The month-long Doha Food Fest, which will open today (October 1), will be a true showcase of Qatar’s flourishing gastronomic scene, Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel’s Oriental Pastry Chef Hamdi Chaklabakji has said.
The event, organised by More Cravings by Marriott Bonvoy ahead of the Qatar International Food Festival in November, will put a spotlight on the country’s “diverse culinary offerings and a delightful experience for food lovers of all ages”.
“I strongly believe Doha is now well-positioned as a culinary hub in the region. More Cravings’s extensive offering is another testament to this with more than 65 globally renowned restaurants already opened to date,” Chaklabakji, who is one of the participating chefs at Doha Food Fest, told Gulf Times.
Fascinated by innovation and technique of oriental pastry and seeking an environment that supported his vision, he moved to Qatar in 2009 and had the opportunity to work in the Amiri Palace as the executive chef for seven years.
Chaklabakji said Qatar is a key destination in the region as it welcomes visitors from various parts of the world and “a truly international food hub with great food offerings ranging from popular street food to fine dining in upscale restaurants”.
“Drawing a fine line between modernity and tradition, Doha is exploding with a rich and diverse culinary scene with a myriad choices, including Michelin-starred restaurants and experimental cuisine that caters to all needs and tastes,” he added.
“Qatar’s food scene will keep evolving, embracing flavours from all over the world, with influences spanning across traditional Qatari cuisine, and authentic Iranian, Indian, African, and European flavours, with a heavy focus on fresh seafood,” he said.
Chaklabakji will be hosting an exclusive cooking class at the Sheraton Doha, featuring the iconic dessert favourite, Umm Ali on October 19, where he will present the dish, along with sharing some of the secrets for mastering the recipe.
He noted that Umm Ali – an Egyptian dessert – has been popular in Arab kitchens across the region for more than 700 years.
“The simplicity in preparing the dish, combined with the rich flavours and ingredients including sugar, nuts, pastry and dairy – propelled it to become one of the most popular desserts in Qatar and across the Arab region.
“Umm Ali is similar to bread pudding. This popular Arabic dessert is made of puff pastry sheets and milk, served with a topping of nuts as well as raisins. There are many places to try it but here at the Sheraton Doha, the Umm Ali is the most popular with more than 40 years taken to perfect the recipe since the hotel first opened,” Chaklabakji said.
Michelin-Starred Chef Pino Lavarra will also be hosting a cooking class on October 13 at Al Messila, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Doha in its iconic Food Lab.
At The Ritz-Carlton, at STK Doha, the organisers said guests may attend a unique culinary experience with Le Petit Chef, an interactive dining experience with the world’s smallest chef beginning October 3.
A series of masterclasses will be held in tandem, including two Botanical Beverage Masterclasses at Jamavar at Sheraton Grand Resort & Convention Hotel on 21 October, where guests will be guided by professional mixologist Lalit Rane through five botanical beverages paired with the royal tastes of India.
The festival will also offer curated menus and feature exclusive dining and tasting experiences, as well as cooking classes by Doha’s leading restaurants, top chefs and 11 hotels, which are mostly owned and operated by Katara Hospitality.
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