Cooking up the culinary culture

The Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria aimed to put the seaside city on the culinary map with its Mediterranean Gourmet Summit held last month.
Cooking up the culinary culture
By Administrator
Tue 01 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

The Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria aimed to put the seaside city on the culinary map with its Mediterranean Gourmet Summit held last month.

The Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano hosted the first Mediterranean Gourmet Summit from June 15 to 21.

The event showcased gastronomic delights prepared by six master chefs from Four Seasons properties around the world and a medley of cookery demonstrations and classes took place throughout the week, allowing the chefs to share their trade secrets with visitors.

It's definitely not about profits. It's about turning people on to food.

The event "marked a milestone in fine dining in Alexandria" according to the hotel's general manager Stephan Killinger.

"This is something totally unique, not only for Alexandria but also for all of Egypt. We wanted to showcase Alexandria as a culinary hotspot for people from around the region and the local community, as well as visitors from Cairo," he says.

The six chefs involved in the summit created a range of dishes with Mediterranean, Asian and Mexican flare at the hotel's six restaurant outlets.

Alexandria is currently under-served in terms of high-end eateries says Killinger.

"In Alexandria there are a not many outlets of any real standard. It's mainly franchise eateries and a few local fish restaurants.

"We're trying to create a hub within San Stefano, making it a centre for dining so that in the summer people from the north coast will come down to Alexandria to eat at our outlets," he explains.

"The summit is about giving back to the city, showcasing some of the F&B options, and helping to put Alexandria where it deserves to be on the culinary map."

Among the chefs tasked with helping to build the reputation of Alexandria as a gourmet destination was Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia's chef de cuisine David Jansen, who was resident at Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria's fine-dining restaurant, Byblos.

Serving up sushi and Balinese cuisine at the property's Sushi Etc outlet was Four Seasons Hotel Cairo The First Residence's Yoshinori Mizutani, who originates from Japan, and senior sous chef Nyoman Suasa from Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay.

Meanwhile, Mexican chef Jorge Gonzáles, the restaurant chef at the Aramara restaurant at Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, presented guests at Kala, the Four Seasons Alexandria's sea-view outlet, with a buffet of authentic Mexican masterpieces.

In addition, executive sous chef at the Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai, Giovanni Speciale, brought some of his southern Italian specialties and seafood creations to Stefano, the hotel's open-kitchen Italian outlet.Finally, chef Brian Moyers, recently-appointed chef de cuisine at the Boulevard at Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles, brought his culinary expertise to the hotel's Fresca café.

"We're using what's available here. There's not a huge variety but the things that are available are good quality," he says.

Four Seasons Alexandria's executive chef Eric Deblonde explains that the whole event was a way of reaching out to Alexandria's local community and offering them an opportunity to try something new.

"In Cairo, people go to restaurants but here that's not typical. People might go to the fish restaurants, but they don't spend much money on eating out."

Prior to the summit, Deblonde liaised with all the international chefs to ensure they would have all the ingredients they required.

"The products are sometimes difficult to find, so the chefs needed to be flexible," he says.

"In Dubai you can find everything you need but in Egypt it's more restricted."

Beverly Wiltshire's Moyers agreed that some items had been hard to find and that forward planning had been essential in his preparations.

"You need to do a little bit of research ahead of time and make sure that you don't have huge aspirations. You just have to utilise what's available in the smartest fashion," he explains.

"We had strawberry shortcake on the menu but we couldn't get the strawberries, so we had to create an alternative dessert."

Moyers adds that educating local consumers was also a major challenge facing the Gourmet Summit, as the Alexandrian restaurant market was still relatively immature.

"I think the big struggle here is that there are so many low-end places and that's what people know. We're trying to raise the bar and teach the market about eating out to have a culinary experience rather than eating to get full," says Moyers.

Keeping the menu prices low during the summit was key to encouraging guests to diversify their eating habits he explains.

"If you look at the prices, you have a steak fillet for US $20 whereas in my restaurant in Beverly Hills that would go for $60. But if that's what it takes to get people in, that's OK.

"The worst thing would be if someone comes in, sees the prices and leaves again. We want to get people trying it, tasting it, talking about it," he says.

"At the moment it's definitely not about profits. It's about turning people on to food."

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