Battle of the Kitchens

The city's top hotels go head-to-head for a culinary challenge Discuss this article

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Have you ever wondered how the stars of the Abu Dhabi food scene would fare in Hell’s Kitchen or on Masterchef Australia? Have you pondered over whether they’d break down and spew profanities till the cows come home? And what of their judges – would they employ a vocabulary pertaining mostly of ‘beyooodiful!’, ‘cu’moooon!’ and ‘do you have wot it taikes?!’ and bark out orders to a soundtrack that builds more suspense than is necessary for a cooking show? Well you no longer need to wonder.

Masterchef fans and foodies of the capital rejoice! The Battle of the Kitchens is coming to town, and we’re shouting about it a week in advance to make sure no one misses out on nabbing their ticket. Last month’s competition in Dubai was a fierce culinary battle culminating in the Shangri-La Dubai being named most Creative Kitchen in the City.

Rising to the challenge for the Abu Dhabi competition are chefs from three of our hottest hotels: Le Méridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi; Hilton Abu Dhabi Hotel; and Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi. They’ll be gathering at Le Méridian on Friday March 16 for the first round of the contest, to demonstrate their gastronomical prowess by cooking under pressure, against the clock and with random ingredients they have to pick blindly. The premise is called the ‘black box’ ingredients, and this is how it works.

All three teams will be given a ‘magic basket’ (the black box made more homely) of mystery ingredients with which they’ll have to prepare a composed dish which highlights the food items, in 90 minutes. The mystery ingredients can range from the commonplace to the utterly bizarre, as we’ve seen in Dubai where contestants had to work with gummy bears, beef jerky and avocado smoothie. Also at their disposal will be additional items from a common use pantry. At the end of the 90 minutes, the prepared and plated dishes will be presented to the panel of judges. They will include Chef Uwe Micheel, president of the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG); Suzanne Husseini, celebrity chef, TV presenter and author; and Michael Wunsch, general manager of Barakat. Now that we know the judges, let’s meet the contestants.

Fighting the good fight for Le Méridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi are:
Executive Chef, Daniel Brooker
This New Zealand native is no stranger to competition, his last grand slam was the coveted ‘Chef of the Year’ award at the Salon Culinaire in the 2011 Gulf Food. Brooker defines his cooking style as simply classic and modern. One ingredient that he hopes not to find in the mystery box is gummy bears.

Executive Sous Chef, Rodrigo Menendez
Hailing from Argentina, this chef of 14 years describes his signature dish as fresh and natural, with a healthy dose of respect for the flavor profiles of each ingredient. His culinary style leans towards the Mediterranean and Japanese kitchens.

Pastry Chef, Bandula Kirthiratna
Training as a pastry chef in his native homeland of Sri Lanka, Kirthiratna cites his signature dish as being dark chocolate with wild berry marmalade, he also professes a tendency towards uncomplicated desserts and developing a good representation of flavours, colours, textures and aromas on the plate. Apparently, there is no mystery ingredient that would phase Kirthiratna.

In the Hilton Hotel, Abu Dhabi corner, we have:
Executive Chef, Yvan Marclay
This Swiss national has over 30 years of experience. His culinary mentor is his father and Chef Franz Kuehne, of Hilton Basel in Switzerland. It’s hard to decide on Marclay’s signature dish, but he does point to the one that he is most proud of – duo of grilled Dutch veal tenderloin and braised cheek. The ingredient that he hopes not to find in the mystery box is any type of frozen food.

Executive Sous Chef, Ajith Gunawardana
Hailing from Sri Lanka Gunawardana’s cooking style is classic fusion and this is clearly demonstrated in his signature dish of pan fried crispy sea bass with olive oil confit potatoes. One ingredient he hopes not to find in the mystery box is marshmallows.

Pastry Junior Sous Chef, Ashwani Pathania
Indian Chef Ashwani looks to Gordon Ramsey for his modern yet classic approach to food. His signature dish is caramel chocolate mousse with vanilla crème brulee and raspberry ganache, and he hopes not to find edible flowers amongst the mystery ingredients.

And last but not least, the culinary warriors of Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi are:
Executive Chef, Patrick Bischoff
Frenchman Patrick Bischoff learned his craftsmanship under gourmet chef Jacques Febvay at the Palm Beach Casino, in Cannes. He likes what he calls ‘good stress’ and has no particular signature dish per se, but his cooking style is best described as classic with simple and clean presentation. He hopes that there will be no slow cooking mystery ingredients in the black box.

Executive Sous Chef, Raghuprasad S. Pillai
Competitions are not new to Indian chef Raghuprasad, since he won the Executive Sous Chef of the Year from Caterer Middle East last year. He likes to create hearty and home style food that is elegantly presented and he is not afraid of any mystery ingredient in particular.

Sous Pastry Chef, Siddhesh Sukhathankar
Under stress, Sukhathankar remains calm and concentrated, and only has the end result in mind. His cooking style is simple and flavorsome and it clearly shows in his signature offering – truffle and goat’s cheese bavarois with balsamic ice cream.

Battle of the Kitchens Abu Dhabi will take place on March 16 at Le Méridien Hotel, starting from 4pm with an after event buffet dinner for guests. Tickets are Dhs190 per person and includes a welcome beverage and the buffet. For more information visit www.battleofthekitchens.com. To book tickets contact Le Méridien (02 644 6666)

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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