Everything you need to know about Taste of Dubai

Taste of Dubai is in its 10th year and while the food is the main draw, the world-class chefs behind it are bound to add some flavour to the weekend. Expect celebrity chefs to carry out cooking demonstrations, give culinary tips and, most importantly, allow you opportunity to taste delicious dishes from all over the world. It’s all in the name, after all.

The line-up of international chefs taking part this year includes household names like Michel Roux Jr, Gary Rhodes and Mohammad Orfali, with plenty of Dubai’s head chefs from a range of restaurants dropping by, too. In fact, we spoke to three different chefs about what they will be cooking up this weekend.

Here’s what they had to say…

Syrian-born Mohammad Orfali is not just a highly respected chef and restaurateur but also Head of Culinary Content at Fatafeat, which is broadcast to 21 Arabic-speaking countries. An expert in molecular gastronomy, he specialises in Aleppian and modern Arabic cuisine. At Taste of Dubai, Mohammad will be hosting live cooking shows and sharing tips on giving Arabic cuisine his own modern twist.

How would you describe the cuisine from Aleppo?
An extraordinary mix of different ancient civilisations and characters, cooks and traditions, ingredients and techniques spread over many centuries make up the Aleppian cuisine we know today. With what is happening in Syria right now, it is at a risk of falling into extinction so it is important to spread its rich and beautiful history across different regions of the world.

What’s your cooking philosophy?
I don’t believe anyone who says being passionate about food is enough! It’s not. Curiosity, deep admiration for my heritage and plenty of madness pushed me to cook with the kind of meditation that transforms food into art and evokes beautiful memories.

What question do you get asked the most by viewers of Fatafeat?
Half of the viewers ask for simple traditional recipes while the other half asked about modern techniques. It’s a 50-50 split.

Who has been your greatest teacher in the kitchen?
Most of my experience comes from reading books and following the works of great chefs from across the world: Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz, Joan Roca and so on. I always maintain an insatiable appetite to learn and to improve and develop my skills.

What will you be doing at Taste of Dubai this year?
I will be presenting two dishes. The first is All the Ways Lead to Aleppo, a recipe that is inspired by the signature cherry kebab. Secondly, there’s Roots of my Backyard Forest, which is labneh with muhammara and roasted baby carrots.

We have to ask about the beard… isn’t it a bit of a hazard when you’re cooking?
Well, when I cook, I use my hands not my beard…!

Inspired by his father and grandmother, Paolo was already a member of the Italian National Team of Chefs by the age of 16, winning medals for his cooking. His love of foreign languages led him to study interpreting and communication at the University in Milan while he took on jobs as a private chef. He went on to gain a degree in business at New York University but his heart was always drawn to the world of cooking and he is now an Electrolux professional.

When it comes to cooking they say “Italians do it better” What are you best at?
I think skills and dreams can create really amazing things and Italians are really good at delivering fantastic simplicity.

You won awards early on in your career, were they for dishes you still cook today?
When I was competing with the Italian national team, there was already something special on my palate and my mind was so open. Some of those recipes are still turning up on my menus, only now I give more thought to textures, colours, plating and, of course, the ingredients.

What do you know about Dubai and the food scene here?
Dubai has a strong and diverse cultural presence that always creates great twists. It’s why I love this place. I hope to visit the old town to get inspired by the spices, herbs and colours.

What are your culinary ambitions nowadays?
I’d say it is not about ambition. I just hope to remain as curious as I am right now, dynamic and open minded and a bit crazy, because it’s this cocktail of peculiarities that is cooking.

Taste of Dubai is all about education and inspiration. Who inspires you?
The first hero of my life was my grandmother. I remember her in this wonderful vegetable garden with such a great colour palette… red tomatoes, dark purple aubergines and fresh green herbs. These memories combined with her cooking skills were the biggest inspiration of my childhood.

Who inspires you now?
I’m really into video reporters, food writers and interior designers. I love mixing design and food. I hope to inspire my audience at Taste of Dubai to see it is not just about good food, but also about creating stories.

London-born French bistro Aubaine sits comfortably in City Walk’s cosmopolitan scene. Inside, helmed by head chef Michele Spadone, it serves freshly baked breads, handcrafted pastries and a whole range of savoury delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It reflects the brand’s combination of simplicity and style – chic Parisian charm with London roots. This will be his very first step into the Taste of Dubai world.

Are you excited to be taking part in Taste of Dubai in its 10th year?
Yes, it is my first time taking part – the restaurant as well me as a chef. I will be doing some live demonstrations and serving food to people who will hopefully then become customers in Aubaine – that’s the plan.

What will you be serving up?
Our superfood salad, at least a modified version of it with quinoa, roast butternut squash, beetroot, broccoli, mung beans, alfalfa, peas, and pomegranate. We’re going to have a full selection of homemade desserts from our main menu and we’re going to be doing our deep-fried braised pulled-beef burger, with cheese and wasabi. Nice and smoky!

What’s the Aubaine philosophy?
It’s a French bistro that originated in London and the philosophy is the French philosophy (laughs). That’s the way food is plated, the cooking techniques, the fresh ingredients, but also the atmosphere of our restaurant is very French, very urban chic.

Is it true Aubaine means “treat” in French?
What’s an ultimate treat in your eyes? I Googled it when I started to work for Aubaine quite some time ago and it came out as an old French word that means a chance or an opportunity, but it also means the good stuff. And that sums up our philosophy pretty well…!

What can people expect to take away from the Aubaine experience?
It is somewhere you can come and enjoy an urban chic ambiance and healthy food. The feel is very relaxed with beautiful pastries and coffee. We have the best coffee; I’m Italian, I check the coffee machines twice a day.

Can you list five of your top ingredients to cook with?
I’d say rocket, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, homemade pesto and maybe pistachio or olives. Fresh ingredients are so important. For our burger we don’t produce a patty of minced meat. We slice the meat from prime tenderloin steak. Everything we make in-house, we buy the raw ingredients and make everything – the sauces, the jus, the stock, the bread, everything!

The Entertainment 
Aside from food, the three day festival is known for its star-studded celebrity entertainment which has previously included Boney M. This year, award-winning singer Billy Ocean has been tasked with the challenge which will see him belt out his hit-tunes on March 9 at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.

If you’re new to the world of Blues here’s six things you need to know about him…

1. He’s the 80s pop and soul legend who has sold 30 million records in his lifetime, including some incredibly catchy numbers you’ve most definitely heard at a wedding: “Caribbean Queen”, “When the Going Gets Tough” and “Get Outta my Dreams, Get into My Car”.

2. The 67 year-old has never let his dapper image slip; possibly because he worked as a tailor on London’s Savile Row as a teenager.

3. Billed as “the biggest black recording star Britain has ever produced”, the Essex-raised Billy is now worth $10 million and lives in Berkshire with his wife, Judy.

4. Ocean was awarded an honorary doctorate of music from the University of Westminster, London, in 2002. He’s basically Dr Music.

5. The platinum-selling singer has an extra lung. Well, not exactly but rather an extra pulmonary node between his lungs. Doctors have said is has helped Billy’s long career.

6. Billy Ocean isn’t his real name. It’s Leslie.

Here’s a little something to help you get in the mood for Leslie, sorry Billy…


Taste of Dubai
When: March 9- March 11
Where: Dubai Media City Amphitheatre

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