bamboo Bay restaurant has earned this eatery a spot in the 2010 book, Eating Out in India: 101 Favourite Restaurants, published by The Times of India.
“I look forward to being able to raise the bar for contemporary interpretations of India’s historic cuisines,” he says.
Sambandan, who hails from Hyderabad, the capital of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, says: “What I’m presenting at Gourmet Abu Dhabi is a combination of my take on modern interpretations of classic Hyderabadi cuisine as far as the starters go and thereafter it’ll be a throwback to simply great cuisine in all of its traditional glory.”
He also looks forward to mingling with like-minded international chefs while in Abu Dhabi. “I will be keen to look for inspirations from all the masters gathering there in terms of new culinary expressions. I will be particularly keen on seeing Marco Sacco, Russell Blaikie and Edward Kwon on stage for the demo sessions. Khulood Atiq will be one chef that I’ll not miss meeting as she represents the national identity of an entire region renowned for its gracious gourmet culture.”
Sambandan will host promotions at Ushna, Souk Qaryat Al Beri from February 10 to 13. For reservations, call 02 558 1769. He will also be on the culinary creation stage at the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa on February 8, from 10amto 4pm. Tickets are Dh200. For reservations, visit www.gourmetabudhabi.ae.