Vaamonde-Beggs
Head chef Maria ‘Margarita’ Vaamonde-Beggs. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

TV-famous restaurants have opened up in Dubai before. People always wonder: Will it be like the show? Are we going to see chefs competing? But alas, it usually ends up being an ordinary restaurant, with familiar branding and some star power behind the name. So we can’t help but wonder, will MasterChef, the TV experience, which opens to the public on April 30, really feel like a TV experience?

The ‘MasterChef’ television series is a competitive cooking competition in a reality TV format. The way they will translate that competitive element into the Dubai-based restaurant is through the much-loved Mystery Box challenge, an integral part of the show. This challenge will be available to groups of guests numbering two or more, who can choose the main course Mystery Box menu option, which will allow adventurous diners to pick their choice of up to five ingredients from 10-plus proteins, vegetables and condiments.

Reversing the Mystery Box element of the hit TV series, the in-house culinary team at MasterChef, the TV Experience will then be challenged to bring the selections to life within a strict 35-minute timespan.

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The Masterchef Restaurant in the Millennium Place at the Dubai Marina. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

“We are taking the Mystery Box concept from screen to plate and providing diners with that all-important emotional connection to their food — a theme that has seen the TV show generate such a loyal and passionate following all around the world.” Maria ‘Margarita’ Vaamonde-Beggs told Gulf News tabloid!.

Adventurous diners can pick their choice of up to five ingredients from 10 options consisting of proteins, vegetables and condiments, before challenging Vaamonde-Beggs and her team to bring the selections to life within a strict 35-minute time frame.

Guests who opt for the signature Mystery Box option — which is priced at Dh300 for two people or Dh600 for four — can enjoy a shared starter while waiting for their personalised meal. The Mystery Box dish prepared by Vaamonde-Beggs will also be written up on to a special menu card for diners to take home.

The Mystery Box menu option will allow adventurous diners to pick their choice of up to five ingredients.

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The menu a will also feature dishes curated from global workshops held with champions and finalists across various productions of the series. Vaamonde-Beggs vetted over 120 recipes from those champions and finalists who have worked closely with the team in Dubai.

CULINARY QUEEN

Margarita is the central creative force in the signature Mystery Box dish. She is also heading the entire kitchen set-up and menu creation at the restaurant. Just one look at the Venezuelan’s Instagram feed and you’ll notice her love for travel, food and tattoos.

Her impressive and globetrotting career spans 12 years across the Americas and the Middle East. A seasoned gastronomy practitioner, Margarita has worked across multiple hotels and restaurants, including the relaunch of the Four-Season Hotels and Resorts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the launch of Catch Dubai as Sous Chef, and an Executive Sous Chef role at Catch LA.

In 2018, Margarita returned to Dubai to work as Executive Sous Chef — alongside the legendary Masaharu Morimoto — for the launch of Morimoto at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel right here in Dubai.

When not rustling up new creations in the kitchen or researching stories of home-cooked dishes, Margarita prowls design sites to pursue her passion for tattoos as well as perfecting her drawing skills. Her sketches and pictures are intricately detailed photos of shellfish and Star Wars characters. She also has a sidekick in the form of her baby English bulldog (who obviously isn’t allowed in the kitchen), but whom she loves very much.

Margarita is an International Chef Graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts.

MasterChef, the TV Experience, will also introduce guests to the talents and recipes of contestants and champions from various global series of MasterChef. With more than 60 local adaptations broadcast in more than 200 countries, MasterChef is the world’s most successful cookery television format.

Meet critic par excellence: Matt Preston

One of, or arguably, the most popular ‘MasterChef’ show, is the Australian version, mainly due to the witty and boyish charm of famed judge Matt Preston. The English-born Australian food critic, food journalist, recipe writer, and television personality (with many on-screen controversial antics) has become a household name to all ‘MasterChef’ fans.

Matt Preston
Matt Preston Image Credit: Supplied

During a visit to Dubai, he sat down to chat with tabloid! and revealed where he likes to eat, what his favourite ingredients are and who he would cook for, alive or dead.

Q. What did you have for dinner last night?

A. If I’ve had a busy day, I will have some Petit Munster stinky cheese for dinner. It’s the stinkiest cheese you’ll ever find. Last night, I had a little bit of that with some blueberries.

Q. What do you like to eat in Dubai?

A. When I come to Dubai, the one cuisine I am interested to try is Pakistani cuisine. We don’t get Pakistani food in Australia. Over here, it’s just so real and authentic. These street-side restaurants have chefs, who make food that speaks uniquely to where they are, and that is very important.

Q. What would you do if I gave you $5,000 right now?

A. If I had $5,000 I would spend it on food. I would make a few stops all over the world. If I fly economy, I could probably hit a bunch of countries that I want to eat at. I would fly via Lima to check out what Virgilio Martinez is up to in Peru. He is doing quite crazy things with food. Totally out there and unlike anything else in the world. And Milo, the other Peruvian top 10. I would stop by both their restaurants and have an amazing meal. I would walk around the cevicherias, have some fresh seafood from around there and I’d play on the golf course in the middle of town.

Then I reckon I potentially have some money left over to pop over to London have dinner at Core, I would go have Pizza Disfruta in Barcelona. What I am doing here, is essentially recounting the trip I went on a few months back with my fellow ‘MasterChef’ judges. We celebrated 10 years of being on TV together, so we went away for two-and-half weeks and ate our way around.

Q. What is your favourite comfort food?

A. Butter on bread is one of the greatest combinations. It’s real comfort food.

Q. If you could cook for anyone alive or dead, who would it be?

A. Always my mother… And my wife! [He added quickly in the last moment with a chuckle.]

Q. What is your favourite ingredient to cook with?

A. My favourite ingredient to cook with is lemon. I love lemon… or actually it’s cucumber… no wait… It’s corn. Yes, definitely corn. Oh, there is something so magnificent about corn. It’s so versatile and delicious and incredibly tasty and. It’s also got natural sweetness.”

Q. Buffets or sit-down dinners?

A. Neither. I would go tappas crawling. That’s a lot of fun. I think the days of four-hour degustation’s dinners are kind of old and boring. I like standing and picking up different types of food. In a way, how I like to eat isn’t a full on traditional buffet. But it certainly won’t be a white tablecloth dining situation either.

What’s on the menu?

Curated from a selection of over 120 recipes created by past show champions and finalists from various productions of the hit global series, the 36-dish launch menu includes starters sucas the Beetroot cured salmon with puffed rice — the brainchild of MasterChef Australia 2017 finalist Tamara Graffen — and a Mauritian warm octopus salad served with a fennel, onion and tomato salad, mango fluid gel and shrimp jelly created by MasterChef UK 2012 champion Shelina Permalloo.

Mains will be divided into three separate sections — meat and poultry, seafood and vegetarian. Select mains include a Venison loin rubbed with chilli and coffee created MasterChef US 2016 Champion Shaun O’Neale, as well as fried chicken waffles.

Seafood options include MasterChef UK 2017 champion Salina Mahmood Ahmed’s Sea bass fillet baked in lavash bread, as well as O’Neale’s Seared scallops with kohlrabi puree.

For those who prefer greens to meat, vegetarian dishes include tolled mushroom gnocchi by MasterChef Australia 2014 finalist Laura Cassai, or MasterChef UK 2016 winner Jane Devonshire’s Roasted curried cauliflower and warm quinoa salad. Joining the fray is MasterChef UK 2015 winner Simon Wood’s Celeriac, artichoke, truffle, pears and chestnut concoction.

Dessert lovers can sample Elena Duggan, MasterChef Australia 2016 champion’s Apple bickies and cheese — a green apple sorbet with apple and fennel gel, pickled apple and goat’s cheese mousse — and MasterChef UK 2008 winner James Nathan’s Deconstructed Eton Mess.

Details!

MasterChef, the TV Experience opens on April 30. The restaurant is located at the Millennium Place, Dubai Marina. It is open for lunch and dinner.