UAE chefs on how they 'handle' fasting in Ramadan


UAE chefs on how they handle fasting in Ramadan
Abbas Khamis and Ahmed Badr. - Photo by Shihab

Dubai - "I am usually asked, 'how do you handle Ramadan?' Surprisingly, working in Ramadan is much easier and makes you more productive," said Khamis.

By Sherouk Zakaria

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 18 Jun 2016, 1:16 PM

Avoiding the smell and sight of food is the majority's coping mechanism during their fasting days in Ramadan. But chefs, whose jobs involve fluttering around the kitchen to prepare for hundreds of guests daily, did not make it sound as daunting as it appears.
"Experience," that is how Abbas Khamis, sous chef of the main kitchen at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, described it.
"I am usually asked, 'how do you handle Ramadan?' Surprisingly, working in Ramadan is much easier and makes you more productive," said Khamis.
His colleague, Egyptian Ahmed Badr, a room service chef, agreed and said knowing that people are fasting drives him to present the best he can.
"You want to make the top dishes because you know people have not eaten all day. And when you work from all your heart, the food actually comes out great," said Badr, who has been a chef for the past 35 years.
Speaking of hunger, he said being surrounded by food all day makes it difficult to eat Iftar once the prayers are on. "I am not hungry when I cook, so I have Iftar later than everyone else does," he said.
Badr spends his mornings preparing international cuisine for room service, before joining Khamis in the main kitchen to work on the gigantic Arabic and international Iftar buffet that serves 250- 400 people per day. Both chefs work in a team of six.
"We divide the work among us to finish efficiently on time," said Khamis. "By 6.30pm, everything must be fresh and ready."
While for Badr choosing to become a chef came out of passion for the kitchen, Khamis said it was all a mistake. Following his father's footsteps, the Lebanese national was originally a mechanical engineer, but an accidental job swap to hospitality took him down the path of a chef. After 14 years, he does not regret it.
"I travelled the world as a chef. When I first started, I did not know anything about the field, but I learned it and loved it ever since," he said.
Getting the food on point The challenge faced by most professionals and home cooks is their inability to taste the food they are making. For that, Badr said working with specific measurements and ingredients helps overcome the challenge.
"When you do it for years, it becomes automatic." Khamis added that when in doubt, he resorts to a non-Muslim colleague to try out his recipes.

Fatwa on tasting food in Ramadan
Although the practice is disliked, tasting food does not nullify fasting unless it goes down to throat. It is recommended to taste food only if there is a need for it. Provided by UAE official Fatwa Centre General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments
Being a chef is rewarding
Trying out different cuisines and working in teams is Khamis' favourite part. He said the collective purpose of cooking without wasting energy or food makes the experience worthwhile.
"And making Arabic desserts, because, you know, we are fasting!" he laughed. "Desserts are fun to make and gives room for creativity."
For Badr, the perk of the job is coming up with new ideas through mixing different cuisines. For him, a good chef is one who continuously innovates.
"We have to modernise traditional dishes with a new twist. I always love mixing Arabic dishes with European."
He added: "Dubai is the perfect place for that. It does not only introduce you to a range of cultures, but also provides you with latest technology that allows for food varieties."
A thank you is enough The perfect reward to Khamis' long working hours is a thank you. For Badr, just seeing people's smiles makes his day.
"I'm happy when guests are happy. My motto is to never send a guest home dissatisfied," he said.
When asked if not a chef, what would you be? They both looked at each other, nodded, and said in the same breath, "a chef."
A chef's courtesy
Lasagna of fried eggplant, tomato and Mozzarella and Mix Salad
> Eggplant slices
> Fresh tomato Roma concassè
> Tomato sauce
> Buffalo mozzarella
> Parmesan cheese
> Basil
> Chopped garlic
> Extra virgin olive oil
> Salt - White pepper
Marinate the tomato concassè with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper.
Separately peel the eggplants and slice into 2cm. Pose inside a strainer with salt, cover and keep for 30 minutes so all the water goes out. After that pass the eggplants inside flour and fry.
Heat the tomato sauce and keep warm.
Cover the bottom of a full pan with eggplants, add the tomato concassè, tomato sauce, grated parmesan cheese and basil leaves.
Continue for 4 times. Sprinkle the top with parmesan and sizzle olive oil on the top.
Bake in oven for 25 minutes at 200 degree C.

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