Hosting friends for dinner can be a tall order. So when I heard that Marina Social at the InterContinental Dubai Marina can now host you and up to 12 guests for an intimate dining experience — complete with you and your guests getting to go backstage in the kitchen, preparing your chosen dishes — I wondered if hosting could finally start being less nerve-racking and more a joyful experience. And over the next few hours, I found out it could.
Here is how it works. In an open kitchen, your guests can enjoy an extensive menu cooked by you, with full view of the kitchen. But fear not, there’s no chance for you to make silly kitchen screw-ups, because you’re under the watchful eye of head chef Kieran, who has trained under Gordon Ramsay, and worked in various restaurants across the UK and Dubai.
This was one of the very first events of its kind the restaurant was hosting, so I arrived early to have a menu run-through. Kitted out in chef whites, stepping into the kitchen was a scary prospect. I have cooked in a professional kitchen before but never in a live environment. I’ve seen Kitchen Nightmares on TV, but while there I realised it wasn’t at all like what I had seen on screen. The space wasn’t huge, but each person was busy at their station.
As my guests arrived, the nerves started to kick in. When they were settled, I explained how the evening would work — I had chosen a sharing menu and would be dashing between the table and kitchen.
The nerves started to give way to excitement, and I was now keen to get my hands dirty. I shadowed Kieran as he prepared the beef tartare, horseradish cream, egg yolk jam and truffle dressing. All the ingredients had been prepared; first, the beef was placed in a mould in the centre of the plate and topped with mushrooms. Horseradish cream was then piped into a circle, and then a blob of egg yolk was added to resemble a fried egg. Finally, we handpicked micro greens and finished off the dish with grated fresh horseradish. The finished dish looked incredible; mine looked pretty much the same as Kieran’s. Looking up I could see my guests peering over the counter snapping pictures of my first course, which was served alongside a beetroot salad and confit duck and foie gras terrine with crystallised almonds and peach chutney.
As the dishes arrived, Kieran talked the guests through the ingredients, preparation and how the dish was created, also taking questions.
No time to settle down though — I tasted the food I’d prepared and was soon back in the kitchen to make pizza and dessert.
The overall experience was incredible. It’s a great way to catch up with friends, pick up some food preparation tips and get a real flavour of what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen. This preparing-and-dining session is a perfect environment for you to show off your cooking skills.
The Chef’s Table experience at Marina Social at the InterContinental Dubai Marina costs Dh390 per person with house beverages and is available on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Whatever your cooking capabilities, you can find a cooking course to suit you at Top Chef Cooking Studio in Jumeirah. They offer a wide range of classes, both for adults and children, and even hold private culinary sessions.
I opt for the Saturday session with Chef Anthony, who has worked in kitchens in London and Dubai, and I can definitely recommend this class if you’re a lover of chocolate.
I recently joined two others for the two-hour session. Aprons on, chef Anthony starts us off with an introduction to the menu, which features four chocolate treats. We start with raspberry pims; we add ingredients to the food processor to make the genoise, the sponge top for the pims, and it goes into the oven.
Next up is the raspberry jam. This is a first for me, but Anthony made the process look so effortless. Placed in the chiller to set, we then prepare the chocolate cases. Using a brush, I coat each case with a layer of chocolate and leave them to set.
Anthony talks us through the next few steps, which are organised with perfection, allowing us to work on multiple recipes. It’s like a chocolate production line, and taking turns all of us students go through the final steps. I test my piping skills as the chef needs white and dark chocolate piped onto a prepared baking sheet. To make the mendiant, a type of traditional French confection, I pipe sovereign-size circles of chocolate, and as each one begins to set, pistachio, raisons, dried apricots and almonds are used for decoration.
Next we are back to the raspberry pims. The jam is piped into the mould — this takes some skill; the first few were too full or not enough. Then more chocolate is poured over the raspberry, the excess expertly removed by Anthony, and then left to cool and set.
Three down, the final recipe is the passion fruit truffles, where fresh cream is combined with passion fruit puree then mixed with chocolate to make a ganache, and chilled until set. Once set, the ganache is rolled into balls, dipped in more chocolate then rolled in cocoa powder. Did I mention this is a chocolate lover’s dream?
There are a number of classes at Top Chef, from Vegetarian to Mini Chef. Prices vary.
When a cooking class begins with a PowerPoint presentation, you know this is no ordinary tryst in the kitchen. Last month, a colleague and I made our way to Cuisinero Uno, the Spanish and Mediterranean tapas bar resting in the heart of Business Bay at the Steinberger Hotel, to try out their new Cooking Masterclass.
Hosted by the venue’s young and dynamic proprietor John Buenaventura, the two-hour session gave a quick insight into Cuisinero Uno’s work process, as we were taught, over the course of two hours, the ins and outs of a restaurant kitchen and learnt how to make a perfect paella, the popular Valencian rice dish bursting with rich flavours. For those who are interested in learning to make something that is not the paella, Cuisinero Uno also offers lessons in making steaks and butternut pumpkin ravioli.
After the presentation, we’re taken through the kitchen as the head chef gives us a brief tour of what the inside of a real restaurant kitchen looks like.
Because we took our class on a Saturday morning, we were spared the bustle of rush time, making this quite the relaxed outing. But that doesn’t last for too long as we’re handed our aprons and are set to work over the hot stoves.
What I loved about the class is that we were expected to do all the work, as Buenaventura and his sous chefs observed and gave directions. I picked up valuable tips on how to correctly chop vegetables, keeping my work station clean and how to minimise waste while cooking.
And when the dish is finally done, you feel like you’ve earned it. For those who are wondering, yes you get to sample/devour your own creations. As part of the package, students are also served soft beverages through the class.
— By Shyama Krishna Kumar, Copy Editor
The class at Cuisinero Uno takes place every day from 11am to 2pm. It costs Dh350 per head. For customised classes, groups who have specific dishes they would like to learn more about, the session must be booked three days in advance and costs Dh400 per head.
FOUR OTHERS TO TRY
Where: SKILLDEER, DUBAI (MEXICAN VEGAN COOKING CLASS)
What: During the two hour course you will learn how to make Rainbow Raw spring rolls with garlic avocado sauce. Chef Catalina, a culinary instructor, private chef and bloggers will give you lots of top tips on using different ingredients to prepare raw food.
Price: Dh285 per person.
Location: Lessons take place at the chef’s home, Green Community West. (As this is a private address the location is shared upon booking).
Where: THE BOMBAY BRASSERIE COOKERY CLASS
What: Learn how to create Bombay Brasserie’s signature dishes, including chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, and beef pepper fry. Then you can enjoy an unlimited selection of its a la carte menu from 1-4pm. You will also receive a chef’s apron and hat as well as a selection spices so you can recreate these dishes at home.
Price: Dh695 per person.
Location: Taj Dubai Hotel.
Where: SCAFA, DUBAI’S SCHOOL OF CULINARY AND FINISHING ARTS
What: From wannabe chefs and kids to bloggers, all levels of ability are catered for. The school offers a full-service in culinary arts courses.
Price: Dh525 per person.
Location: JLT, Dubai.
Where: SOLO COOKING CLASSES, RAFFLES DUBAI
What: The interactive classes will teach you how to cook Italian dishes from scratch. After an afternoon in the kitchen, you’re invited to join your fellow foodies for a private lunch and enjoy your own food creations.
Price: Dh320 per person, inclusive of soft beverages.
Timings: 11.30am-2pm every other Saturday. Extra lessons can be arranged with notice. Prices may vary.