Award-winning chef Ben Spalding is on a mission to put the fun into fine dining – and it is next stop Abu Dhabi. The London-based kitchen king is the driving force behind PuzzleProjects, a venture offering a fresh take on hospitality consultancy, from food and music events to catering for public and individual events, from one person to as many as 10,000.
The talented 30-year-old honed his craft training at some of the world’s best Michelin-starred restaurants, including 28+ in Gothenburg, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Vue de Monde.
During his 15-year career he has scooped a clutch of awards, including three AA rosettes and the Zagat 30 under 30 award, and was named as one of The Times’ 100 Most Influential People.
He set up PuzzleProjects in a bid to move away from the stiff formality often associated with fine dining, bringing flair, flamboyance and plenty of passion to his cooking and dish presentation.
Spalding will be cooking at three special dinners during the 40 Mule by Festember event and also designing three masterclasses held by respected Dubai-based chef James Knight-Pacheco.
Spalding can’t wait to pay his first visit to the capital and get in the thick of the action at the emirate’s newest and most exciting food event.
He says: “During the 40 Mule by Festember launch edition, James Knight-Pacheco, a chef with over a decade of experience, having worked with industry legends, will deliver live cooking masterclasses to selected audiences.
“His style of food is inventive, progressive and intelligent; combining customer desire with industry knowledge to surprise and satisfy the diner through inimitable experiences.”
Spalding’s talents have taken him all over the world and he admits he has ambtions of showcasing his skills more permanently in Abu Dhabi. He adds: “I would love to if I find the right partner or the right opportunity is presented to me.”
Spalding says PuzzleProjects is a "one-stop shop" for all people’s needs and, despite his success, he is still as hungry as ever for more.
He adds: “We are a one-stop shop whether you need your wedding catering or want a full, 30-course immersive dining experience. Also, I pride myself on being a highly adaptable chef and operator. Creativity never stops.
“I have been very humbled and fortunate to have has incredible opportunities to go and cook in these amazing cities and countries. Of course, it is a lot of hard work and sacrifice on my side!
“Like with 40 Mule and Festember, operators and visionary directors have provided me with a platform to showcase
my cooking, vision and passion to guests and their followings. This has proved highly successful.”
Spalding says that after enduring a tough upbringing, working in the food industry from such a young age gave him the direction his life needed and provided him with a role model to help shape his career.
He adds: “I fell into the industry after rocky childhood, it gave me direction and drive.
“All the chefs I have worked with have influenced me, however only one really stands out, which is: Hans Boren [the previous head chef of Micelin-starred 28+ Restaurant in Gothenberg, Sweden].”
Spalding says working at 11 Michelin-starred restaurants across four countries has given a firm grounding and also provided a base for him to unleash his own, unique culinary creativity.
“I have always had my own ideas. I know how to really execute them as I am meticulous in planning and organisation. This for me is 75 percent of being a brilliant chef.”
Spalding is fast taking the world by the storm and he is ready to turn up the heat on the food scene here in Abu Dhabi.