The biggest and the first ever consumer food festival in Kuwait, The Taste of Q8 Food Festival, kicked off on Thursday, 5 March, at the Kuwait International Fairgrounds, Mishref. The Undersecretary, Ministry of Commerce, Abdullah Saqer Al Anizi, American Ambassador to Kuwait Douglas A. Silliman, German Ambassador to Kuwait Eugene Wollfarth and General Manager Board Affairs at Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait (ABK), Fawzy Al Thunayyan, inaugurated the one of a kind culinary event organized by the Q8 Productions and presented by Fatafeat.
The three-day festival, open to the public with VIP and general admission tickets, presented 70 large vendor booths, smaller exhibit pagodas and a farmers’ market, while a celebrity chef tent ran hourly live cooking demonstrations by television celebrity chefs from Fatafeat and Food Network. Meanwhile, the festival’s main stage area featured live jazz and rock music by The Kuwait Jazz Trio, classical and Arabic musicals by The Afterthought and live music on the go by British DJs iCandi and George Tohme.
The event, similar to The Taste of Chicago/London/Dubai, brought forth a premier culinary-fest to Kuwait on the same grand scale, in which, the live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs from around the world drew large crowds to the fairgrounds.
Kuwait's foodies caught all of the culinary action as nine celebrity chefs, Reza Mahammad, Jenny Morris, Mohammad Orfali, Wafaa Al Kandari, Layla Fathalla, Ahmed Al-Bader, Adlah Alsharhan, Somkhuan Jampanad (known as Chef Tong) and Mario and Massimo of Alfredo Gallery, satisfied guest-cravings with back-to-back cooking demonstrations that saw them create their own specialties, sign cookery books and meet and greet their fans in Kuwait.
Chef Ahmed Al-Bader, who started his restaurateur career launching international franchises in affiliation with TSC Group of restaurants, Epicure and Good Food, worked with the ideas of Ambassador Silliman and his wife, to bring out an authentic American taste to his salad. While the ambassador whisked away at the dressings, Ahmed rendered some first-hand tips on how to use fresh herbs.
Syrian chef from Aleppo, Chef Mohammad Orfali, known as the 'Heston Blumenthal' of modern Arabic cuisine, then delivered an interactive demonstration on Aleppo and modern Arabic cuisine. An expert with 18 years of culinary profession and kitchen management experience, holds the 'Mastering the art of preserves Sous Vide' cooking certificate from Le Notre Paris School. He is currently the executive chef at Fatafeat and has been the presenter of two hugely popular cooking shows – Matbakhna Al Arabi, running for three seasons, and Modern
Cuisine – on Fatafeat channel. The chef issued his first cookbook Ana Halabi, published in 2012, which focuses on the food and history of Aleppo Cuisine.
Although, a chemical engineer who cooks and crochets as a hobby, Chef Wafaa Al Kandari, a Kuwaiti mum of six, showed foodies in the country, why she is considered the authentic expert on Khaleeji cuisine. She comes from a family which loves to cook and says her parents are her culinary inspiration.
Another valuable inclusion to the food-fest was Fatafeat chef presenter, Lebanese Chef Layla Fathallah Bayoon, who fronts two cooking shows, Tislam Al Ayadi and Arousetna. She also holds a degree in culinary art from Le Cordon Bleu, France. Born in Beirut in 1974, she currently works in one of the top catering companies in Beirut and has recently issued her first book Sit Beit, which is dedicated to helping the kitchen novice.
Being an exceptional chef does not come easily, and so it is with Kuwaiti chef Adlah Alsharhan, who is affectionately known as Chef Adoola, who was among the nine featured chefs in the food festival. She has attended the Cordon Bleu in London and studied culinary arts. Now, an accomplished personality in the food industry, Chef Adlah has her own culinary school here in Kuwait.
In her demonstrations, her passion for cooking came out through and through to the audience. She describes herself on her Instagram as 'A Kuwaiti chef…, love and let love, live and let live Kuwait, cooking, avocados and sports are my passion.' 'Adoola Drop Off' is her latest project, a catering company described as where 'fine dining meets the comfort of your home.'
Reza Mahammad, the hugely popular and flamboyant TV chef and owner of the renowned Star of India restaurant in Kensington, London, UK, drew a lot of his fans to indulge in the "selfie" trend with him apart from getting books signed by him.
Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of Indian food, Reza combined Indian and Western flavors to stunning effect, delivered in his informal, humorous style that the audience seemed to be enjoying a lot. This top chef, a familiar face on the Food Network UK, has received high praise for his last two series, Reza’s African Kitchen and Reza, Spice Prince of India, while his latest series Reza, Spice Prince of Thailand/Spice Prince of Vietnam has just aired in the UK. In July last year, Reza launched his cookery school, Chez Cartier, near Bordeaux, France.
The chef’s 19th century home, in France, receives food lovers from around the globe to cook alongside him in his state of the art kitchen. His book Reza’s Indian Spice was published with Quadrille to much acclaim, winning second prize in the Gourmand World Cookbook awards (Indian section) and Editor’s Pick in The Bookseller.
On the other hand, one of South Africa’s most-loved food personalities, author, magazine writer, radio and TV presenter, celebrity chef, teacher, caterer and culinary tour guide, Jenny Morris a.k.a. the ‘Giggling Gourmet’, could not help but giggle away at her love affair with food. With an acute sense of humor, she playfully went on with her demonstration in an interactive swerve by calling people from the audience on to the stage. While those, whom she called, got a ‘giggling gourmet’ apron and got to crack jokes with her, she revealed her taste for taste; by always including salty, sweet, sour and hot flavors to her dishes which also came out clearly in her personality.
For the ones curious to know what she thought about Kuwait's food festival, she loved it: “I love that the inclusion of local chefs in this festival, which doesn’t always happen in a lot of these shows; it is mostly internationals, so, I just love that you have your local chefs and for us to meet and learn from each other is very exciting for me."
She has loves Arabic food: "I just love the whole Arabic food scene; it is just fresh, healthy and it is just delicious. I am having more to learn here. What I especially like about the Middle-Eastern cuisine is that there are so many options to eat apart from the meat and it is amazing to know what they do just with veggies or let us say even with the chickpeas. The food is so delicious that you do not miss the meat."
It seems Morris has been enjoying food in Kuwait and is adding new local culinary skills to what she masters in: "I had a huge, big lunch and dinner buffet yesterday and I did not stop eating although I was ashamed of the amount of food I ate but it was so delicious. To my delight, there are so many ways to do caviar, I learnt a way last night and I can’t wait to get back to my kitchen and do it. They stuff it, and they bake it in a sheet, they stuff it with lebaneh and pine nuts!”
Amongst her favorite ingredients, for sweets and savories, she fell into the typical dilemma of a parent when asked to choose their favorite kid, but when insisted, she revealed berries for sweets and for savories she loves cooking fish and seafood because she believes that there is a lot one can do with it.
As far as travel is concerned, she feels that she has been very fortunate. “I have not traveled to the whole world, but I have been to India, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Israel, Abu Dhabi, America, Morocco, Turkey, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Brazil, Portugal and so many other places,” said the resplendent giggling gourmet.
She also loves potatoes and those, apart from her other staples, seem to sit on her plates quiet a lot she reveals: “I think every single meal I cook actually includes a potato. I cook very simple meals at home; lovely roasts and stews that are succulent, you know when the meat kind of melts into your mouth. Curries, I make very good curries. We eat a lot of fish at home, pulses, and dal is my comfort food."
We learnt that Chef Reza Mahammad and Jenny would be on-air together soon in a culinary series on Food Program. On the sets, it was evident that the both shared a close bond: "Reza and I have been friends for about 10 years, we are like brother and sister, or mother and child [giggle]; I don’t know with Reza but we are very good friends. We work very well together and we do a lot of shows together. Now we are going to be doing a TV show together, on Food Network, which will start filming at the end of March."
She agrees with many of us who watch food shows and cannot help salivating while doing so, "What food shows do is that it makes you a little bit adventurous and curious, it makes you hungry and you want to try it out."
Who would not want an exclusive culinary tip from this chef? "My mantra for food is to keep it simple and delicious. Buy the freshest of the ingredients that you can afford. I always say to people 'remember when you are cooking, that sometimes less is more.' Even though, because you just want to put so much into it, yet, the meat should still taste like meat and the fish must include the essence. I always like to put the flavors on top so that it is complementary."
By Ghazal Praveen/