Gulf News tabloid’s Cooking With Mark columnist Mark Setchfield ventures out of his kitchen to match steps (or plates) with top chefs in the UAE
Hosting friends for dinner can be a tall order. So when I heard that Marina Social at the InterContinental Dubai Marina can now host you and up to 12 guests for an intimate dining experience — complete with you and your guests get to go backstage in the kitchen, preparing your chosen dishes — I wondered if hosting could finally start being less nerve-racking and more a joyful experience. And over the next few hours, I found out it could.
Here is how it works. In an open kitchen, your guests can enjoy an extensive menu cooked by you, with full view of the kitchen. But fear not, there’s no chance for you to make silly kitchen screw-ups because you’re under the watchful eye of the head chef.
This was one of the very first events of its kind the restaurant was hosting, so I arrived early to have a menu run-through. Kitted out in chef whites, stepping into the kitchen was a scary prospect. I have cooked in a professional kitchen before but never in a live environment. I’ve seen Kitchen Nightmares on TV, but while there I realised it wasn’t at all like what I had seen on screen. The space wasn’t huge, but each person was busy at their station. As my guests arrived, the nerves started to kick in. When they were settled, I explained how the evening would work — I had chosen a sharing menu and would be dashing between the table and kitchen.
The nerves started to give way to excitement, and I was now keen to get my hands dirty.
The nerves started to give way to excitement, and I was now keen to get my hands dirty. I shadowed the chef as he prepared the beef tartare, horseradish cream, egg yolk jam and truffle dressing. All the ingredients had been prepared; first, the beef was placed in a mould in the centre of the plate and topped with mushrooms. Horseradish cream was then piped into a circle, and then a blob of egg yolk was added to resemble a fried egg. Finally, we handpicked micro greens and finished off the dish with grated fresh horseradish. The finished dish looked incredible; mine looked pretty much the same as the chefs. Looking up I could see my guests peering over the counter snapping pictures of my first course, which was served alongside a beetroot salad and confit duck and foie gras terrine with crystallised almonds and peach chutney.
As the dishes arrived, the chef talked the guests through the ingredients, preparation and how the dish was created, also taking questions.
No time to settle down though — I tasted the food I’d prepared and was soon back in the kitchen to make pizza and dessert.
The overall experience was incredible. It’s a great way to catch up with friends, pick up some food preparation tips and get a real flavour of what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen. This preparing-and-dining session is a perfect environment for you to show off your cooking skills.
The Chef’s Table experience at Marina Social at the InterContinental Dubai Marina costs Dh390 per person with house beverages and is available on Mondays and Tuesdays.
OTHERS CLASSES TO TRY
Where: SKILLDEER, DUBAI MEXICAN VEGAN COOKING CLASS
What: During the two-hour course you will learn how to make Rainbow Raw spring rolls with garlic avocado sauce. Chef Catalina, a culinary instructor, private chef and bloggers will give you lots of top tips on using different ingredients to prepare raw food.
Price: Dh285 per person.
Location: Lessons take place at the chef’s home, Green Community West. (As this is a private address the location is shared upon booking).
Where: THE BOMBAY BRASSERIE COOKERY CLASS
What: Learn how to create Bombay Brasserie’s signature dishes, including chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, and beef pepper fry. Then you can enjoy an unlimited selection of its a la carte menu from 1-4pm. You will also receive a chef’s apron and hat as well as a selection of spices so you can recreate these dishes at home.
Price: Dh695 per person.
Location: Taj Dubai Hotel.
Where: SCAFA, DUBAI’S SCHOOL OF CULINARY AND FINISHING ARTS
What: From wannabe chefs and kids to bloggers, all levels of ability are catered for. The school offers a full-service in culinary arts courses. Price: Dh525 per person.
Location: JLT, Dubai