After 16 days of gastronomical delights, the fifth edition of Gourmet Abu Dhabi concluded with a bang at an awards gala dinner. On Wednesday, at the St Regis Hotel Saadiyat Island, 13 of the emirate’s best chefs, restaurants, managers and hosts were honoured.
A five-course dinner was prepared by five chefs, each creating a signature dish. The main course — veal medallion with winter truffle jus, carrot mousseline and straw potatoes — was prepared by last year’s Executive Chef of the Year, Patrick Bischoff. The veal was so tender it cut as smoothly as butter and the potatoes were a perfect crunchy accompaniment, complimenting the tenderness of the veal.
After offering one mouth-watering dish after the other, nominees could not curb their enthusiasm to finally find out who the winners were. The most anticipated award of the evening, Executive Chef of the Year, went to Danny Kattar from the InterContinental Hotel Abu Dhabi.
“My hands are still shaking,” Kattar told The weekend tabloid! as he expressed his thrill as he had already missed out on the award twice. “Finally, it’s my year. I was beginning to think destiny was against me winning this award,” he said.
Describing his food, he said he cooked “based on spices, passion and things related to inspiration”. He invited people to try his food saying, “If you want to taste real food with no added flavour, you should try my food.”
Also happy to win, staff members from Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace were over the moon as they went home with the Restaurant of the Year Award.
“We’re very proud because it is such a great achievement and it is the completion of a fantastic year,” Hakkasan general manager Vinicio Alberelli said. He described the award as “fuel to the team”.
“If guests really want unique atmosphere, a lovely bar and great terrace, they should try Hakkasan,” Alberelli added.
Hakkasan Chef Lee Kok Hua described his food as “modern, authentic Chinese, which uses local produce and ingredients”. He added that “it has a sense of tradition, innovation, and is nothing short of what diners would have at the Hakkasan in London”.
The trophies, sculpted to look like a chef holding a dinner plate, were well-deserved, especially given the process the chefs had to go through before they were crowned. Yasser Jad, president of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association (SARCA), said that there were four criteria to select the winning chefs; taste, presentation, innovation and service.
Jad explained that each judge had anonymously visited the restaurant and ordered three courses. To test the chefs, the judges made special requests for the dishes, such as cooking beef to order, avoiding chilli, etc ... The judges also checked the ambience and the service at the restaurant. They then submitted their scores and the winning chef is he/she who got the highest scores.
With three new award categories this year — Best Sustainability Practice, Best Use of Local Produce, and Spirit of the Festival — nominees were holding their breath in anticipation of the announcement.
The Best Sustainability Practice award went to Fairmont Bab Al Bahr while Best Use of Local Produce was won by Nicolas Perz from Hyatt Capital Gate for his crispy whole roasted Sultan Ibrahim wrapped in kunafa dough stuffed with local dates, organic honey and zaatar, and served with a camel milk sweet potato mash. Ushna Restaurant, located in Souk Qaryat Al Beri, won the Spirit of the Festival Award and the staff could not wipe the smile off their faces even as they stepped out after the ceremony.
The prize was particularly a buzz after Ushna finished as runner-up to Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in the Best Sustainability Practice Award. The choice of winner was based on the restaurant that most actively promoted and embraced Gourmet Abu Dhabi.
“I was disheartened at first and I actually texted my family saying ‘we lost’ so I couldn’t believe it when we won this award,” Uday Goel, Ushna’s manager, said.
This year’s Gourmet Abu Dhabi saw 56 international artisans from 14 countries cook up a storm and treat a total of 5,600 diners to the finest pastries, chocolates, caviar, foie gras, steaks and gourmet delights. The annual food festival also hosted luncheons with celebrity chefs, masterclasses, a charity dinner and plenty more to satisfy food enthusiasts who came from across the globe to attend Gourmet Abu Dhabi. The events took place at 20 of the emirate’s leading hotels, restaurants and venues, including the Emirates Palace, The Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr and Yas Viceroy among many others.
Box: And the award goes to...
Executive Chef of the Year: Danny Kattar, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
Restaurant of the Year: Hakkasan, Emirates Palace
Food and Beverage Manager of the Year: Moustafa El Gayar, Shangri-La
Regional Cuisine Chef of the Year: Jouni Ibrahim, Li Beirut, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Regional Cuisine Manager of the Year: Suresh Yadhav, Indigo, Beach Rotana
Regional Cuisine Restaurant of the Year: Agadir, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa
Restaurant Chef of the Year: Alexandra Pernetta, Bord Eau, Shangri-La Hotel
Restaurant Manager of the Year: Ashwin Naidu, Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
Restaurant Host of the Year: Yuni Sukmawati, Teatro, Park Rotana
Pastry Chef of the Year: Praveen Kumar, Hilton Abu Dhabi
Best Sustainability Practice: Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
Best Use of Local Produce by a Chef: Nicolas Perz, Hyatt Capital Gate
Spirit of the Festival: Ushna, Souk Qaryat Al Beri