International chefs slam Dubai produce

Visiting chefs at this year’s Grand Gourmet Summit at the Grand Hyatt Dubai have said the city’s culinary scene is hampered by a lack of quality produce.

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By  Lynne Nolan Published  December 1, 2006

Visiting chefs at this year’s Grand Gourmet Summit at the Grand Hyatt Dubai have said the city’s culinary scene is hampered by a lack of quality produce. “I was in Hong Kong 25 years ago and Dubai’s culinary scene is similar to that now. Vegetables are pretty ordinary and kitchens are still using frozen meat. I’m used to products arriving immaculate,” commented chef Greg Malouf, executive chef at Mo Mo restaurant in Melbourne. “Herbs and spices like cumin and coriander are not even stored properly, and sourcing simple products like Turkish delight has proved impossible. Chefs here say they are using fresh, quality produce, but the standard is far removed from that found in Australia. Very little is grown here, though the weather is obviously an obstacle.” Chef Greg pinpointed logistics as the main challenge in Dubai, having observed that some fish arriving at kitchens was up to four days old. He said chefs lacked innovation in terms of dish presentation, and that Dubai’s culinary scene has only already emerged as a big player for commercial reasons. But Middle Eastern cuisine has witnessed a recent boom in popularity in Melbourne, according to chef Greg. Chefs in the cosmopolitan city are experimenting with high quality ingredients and diners are eager to try new styles of cooking, he said. “Melbourne has embraced Middle Eastern cuisine more than any other Australian city. A lot of the young chefs are now using ingredients such as spice blends and preserved lemon and lime. Molecular gastronomy has taken also off in Melbourne, involving chemicals and components usually found outside the kitchen,” he added. Chef Ichiro Kubota, the executive chef at Umu Mayfair in London, which specialises in Kyoto cuisine, visited Miyako at the Hyatt Regency Dubai during the summit, and said there was added pressure on Dubai chefs to adapt menus to suit the multicultural population. “Sixty percent of customers at Miyako are Japanese, yet the chef also has to cater to other nationalities by adding a lot of seasoning to make it more accessible. Arabic cuisine incorporates a lot of spices, whereas Kyoto cuisine is delicate and stresses the natural flavour of ingredients over the enhancement of heavy sauces,” chef Ichiro explained. Chef Ichiro said he faced difficulties sourcing more unusual ingredients for his time at the Summit, and that alcohol licenses were also an obstacle for chefs in Dubai.

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