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The world on a plate

From Asian to Italian and everything in between, culinary schools across the city are helping food lovers hone their skills in the kitchen

  • Shahana Raza 
Special to The weekend tabloid!
  • Published: 17:00 September 21, 2012
  • Tabloid on Saturday

  • Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
  • Chef Jeremy Coste teaches participants the finer points of cooking during a sushi-making session at Le Atelier restaurant, Le Meridien Dubai. STORY (Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News)
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Culinary schools popping up across the city are giving food lovers the choice of learning multiple cuisines. “The only prerequisite is a sense of curiosity. The level of experience is not essential,” says Michel Jost, executive chef, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi. The hotel offers interactive cook-offs and classes with larger numbers where attendees prefer to sit back, watch and make notes as the chefs show them the way.

What people want

Conducting regular sessions at Balance Café, head chef Yogesh Rambhujun says most people attend to learn some basic tips so they are able to cook what he refers to as “good, simple, quick food”.

Precisely what Suzanne Hussaini has found in her vast experience as a TV presenter and celebrity chef. “People have different reasons for signing up for a cooking class. It could be to learn the secrets of a good pastry, or master the art of bread making or learn about the food of another culture. Whatever the reason, I think people want to have a good time, share the experience with others and pick up a couple of good cooking tips,” Hussaini says.

Amy Ridgeway did a course in Indian cooking after a recent trip to the subcontinent unleashed a passion for Indian staples such as chana masala and palak paneer. While it’s easy enough to find recipes online and in cook books, the Princeton graduate opted to learn it from an expert and joined Gahana Khatwani’s informal cookery classes. “Gahana was helpful in teaching me how exactly the food should look and taste at different stages during the cooking process, which is something you would not get from just a recipe,” Ridgeway says.

Since we live in a multicultural environment, when it comes to food, basic knowledge is passé. ”We all need some change with the type of food we eat. There were many young women of my age attending cooking classes and they were all very keen and interested to be better cooks one day, as am I,” says Heena Masand, whose confidence in the kitchen increased after taking cooking classes.

Miele, a producer of premium home appliances, also runs the Miele Cookery School, giving amateur chefs the opportunity to polish their skills in the company of celebrity chefs such as Suzanne Hussaini, Andy Cambell and Russell Impiazzi. “The Miele sessions offer amateur cooks the chance to expand their culinary repertoires and also pick up the tricks of the trade, from knife skills and time-saving tips to one-on-one advice from the masters themselves. The classes also present an opportunity for the region’s foodies to conjure up some culinary delights and to show-off at a dinner party one day,” said Gaby Koudsi, managing director, Miele GCC.

Tapping into an expanding industry, Chef Marta Yanci launched the Culinary Forum (an offshoot of her catering company Marta’s Kitchen) in partnership with the region’s leading chefs and food experts. “This is not about chefs leading a demonstration from a podium with a microphone; it’s about getting round a table with a highly reputed chef or culinary expert, where everyone gets their hands dirty.”

Professional speaking

Enlisting in a course also helps junior chefs polish their culinary skills. With its amazing variety of sumptuous dining venues and bespoke luxury hotels, there is a perennial need for competent chefs within the UAE. Despite the demand, a dearth of professionally qualified staff is palpable. “Dubai’s disadvantage has been that it has no training schools for chefs. Most are expats who have come here and may not be professionally trained,” says Peter Hallmann, Fonterra’s former advisory chef.

Expressing a similar view, Shanaaz Raja, course director, International Centre for Culinary Arts Dubai, gives us a glimpse of a typical kitchen brigade. Senior chefs come from Europe, US and Australia, lower to mid-level positions are predominantly occupied by chefs of Asian origin who probably started at a lower rung and rose in rank through hard work, practise and due diligence.

Enrolling in a professional course helps junior chefs circumvent this tedious process. “Though experienced, most of them lack the technical culinary knowledge of international industry standards. Hence, a course would definitely go a long way to help them become true professionals,” says Raja.

— Shahana Raza is a UAE-based freelance writer

HONE YOUR SKILLS

• Atelier de chef, Le Meridien Dubai

Hands-on cooking sessions over a wide range of cuisines such as French, Italian, Japanese and Thai along with pastry-making classes are available all days of the week except Fridays. Cost, Dh120-Dh350.

Call 04 702 2604 or visit www.atelierdeschefsdubai.com

• Miele Gallery

Weekly series of interactive culinary experiences with the opportunity to cook alongside some of the region’s best-known chefs and celebrities.

Call 800 MIELE, visit www.miele.ae or e-mail culinarymasterclasses@miele.ae

• The Balance Café, Oasis Centre.

Learn to cook sushi, Indian and Thai food or take baking lessons. Cost, Dh250 per class or Dh800 for four classes.

Call: 04 3847010 or visit http://www.balance-wellness-centre.com/cafe/about.html

• De Dietrich Cuisine Academy, Dubai Ladies Club

Each week, learn to cook French, Italian or Asian cuisine, sushi, special pastries, or how to prepare mocktails, with expert chef Gabrielle, along with Healthy Lifestyle foods and special meals for kids. Cost, Dh130–Dh350. Special packages for birthdays, baby showers and bride parties are also available.

Call 04 8865641 or visit www.de-dietrich-academy.ae

• Marta’s Kitchen

Three-hour class with a maximum of ten participants per session. Cost, Dh250 per person.

Call 050 379 8002 or visit http://www.martaskitchen.com/forum/index to see the list of upcoming forums.

• Suzanne Hussaini

Despite her celebrity status, Hussaini teaches a real mix of people, from housewives looking for inspiration to keen cooks, families, bachelors, recreational cooks and even chefs wanting to learn the mysteries behind a cuisine they are not familiar with.

For further details, schedules and locations visit facebook.com/suzannehusseini

• Gahana Khatwani

What began as a Good Samaritan gesture to help housewives upgrade their culinary skills has morphed into a fruitful occupation. Gahana Khatwani is now set to launch her professional school, Saina’s Kitchen, to teach basic healthy cooking to eager attendees including children above the 8 and students flying off to join university.

Call 055 2044988 or e-mail sainaskitchen@gmail.com

• Food artisan Dima Sharif

Take specialised or casual cookery classes in both the savoury and sweet disciplines, from cakes and cupcakes to basic Arabic food. Cost, Dh350-Dh450.

Visit www.dimasharif.com

• Spice & Aroma

Prepare sumptuous Indian and Oriental dishes and learn the art of spice-friendly cooking. Cost, Dh150-Dh200 (inclusive of meal).

For more information check Abeda’s Corner on www.spiceandaroma.com

• Cooking @Home

Prepare traditional Italian family recipes for two hours a week — at Dh150 — or take special lessons on weekends — for Dh180. Private classes are also available.

Call 056 2445082 or e-mail cookingathomedubai@gmail.com.

• Nobu, Atlantis The Palm

Three-hour class on the first Saturday of every month. Cost, Dh1,250 per person.

Call 04 426 2626.

• Thai Kitchen, Park Hyatt Hotel

Group sessions for a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 persons are held from Saturday to Wednesday. Cost,Dh350 (inclusive of soft drink) and Dh525 (inclusive of bubbly/select beverages) respectively.

Call 04 602 1804.

• Jones the Grocer

Australia’s leading fine-food retailer hosts weekly cooking classes where participants can enjoy what they’ve cooked — with selected beverages and desserts. A chocolate masterclass is held once a month. Cost, Dh375 per class, prior booking necessary. Classes begin at 6pm and are held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi stores. Call 04-3466886 (Al Manara, Dubai), 02-5574882 (Al Raha, Abu Dhabi) and 02-6395883 (Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi)

• Catch the last day of the Emirates Culinary Guild’s “Treat” at BurJuman’s world food fest — 300 chefs from 40 top hotels compete in the city’s biggest cook-off.

• Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Hone culinary skills from Japanese to Arabic cuisine or participate in a cocktail-making competition at Atayeb, Nautilius, Kazu and Rush Bar. Classes open for groups only.

Call 02 656 0600 or e-mail dining@viceroyhotelsandresorts.com

• Fonterra’s Culinarium

A workplace-realistic state-of-the-art kitchen where amateur chefs can polish their culinary skills: Call 04 3388 549.

• International Centre for Culinary Arts

Expanding and relocating to a new address, ICCA offers certified courses through the year for professionals, amateurs and those interested in learning Lifestyle Classes.

Log on to http://www.iccadubai.ae

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