Abu Dhabi: Rejoice, foodies! Abu Dhabi’s biggest gastronomical festival is back. The fourth edition of Taste of Abu Dhabi (TOAD) promises an unforgettable culinary experience as it brings together the capital’s leading restaurants, Michelin star chefs, cooking shows, top acts from the world of entertainment and a host of fun activities under one roof. It will be held at the du Arena on Yas Island from November 9-11.
The festival will kick-start on Thursday evening with British pop star Tony Hadley, former Spandau Ballet lead singer, performing classic his hits.
A highlight of the festival is the Extraordinary Italian Taste Pavilion, a dedicated area showcasing the best of Italian cuisine hosted by four Michelin star chefs from Italy. See them perform live alongside Italian food artisans including an acrobatic pizza chef.
You can catch Michelin star chef Richard Sandoval and TOAD regulars Sanjeev Kapoor, Reza Mahammad and Jenny Morris at the Al Ain Dairy and Ikea Cooking Challenge where you can put your cooking skills to the test alongside these celebrity chefs.
Taste the World
Another stellar line-up of chefs from London, Toronto, Sydney and Paris will demonstrate their award-winning dishes on the Etihad Airways Taste the World stage.
Masterchef 2012 winner Shelina Permalloo will give master classes along with other star chefs at the Etihad Chef’s Theatre.
“With so many chefs from the capital and abroad cooking at the festival this year, visitors will be spoilt for choice these three days,” said Chris Fountain, group managing director of Turret Media, the organisers of TOAD. Restaurants participating in the festival include Sho Cho, Flooka, Desert Lotus, The Grill, Bu!, Melius, Toro Toro, Hickory’s, Loca, Leopold’s of London, Original Fusion and Cafe Sushi.
Enjoy live music from an exciting line-up of bands, musicians and DJs during the three days of the festival. Featured artists include Tony Hadley (ex Spandau Ballet), Jaye & Foe, Mark Zitti and the Fratelli Coltelli, 4TheMusic, DJ Krish, The Maplejacks and Down Home.
Families are catered for at the Les Fanfans Nursery Kid’s Zone. Activities include arts and crafts, inflatables, zip line, bungee jump, face painting and pizza making.
Chef Richard Sandoval
In the past 18 years, Richard Sandoval ’s career as a chef and restauranteur has evolved to include culinary consultant, television personality, cook book author and brand ambassador. Richard Sandoval Restaurants (RSR) is now a leading international group with over 40 concepts. Restaurant Hospitality recently named RSR as one of the ‘25 Coolest Multi-concept Companies’.
Who taught you the basics of cooking?
I learned to respect fresh, authentic, ingredients from my grandmother and created vibrant flavours that turned into family dinners. My father owns Madeiras and Villa Fiore restaurants in Acapulco (Mexico). From him, I learned about service and restaurant management.
Did you always want to be a chef?
No, I was once a professional tennis player and have toured the world participating in prestigious matches. But my passion for food made me enrol in the Culinary Institute of America. That’s when I realised that food is my first love. In 1997 I opened Maya, my flagship modern Mexican restaurant in New York.
What do you do when you are not cooking?
I like to train chefs of the future. There are many more cuisines to be experimented. I especially like to support the growth of chefs who like to experiment. I am on the Board of trustees at my alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America and I like to impart advice to upcoming chefs there.
What can people expect from you at TOAD?
The unexpected (laughs). We are offering a unique experiment of tastes. It will have authentic Latin ingredients with international flavours and inventive techniques to create new and unexpected concepts and cuisines such as modern and coastal Mexican, Latin-Asian, Peruvian and Pan-Latin.
Chef Jenny Morris
Jenny Morris is known as the ‘giggling gourmet’ because of her pleasing disposition. She has starred in four series with Food Network, and has become a household name among audiences in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
What are the new ingredient(s) inspiring you right now?
Fingerling limes which I discovered in Dubai. Seaweed and scallops, as they have become more accessible in South Africa. Smoked garlic, wild mushrooms, pomegranate molasses and rose water are others in the list.
What’s your favourite Middle Eastern dish?
I love a hearty Arabic breakfast with a gorgeous selection of soft and salty white cheese, dips and breads. I enjoy the smokiness of moutabal and the bowls of the creamiest humus topped with black olives, sun ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.
What has been your most memorable meal in Dubai?
At Al Ustad Special Kabab in Bur Dubai. It had perfectly cooked rice with cranberries, succulent chicken, soft lamb, crisp fragrant herbs and steaming bowls of chicken soup. It’s the first place I visit when I am in Dubai. You should give it a try and tell them Jenny Morris sent you.
What are you most looking forward to at TOAD this year?
Absolutely everything. It is one of my favourite food and music festivals. I love meeting supporters, new chefs, fabulous food from all the local restaurants and, of course, the music.
Any top tip or trick?
When you cook prawns, always reserve the heads and shells and freeze them until you have enough to make seafood soup. Make sure you remove the eyes before adding them to your stock as they make it bitter. Never boil the shells, simmer them gently for a nice clear stock.
Chef William Zonfa
“I never imagined opening my signature restaurant Magione Papale in L’Aquila (Italy) in 2009, when I was just 28,” says Chef William Zonfa, who comes from a military family.
He faced a major setback when an earthquake of 5.9 magnitude hit L’Aquila in April 2009. “Everything came to a standstill. L’Aquila and many surrounding villages were declared red zone,” he reminisced.
It was only in July 2010 that the restaurant resumed operations and starting winning hearts thanks to the amazing creativity and technique that Zonfa put into his dishes. It was awarded a Michelin star in December 2011.
In 2013, he was given the ‘Emerging Chef’ award by Guida Ristoranti d’Italia of Gambero Rosso.
Zonfa says his specialities are macaroons. He draws the best from multi-speciality cuisines and enhances it in his two restaurants, Salone dei Granai and Magione Papale.
By being part of the Taste of Abu Dhabi, he hopes to impress the regional crowd with his signature dishes and learn a few things in the process. “It will be interesting to see what the other international chefs bring to the table and what I can offer in return. What’s important, is knowing what you’re looking for and what you love to do. Giving skis to someone who loves swimming in the sea, is pointless,” he says.
Where: du Arena, Yas Island
When: November 9 to 11
Timing: Thursday 4pm-9.30pm; Friday 12.30pm-10pm; Saturday 12.30pm- 9pm
Tickets: Dh65-Dh200 (available online at www.tasteabudhabi.com)