We are trying to keep young Chefs occupied with E-learning and organizing Virtual Competitions and Webinars, Chef Uwe
Hozpitality in conversation with Uwe Micheel, President and Andy Cuthbert, Chairman of Emirates Culinary Guild in Dubai
Emirate's economy has reopened after the pandemic and most of the hotels, restaurants, malls, and cinemas are now opened after being affected by the unforeseen virus that is infecting and killing thousands of people. Sadly, the hospitality industry is the largest industry affected by the pandemic. The airlines, hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, cruise liners were shut for more than 3 months. Most of these businesses mean one thing for sure and that is FOOD.
Food is divine, it is the necessity of our survival. Our ancestors learned to grow crops and found out ways to make it edible and full of taste. In the 21st century, the way we look at food has changed, there are millions of options available to suit the taste. Food is on the other side tricky subject when it comes to cooking, you often wonder what to cook! If you have someone else for you to cook, you might wonder what to ask them to make, and similarly, when you eat out, you will need to brainstorm every single day about what new menu you can try. Well, we are lucky to have food on the table each day. As the schedules changed, people want to try something different a few times a week or at least once or twice a week. The growing number of consumers has increased the demand of the food industry. You have various cuisines and food options on your fingertips and chefs here play a phenomenal role. Two decades ago, no one knew what a chef was! These days you get the opportunity to meet the chefs and interact while savoring the menu. Many hotels and restaurants try to promote their chefs on social media to market their outlets.
Chefs play an important role in the hospitality and food industry. Hozpitality Group spoke to the Emirates Culinary Guild which runs the biggest association of chefs in the UAE. The Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG) (www.emiratesculinaryguild.net) is the association of professional chefs of the UAE. It is a non-profit-making organization, organized by volunteers dedicated solely to the advancement of culinary art in the UAE. The World Association of Chefs Societies (Worldchefs) (www.worldchefs.org) is the 105-nation fellowship of the world's various professional chefs' organizations.
The ECG received its charter into Worldchefs at a ceremony in Stavanger, Norway on June 28, 1994, during the Worldchefs 26th World Congress. Worldchefs endorses the ECG as the authorized professional culinary association for the UAE. The ECG, thereby, has an international culinary focus and multi-national support. In this article, we discussed with Chef Andy and Chef Uwe who are the leaders and founders of the Guild to discuss what norms they were taking to encourage and motivate the chefs.
In conversation with: Uwe Micheel, who is the President of Emirates Culinary Guild and Director of Kitchens at Radisson Blu Deira Creek and Andy Cuthbert, who is the Chairman of the Guild and General Manager at Jumeirah Creekside Hotels, Madinat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Hospitality.
Hozpitality Group: How are u motivating young chefs during the pandemic as the cook-offs and events have been canceled for the year?
Andy Cuthbert: 2020, the first 3 months we were lucky enough to be able to do the Emirates Salon Culinaire as part of Expo Culinaire in Sharjah, where more than 700 young chefs competed in the competition and gave them the platform, to train in and perform on. We have set up online competitions for the next 6 months of the remaining 2020. The first one has launched already, called "Anyone Can Cook", and the second one coming in July together with the US Meat export council. We are trying to give the young chefs the opportunities to still develop their skills.
Uwe Micheel: We are trying to keep them occupied with E-learning and organizing Virtual Competition and Webinars.
Hozpitality Group: Did you receive any new cooking guidelines from the government?
Andy Cuthbert: We work closely with the Dubai Municipality Food control section and ensure we are up to date with all their requirements. As Dubai and the UAE have an excellent food safety record and also guidelines and laws in place, coupled with HACCP and vigorous training from all food establishments we have been able to keep ahead of the changes and presently we are working collaboratively to ensure only the best is served as always in Dubai and the UAE. There have been many new guidelines issued covering a broad range of hygiene practices, and sanitation from the government and these have been able to help us all maintain the expected high standards.
Uwe Micheel: Yes, and they are changing regularly, and yes they are important to follow for our staff and guests' safety. They are not cooking guidelines but Hygiene and Service Guidelines
Hozpitality Group: Are hotels conducting any hygiene and safety training for the kitchen staff keeping in mind the current scenario?
Andy Cuthbert: Training forms a crucial part of our daily life's in the industry and we continue as we must train and enhance the skills of our people. With new guidelines in place, these have been developed into new SOPs which are in turn trained across the workforce as would be expected, and of course, we deliver refresher training.
Uwe Micheel: Yes of course on top of the regular hygiene and safety training, there is more training to update the team on the new safety regulations, the team has to learn the new behavior towards team members and guests.
Hozpitality Group: Are there any changes between kitchen and FB in terms of food handling?
Andy Cuthbert: We have been lucky in the UAE to have a robust guideline in place already and we can adapt quickly to new guidelines. It is our duty as cooks to ensure we are serving nutritional and safe food to our customers and for our service staff to also ensure the highest level of hygiene is practiced in the restaurants. Social distancing in restaurants and the removal of buffets have enabled us to go back to purely ala carte service and then also stretching us to think out of the box on how to serve our guests, it is a good time to reflect what we have been doing as a norm and how to take it to another level of FB experience without compromising food safety.
Uwe Micheel: The service process is still the same, the FB team collects from Kitchen, but even in the back of the house, everyone always has to keep masks and gloves. There is a lot more sanitizing of products and equipment.
Hozpitality Group: How are you handling the sanitation of food?
Andy Cuthbert: We are handling this as we have always done with care and due diligence, sourcing best products from the right suppliers and trusted partners and then preparing, storing, cooking, and serving food as we must as professional chefs and hospitality people. There is no change to what we do but we have a heightened level of attention to hygiene practices which has been good for the industry so as we do not become complacent.
Uwe Micheel: As before all fresh food is being always sanitized, we never comprise on the quality and sanitation of food.
Hozpitality Group: How is Emirates Culinary Guild engaging with the team members during a pandemic?
Andy Cuthbert: Our team is in constant contact with each other via social media. We have conducted excom meetings over Zoom and have had several kickoff meetings for the Worldchefs' Congress 2022 taking place in May and June 2022 in Abu Dhabi. We have also started a series of cooking programs with chef Uwe And myself where we invite corporate partners to let us cook with their ingredients, we then have our members sending in their videos for our YouTube channel to promote themselves. So the social media bug is alive and well in the Guild and will continue to be an important part of our future. We use several Whatsapp groups to keep people informed and to share the happening of the guild and the global culinary world. Regionally we are doing webinars with Africa and Middle East associations of the Worldchefs' and will do international speaker slots on the global podcast, that are all promoted for our membership base.
Uwe Micheel: I am personally creating tons of videos every day to engage and inspire the Young Chefs and planning new activities to be done over the months.
Hozpitality Group has partnered with Emirates Culinary Guild to work together for Middle East Chef Excellence Awards and has witnessed the professional culture, attitude, and passion of the team. Both Chef Andy and Chef Uwe are the back bone of the Emirates Culinary Guild and inspire the young chefs to aspire and achieve more in their careers. We wish them all the best and congratulate them for their continuous efforts to bring the chefs together over the years.
Non Promotional Content by Vandana Raj Bhatt