x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Chef turns up the gas on fast food

Fresh from the hot-tempered kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Matt Pickop is putting his culinary skills to the test at the race track.

Matt Pickop will put his culinary skills to the test at the race track.
Matt Pickop will put his culinary skills to the test at the race track.

ABU DHABI // Fresh from the hot-tempered kitchens of Gordon Ramsay, Matt Pickop is putting his culinary skills to the test at the race track.

He was accustomed to serving celebrities when he was head chef at Verre, Ramsay's restaurant in Dubai. This weekend the senior events catering technical officer has to make sure the F1 circus is fed well.

The second Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be Mr Pickop's first experience of working outside the kitchen.

Mr Pickop, 31, swapped the white chef's uniform for the Yas Marina Circuit's combats and T-shirts in January.

"I have basically taken my next biggest challenge. I was with Gordon and as far as I was concerned I needed something more," said Mr Pickop, who was an executive chef for three years.

Making the transition from the kitchen to the race track was not easy.

"It's a huge challenge, I need to use a computer, which is not something a chef normally does. Having to communicate on a management level and not swearing and roaring and abusing people - you learn as you go along."

Ten years of working for Ramsay has stuck with him. "From what I've learnt as a chef it's all about making sure the basics are right and covered. Food should taste what it looks like. A carrot is a carrot and a vegetable is a vegetable and that is what it should taste like."

Mr Pickop will not be doing as much tasting as he has been used to - and will be dealing with larger quantities. "Anything to do with food on the circuit has to go though me first."

From Friday, about 50,000 F1 fans will be at the track each day.

He will oversee the catering contractors on the site and make sure all the equipment is in working order.

Last year, there were long queues for food. They aim to cut this by adding an extra 50 tills - half as many again as last year.

He has made some changes to how race fans will be fed in the grandstands. The restaurants have been moved out from under the stands to the Oasis food areas.

The food on offer will be different, too. "We'll go for fast food like hot dogs, shawarma, burgers, fish and chips - more grab-and-go style stuff."

He said the food would not be expensive and he wanted to provide value for money. "It is still a quality product. When you go somewhere, you don't want to be ripped off, that's what it's about."

Those in the paddock area, the zone around the pits, can expect some stellar celebrities. Last year Naomi Cambell, Beyonce and Aerosmith were there.

"They can expect the usual five-star standard of cooking. The chefs are very strong and know how to churn out 4,000 high-quality meals."

For the next few days Mr Pickof will be making sure all his stock is ready for delivery and is fresh when it reaches the Yas track.

"I want to make sure staff are up to speed on what they are doing," he said.

Over three nights, between 200 and 400 tonnes of food will be delivered to the site. "That's a huge amount of food. You can't just call up and ask for 400 kilos of chicken and expect it to turn up. It all takes planning."

eharnan@thenational.ae