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Thu 26 Oct 2006 04:00 AM

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Grand operation

Managing a 220-strong brigade across 14 restaurants is no easy task, yet chef Max Burkhalter, regional executive chef for Hyatt International Dubai manages it well. He tells Laura Barnes how he still manages to source speciality products and keep ahead of the market

|~|chefmax2.jpg|~|This month chef Max will oversee the opening of an Indian restaurant, as well as the second Grand Gourmet Summit|~|No stranger to the Hyatt group, chef Max Burkhalter, regional executive chef for Hyatt International Dubai, has spent the last 25 years of his career working for the company across the globe, from Montreux and Singapore to Istanbul, and more recently, the Grand Hyatt Dubai.

Coming on board as part of the pre-opening team for the Grand Hyatt Dubai in 2002, chef Max says he did not feel overwhelmed at overseeing 14 restaurants, as well as ensuring that each outlet would prove popular in the market.

“When you are opening a hotel you have to look at the market, what is available and what is popular. You cannot just open a coffee shop or a steakhouse, you have to have a varied mix and
one that will prove successful,” he says.

Chef Max certainly has achieved this, and over the past four years, the Grand Hyatt Dubai has successfully operated 14 outlets, ranging from a steakhouse and a South East Asian restaurant, to a gourmet deli shop.

“Our deli shop, Panini, is a great concept and works really well over here,” comments chef Max.
“It is very specifically Mediterranean food, but we have to make sure that the items we sell are not available in supermarkets. We cannot compete with them, so we sell products that have been imported specifically for us.”

Chef Max ensures that each outlet sources ingredients native to the region in which it specialises. For example, rather than purchasing one generic soy sauce to be used throughout the hotel, Peppercrab, the South East Asian restaurant, will source soy sauces specific to that region.

“People travel and they know what traditional and ethnic food tastes like, whether it be Italian, Lebanese or Asian, so you cannot use the same products across the entire operation,” warns chef Max.

Because of this, on average, the Grand Hyatt receives around six tonnes of food everyday from a range of specialty, as well as generic suppliers. Although the hotel streamlines larger food items by keeping the number of suppliers to a minimum — in order to negotiate good rates on bulk purchases — the Grand Hyatt still looks for niche products.

“When I came here four years ago there were just a few suppliers, so I had to source products directly from Australia, Asia and Europe. There are a lot of suppliers in the market now, but we still have certain products that are just for the Grand Hyatt,” comments chef Max.

For the opening of the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Andiamo, chef Max would visit Italy to source ingredients direct from the producers. Not only did this mean he had exclusivity with some products, but he could also guarantee diners authentic ingredients. However, this does come with a price tag; these ingredients would be supplied by small companies, so purchasing the goods in large quantities was out of the question.

Also, the beef at the Manhattan Grill comes from a US-based company that supplies portion-controlled meats for all cuts. However, chef Max sources his meat from a producer in Nebraska, so from producer to butcher, chef Max knows every person involved in each step of the process, with shipments made around every four months.

“All three Hyatt properties in Dubai use this supplier but each uses different cuts of beef. The Manhattan Grill, for example, is the only restaurant to use prime cuts on the bone,” says chef Max.

Although sourcing 85% of the hotel’s fruit and vegetables from Barakat, when it comes to other speciality foods chef Max uses a range of suppliers including Fine Foods, Fresh Express and Food Source. However, in order to cater to all 14 restaurants, the Grand Hyatt has a large storage area.

Although deliveries average around 6 tonnes each day, at the beginning of each month the first few days will see around 10-12 tonnes of goods coming through the loading bays; the majority of which are dry goods. At the beginning of the month, chef Max estimates that around AED800,000-AED900,000 (US $218,000-$245,000) worth of stock is in the hotel, with this decreasing towards the end of the month to around AED300,000 ($82,000) worth.

Serving around 5000-6000 covers each day, chef Max manages 220 back of house staff working across 20 kitchens. Although there are general preparation areas for fish, butchery, fruit and vegetables and dairy, where the food is delivered, cleaned and then stored in chillers before it is distributed to each outlet, every restaurant has its own kitchen.

“We cannot have one central kitchen for cooking, otherwise how could we create authentic dishes? Each chef de cuisine and restaurant manager is responsible for their restaurant, their food costs and food orders, I am here to make sure things happen, and that orders are placed and the paperwork is done!” chef Max says.||**||

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