Held at the Emirates Palace Hotel and organised by The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, the Gourmet Abu Dhabi extravaganza married culture and cuisine, reflecting the city's modernisation and its heritage.

Unwind caught up with some of the Michelin-starred chefs to find out what the event meant to them and how they push themselves to compete with the best.

Three stars
Heinz Beck

“I'm happy to have been a part of Gourmet Abu Dhabi. I'm fascinated by Islamic culture and am happy I was able to create a nice menu for the event,'' said Beck, who originally aspired to be a painter but found himself starting out cooking in a restaurant in Bavaria before being asked to join a prestigious restaurant in Italy 15 years ago.

“My cooking is creative. This year, we have created 80 new dishes,'' he said. “When I received the first star, I was in the restaurant. I learnt about the second and third stars through a live TV broadcast.''

Three stars
Annie Feolde

To Annie Feolde, “Gourmet Abu Dhabi is a big event''.

Despite being acknowledged as Italy's first female three-Michelin star chef, Feolde never thought she would go from cooking small side dishes in her husband's beverage cafe to her status today.

“I became a full-time chef as a result of one thing: research of quality. ... I heard about my first two Michelin stars when I was in Florence and the third when I was in Tokyo.

"I was surprised to learn that and even more surprised to hear my husband crying on the phone!'' she said.

Three stars
Alain Passard

Alain Passard has become an anomaly in the culinary world for his refusal to work with anything other than vegetables since 2001.

“For me, there were no more ways I could be creative with meat. I no longer had any visual relationship with meat, the way it is cooked, presented … so I focused on vegetables to channel my creativity,'' the three-Michelin star chef said.

Asked about his Michelin star achievements, Passard said he had a lot to celebrate since he achieved the first Michelin star thrice, the second twice and his third once, as a result of moving restaurants.

“I'm trying to establish the first vegetable gastronomy, which is going to take a lot of time. After that? We'll have to wait and see,'' he said.

Three stars
Santi Santamaria

Santi Santamaria almost did not enter the culinary world, which would have been a loss for gastronomy fans.

“I studied technical design and started working with architects before deciding to open a restaurant at home because I love cooking,'' Santamaria said.

Santamaria discovered he was awarded his first Michelin star in a very unlikely manner.

“I was in a gas station 22 years ago and I bought the guide. Inside, there was my name along with a Michelin star. That day, I went for lunch with friends to celebrate my achievement. We did the same with my second and third stars,'' he smiled.

Two stars
Lee Keung

For Lee Keung, it has been a long and successful journey from a dish washer to becoming Hong Kong's celebrated two-Michelin star chef.

“I started working when I was 15 because in the 1960s in Hong Kong the economy wasn't very good and my family needed my support,'' he said.

As he gained experience, Keung climbed the culinary ranks, becoming an executive chef and then a master chef over 30 years ago. His reputation became established in the Chinese culinary world.

When he was awarded two Michelin stars, he acknowledged it was a great surprise and an important achievement that was the result of great preparation and cooking from the heart.

Two stars
Alain Soliveres

At 16, Alain Soliveres set out to achieve his dream of becoming a chef. Fast forward to 2009 and with two Michelin stars under his belt, Soliveres shows no signs of stopping.

“I found out that I had won my first Michelin star in 1990. But I didn't celebrate because it is a long trip to be awarded a Michelin star and there is still so much more to come,'' he said, adding that cooking is all about emotions and the senses.

“You have to be very serious about your work because it is not just about the food but also the service, the guests and the restaurant — everything,'' he said.

Two stars
Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex

Jean-Christophe Ansanay-Alex wanted to be a pastry chef but decided on becoming a chef because much more could be done with food.

“I attended the Lycée Hôtelier Savoie Léman, at Thonon-les-Bains in the Haute Savoie. I didn't find it difficult to find a job as a chef because the school had a hotel and restaurant,'' he said

Despite fracturing his right hand, Jean-Christophe did not agree with assessments that he would never cook again.

He rose to the challenge and created exceptional dishes and was awarded two Michelin stars for his skill and creativity.

“I was in a resort with my family when I heard about my first Michelin star. I found out about the second when I was working at the restaurant. Both times I celebrated with my team,'' he said.

His advice for those hoping to become chefs: “Work hard, the food is not about learning but about understanding.''

Two stars
Marco Stacco

For Marco Stacco, his path to becoming a chef began at a very young age.

“When I was a toddler, my father would give me beans and onions and I would sit under the counter, eating and watching him work.

"When I was older, my father would call my brother, me and all our friends into the kitchen and give us jobs. It wasn't work, it was play,'' the two-Michelin star chef said.

“I don't focus on earning or keeping a star. I feel a duty to take my cuisine into the new world of gastronomy, driven by the awareness that I'm a spokesman for my people and the incredible culinary heritage we share,'' he said.

Two stars
Yves Mattagne

Yves Mattagne may have had an early inspiration for his future career (his mother and relatives owned restaurants) but he did not enter the field until much later.

“I was off playing sports most of the time and cooking every weekend. That soon turned into me cooking every other day until I was told to follow my passion, which I did and haven't stopped,'' he said.

While his reputation has become established through years of unique and high-quality cuisine, Yves acknowledges that cooking nowadays is rapidly changing.

But that hasn't stopped him from celebrating receiving his Michelin stars.

“I received my first star just one year after opening my restaurant and went out with my team to celebrate,'' he said.

Two stars
Eyvind Hellstrom

Eyvind Hellstrom started out as a 16-year-old apprentice chef in Grand Hotel in Oslo, Norway.

But with two Michelin stars to his name now, the future looks bright. “I think all the dishes I created set my reputation,'' he said.

One star
Atul Kochhar

Helping his father run his kitchen business while growing up was what inspired Atul Kochhar to enter the culinary field.

“My father didn't want me to join the catering business though I had helped out a lot as a child. But I think he's happy now,'' he said.

“Soon after catering college I got the chance to work with Oberoi Hotels (now known as OCLD) in their elite school of hotel management. I got my second break by receiving an offer to work in the UK, which is now my second home,'' he said.

All that hard work would soon be rewarded. “I was in the kitchen peeling three bags of onions when I was told that I had received a Michelin star. I didn't believe the journalist at first but he insisted.''