Emirati Chef Faisal Alharmoodi showcased in Abu Dhabi
Taking part in the capital's Food Forward Series
Put grilled Wagyu and marinated black cod on most menus and you’d have a job keeping us out of the eatery. However, these are just a couple of culinary treats currently being showcased at Abu Dhabi Culinary’s inaugural Food Forward Series running until July 10.
Food Forward looks to illuminate the emirate’s diverse gastronomical landscape through an exciting line-up of collaborations between renowned local and international chefs and popular dining establishments.
This week sees Singapore born, UAE affiliated Chef Reif Othman tying-up with Emirati Chef Faisal Alharmoodi and taking over Tori No Su, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers: an award-winning venue on the Corniche for days of vibrant tastes.
Othman, renowned for his unconventional take on Far Eastern fare, is inspired by both Japan and his country of origin, while also fusing French and Italian culinary techniques. His pedigree is being enhanced by local Chef de cusine and brains behind Letsbrioche bakery Alharmoodi, who is set to elevate the exclusive menu.
Plates including Wagyu Tataki with truffle Ponzu, seared Scottish salmon, braised onion & lemon Ponzu, as well as a sumptuous oven baked baby chicken with spicy Teriyaki are just a few for which we are hankering.
We caught up with Chef Alharmoodi to find out more.
What can you tell us about taking over Tori No Su? What will you be doing to surprise people?
Being part of a collaboration is such an exciting opportunity and I feel particularly honoured to be able to work with Reif at the sensational Tori No Su. We’ll be curating dishes exclusive to Abu Dhabi such as the succulent chicken Katsu sando served on delicious Letsbrioche bread.
What do you feel you will take away from the experience?
The foundation for our collaboration is based upon friendship and the respect we have for each other as professionals. Joining forces with someone of Reif’s calibre is an enormous accomplishment for an Emirati chef like myself — I cannot wait to get started and show the capital our delectable curations.
What is your opinion on Abu Dhabi’s food scene overall and how do initiatives like Food Forward from Abu Dhabi Culinary help?
I’m extremely impressed by the efforts of Abu Dhabi Culinary and Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) to elevate the eclectic dining scene through unique initiatives such as Food Forward. Activations like this act as an enabler for the expansion of the gastronomical landscape across the emirate and provide a significant stepping-stone for the nurturing of local talent to display their skill.
As an Emirati do you believe your traditional food is well represented around the UAE? What is your favourite local dish and why and where is the best place to find it?
Absolutely, Abu Dhabi is becoming a central hub for Emirati chefs to display the richness of the cuisine, providing a platform to develop expertise and culinary techniques with initiatives such as Food Forward. If I had to pick my favourite dish and the best place the find it, it would be the lamb machbous from Mezlai, Emirates Palace — it’s a must have when visiting the emirate — the flavours are sensational and the texture of the lamb is always so succulent.
What made you want to be a chef and how did you find the process in setting up Letsbrioche?
Cooking is deep rooted in my family heritage and traditional recipes are passed down from generation to generation. My love for food developed by watching my mother, and after she fell sick I took charge of her role and began progressing my culinary skills cooking her recipes for the whole family. After graduating in engineering, I studied at SCAFA, School of Culinary and Finishing Arts Dubai to pursue my real passion. In Letsbrioche’s first year, it was challenging as I’d never ran a business before. I overcame many challenges but quickly learnt the value of social media and the influence it can have on the public. This in particular helped me to grow my business to its success today.
What do you most enjoy about being a chef?
I love making diners happy. Being a chef enables my personality to shine through my cooking style, it allows me to display my creativity through unique tastes and flavours and my passion for the profession continues to grow.
Do you think more focus needs to be put on homegrown restaurants rather than international franchises? What would you do to change this?
Focusing on homegrown talents and restaurants is significant in developing the culinary scene. I believe fostering the Emirati fare along with influences from other regions, will allow for culinary traditions and the heritage of the UAE to continue for years to come.
Who in the cooking world do you admire? Where did you learn how to cook?
I have always admired my mum and her cooking ability — she taught me my trade and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t watched her in the kitchen as a child. In addition to my mom, Gordon Ramsay is someone I have always looked up to professionally and I think his passion really shines through his food.
What is your ultimate career ambition?
Looking to the future, I plan on establishing a new restaurant towards the end of this year. Combining my experience with my ability, I’m confident it will be a success — I cannot wait for the public to taste my distinctive creations and flavours, it will be a true taste of the UAE for all to enjoy!
It’s time to impress someone with a meal: what’s the dish you prepare them that never fails?
Without question, Letsbrioche bread. It’s a staple dish on the menu and a must try when visiting the restaurant.