About a third of Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ kitchen team of 80 are dedicated to preparing food for its first-ever Ramadan tent Image Credit: Aiza Castillo Domingo/GN Focus

“It takes a village to raise a child,” the traditional African proverb goes, and it takes nearly as many people to lay on the spread we’ve come to associate with the Ramadan tent.

The iconic Jumeirah Emirates Towers was already a hive of activity when GN Focus went into the belly of the beast three weeks before Ramadan started to visit the kitchens as they prepared to host their first-ever Ramadan tent. 

“It’s going to be like an F1 race and the first 30 minutes are going to be hectic,” said Scotsman Ewart Wardhaugh, Head Chef. “Mise en place will be of paramount importance.”

The prep

Dried fruit and the like had already been delivered, and fresh produce was expected five days before the first seating, he explained. About a week before the first day of Ramadan they would’ve started marinating the meat and grinding choice cuts for kebabs. 

The hotel decided to have a tent this year as it’s a “great opportunity to showcase what we can do”, he says. “It also fulfils a demand — while the group’s beach resorts are more family-oriented, we’re presenting a more chic, upscale and businesslike version.”

For this reason, the tent is focusing on corporate functions during the holy month.

His biggest challenge, Wardhaugh said, would be maintaining quality throughout the night. “We’ll have to be proactive and stay on top of things to ensure the freshness and quality are of the same standard, daily, whether someone comes to dine at 7pm, 9pm or later. That’s more important to me than filling a buffet table. 

“We’ll be cooking à la minute, instead of preparing dishes early in the day and have them just stand there.”

The buzz

About 20 per cent of the staff in the kitchen are fasting. “It’s hard — especially the first few days — but we manage,” explained Mohammad Rene Johari, Chef de Cuisine at the Rib Room. 

“We also have the full support of the rest of the team. We cook and they taste,” he said.

Wardhaugh said he was looking forward to the buzz, and “getting together as a team to feed 800 people per night”.  

About a third of the hotel’s kitchen team of around 80 focus only on the tent serving both iftar and suhour, running on a 24/7 operation featuring staggered schedules and rotation cooking so there’s always someone behind the pots. 

“Ultimately, we’d rather prepare too much than too little,” Wardhaugh said. “The last thing you want to do is run out of food.” 

Mountains of food

Cooking for about 800 people every night across the month of Ramadan is no small feat. Here are some numbers of the dishes Jumeirah Emirates Towers will produce: 

3,720kg - Umm Ali

7,750kg - Arabian sweets

31,200l - Lentil soup

1,240 - Ouzi

9,300kg - Lamb chops

3,100 - Whole chickens

4,030 - Whole quails

6,200kg - Fish tagine

20,150kg - Hummus

217,000 - Hot meze

7,440l - Tamarind drink and jallab