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Tue 1 May 2007 02:50 PM

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Maintaining tradition key to future

Food professionals have been speaking out about the need for greater authenticity in the Middle East catering industry.

Food professionals have been speaking out about the need for greater authenticity in the Middle East catering industry.

Becoming the first restaurant to be certified by the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, Bice at the Hilton Abu Dhabi is paving the way for other Italian restaurants in the Emirates to use authentic ingredients, as well as serve up traditional dishes.

"As Italian cuisine continues to evolve and expand it is important that our authenticity is preserved, and with so many hotels opening up in the UAE, enforcing and upgrading the quality of Italian restaurants is paramount," commented professor Giuseppe Dell'Osso, president of the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina.

"Some major chains are currently misleading diners about what our cuisine is about, so our role is to be the guardian of true Italian food," he added.

Although Italian cuisine in the UAE now has the support of the Accademia, which is a non-profit organisation, other restaurants across the Emirates are keen to promote their authenticity, with three outlets at the Park Hyatt Dubai at the forefront. Serving traditional baklava sweets in its boutique shop Pistache, the Park Hyatt Dubai was eager to employ traditional sweet makers. Searching baklava producers across the region, the Park Hyatt eventually found sweet chefs in Damascus.

"It took a lot of research and it was a very ambitious goal, but we were adamant about getting the best and most authentic baklava for our outlet. Two years later, the investment has paid off," said Miguel Neves De Carvalho, director of food and beverage, Park Hyatt Dubai.

Sister outlet the Thai Kitchen has also embraced authenticity and boasts a kitchen brigade made up solely of Thai chefs. Thais also hold all key positions in the front-of-house, as well as 60% of its rank-and-file staff also of Thai origin.

To maintain this authenticity, all ingredients for the Thai Kitchen are imported from Thailand and the menu does not deviate from traditional dishes.

"At the beginning it was difficult for people to understand what we were doing, as it is different from Wall the other tourist-orientated restaurants, but we decided we would not compromise on the way the dishes were made. In recognition of this we received an award from the Government of Thailand for authenticity," commented Carvalho.

Like Professor Dell'Osso, Carvalho concurred that maintaining authenticity was the only way to retain high standards in the UAE's restaurant market, which would otherwise become swamped with "copy-cat" and mass-marketed restaurants.

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