The Savoir Faire of Culinary Arts
Bringing new elements, ideas, and techniques to his kitchens in Bahrain, renowned chef Wolfgang Puck returns to the Kingdom with delectable surprises for the diners
As the Kingdom geared to engage in the excitement surrounding one of the country’s most thrilling events on its calendar, the Formula One Grand Prix, the hospitality and F&B industry was fully prepared to serve the visitors and residents a thrilling and tantalising experience to add to their fast-paced weekend. Visiting Bahrain once again, this time during the Formula One weekend, Wolfgang Puck returned to the Four Seasons Hotel which houses his three spectacular F&B outlets CUT, re/Asian Cuisine and Blue Moon Lounge, to welcome diners from across the region and indulge them in the finest gourmet cuisine made at the hands of the culinary maestro himself with the assistance of his on-the-ground team. Chef Wolfgang Puck spoke to Perle Magazine about his latest visit, new culinary changes brought about in his restaurants, and how he continues to evolve his cuisine to ensure that with every visit, diners experience an exciting gastronomic journey.
Bahrain has long been famous for ts precious pearls, adorned by many across the world. But agriculture has also emerged as an eminent part of the Kingdom’s rich heritage, with the local farms boasting a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, livestock, plants and more. Looking to explore and take advantage of the agricultural gems of the country, Chef Wolfgang’s stay included a visit to one of the local farms where he picked fresh, organic produce to use in the dishes he prepared at his restaurants for guests and media representatives over the course of his 3-day stay. Serving a rich selection of dishes to the diners and allowing them to experience the delicious food created at the hands of the culinary maestro himself. Treated to delectable bites such as goat milk ricotta crostini with local cherry tomatoes and basil aioli, burrata crostini topped with fava beans, homemade potato chips, asparagus and goat milk soup, and risotto arancini. Using local ingredients to create the dishes, Chef Wolfgang Puck and Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, Brian Becher, worked together to create an enticing spread for the diners. The chefs explained that the ricotta and soup were made using the goats’ milk from the peninsula farms in Bahrain, adding that is it important to use local ingredients to ensure freshness and a hint of local flavour, without compromising the signature tastes of each dining outlet. “I like to incorporate the local in my dishes,” Chef Wolfgang Puck says, and adds that it is important to support the local agriculture of the country as the produce here is rich, and if ingredients are readily available here fresh it is not necessary to import them from elsewhere. Going back to his roots and bringing traditional Austrian flavours to Bahrain, guests at the pre-race BBQ Party at the Four Seasons Hotel were also treated to traditional Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarr’n – a fluffy, sweet, thick pancake – topped with Bahraini strawberry compote. Along with serving a hearty mix of signature dishes, Chef Wolfgang Puck also experienced authentic local flavours at the hands of a Bahraini chef who prepared for him a biryani. Enjoying the experience, the chef explained it was his first time having someone cook traditional Bahraini food in front of him.
Alongside serving special dishes over the course of his stay, Chef Wolfgang Puck explains there were changes also brought to the CUT dining and brunch menu offering customers a delicious new selection of classic American dishes, signature drinks, and more. He explains he worked closely with Chef Brian to curate a menu that would appeal to the different taste preferences of the diners. Also bringing about culinary changes in re/Asian Cuisine, Chef Wolfgang says diners can also experience the newly added dumplings or can indulge in the Mei Yue Nights every first Tuesday of each month where they can savour the delicious world of Asian street food culture with the Chef’s modern twist.
While creating new dishes for his restaurants, Chef Wolfgang explains that it is important to first get all the key ingredients together and at his level of expertise putting together various ingredients is almost akin to painting on a blank canvas and mixing the colours, knowing which colours – or ingredients – work with their complementary counterparts. “I always tell people not to follow the recipes. Alter it to your liking otherwise you risk not enjoying it that much. And once you get used to cooking the dishes, you will eventually perfect them”, the chef advises.
Even with his own cooking, the talented chef says that every time he looks at a recipe, he can already taste what the different ingredients will taste like when put together, and according to his preferences, he adds or removes ingredients. Noting, some of the hardest dishes are often the simplest ones as they have to be cooked just right. “If i cook a fish dish with a lot of sauce, then it is not as difficult since the sauces will take over; but the very simple dishes are more challenging since you will always taste the flaw if they are not cooked properly” he says. A connoisseur of the simpler dishes himself, Chef Wolfgang Puck says he still prefers to go to the farmer’s market to pick out fresh ingredients like spinach or a freshly caught fish and create a simple hearty dish rather than indulging in a luxurious dish like caviar. Having lived in the USA for a long time, Chef Wolfgang Puck says his own taste palate has also seen an evolution wherein he now prefers a spicier meal than before, due to the influences of Chinese, Mexican, Thai cuisines and likes to incorporate that into his own traditional Austrian dishes, such as the Goulash. Chef Wolfgang adds that though it is important to enjoy a hearty meal, for him health and food go hand-in-hand and it is mandatory to take into account portion sizes when enjoying a meal as well as engaging in physical activity to stay fit. Encouraging the intake of more greens and fruits and smaller portions – especially of heavier meals such as steaks – Chef Wolfgang says food for the body should work as both nourishment and preventive medicine.
Focusing on evolution not just on the menu but also taking into account the potential growth of his team as well, Chef Wolfgang Puck says it is important to also have his chefs try and take different approaches to a cuisine to help them learn and evolve. Maintaining a home-grown approach to fostering talent under Chef Wolfgang Puck, he says that those who join his team tend to stay as they ensure that everyone advances together.
Chef Brian Becher, Chef Wolfgang notes, has been with them for 10 years and crediting Chef Brian on his expertise in Asian cuisine, Chef Wolfgang adds it is necessary to also further challenge him as part of the growth process. He adds one of the key factors to maintaining a strong team is to show kindness towards the staff, and adds “if i am not happy with something done by one of my staff, I would not criticise them in front of the team. Instead i would take them on the side and explain to them how to improve it.” He says this approach also pushes the Chefs to excel, opening up many opportunities for them across the Wolfgang Puck network of restaurants where they could one day even become partners. He says it is mandatory to give the chefs a push which would not only improve their skills but also creates a space for culinary innovation to ensure guests are treated to new surprises every time they go to one of his restaurants. Additionally, he says he is also educating the chefs more about the industry of Hospitality as a whole, and having the chefs interact with the diners to make sure their experience at the restaurant is of the utmost comfort and pleasure.
Truly a master of the culinary arts, Chef Wolfgang Puck has launched a new restaurant concept in West Hollywood, The Rogue Experience, where a table of only 10 seats is set and any chef from any of the signature Wolfgang Puck restaurants can come into the kitchen and cook with the team there. Though that may seem easy, the challenge is the chefs cannot create the same dishes they are used to creating in their own restaurant kitchens; they must come up with entirely new dishes to serve the diners. Along with never having the luxury to cook for smaller audiences, Chef Wolfgang says is also a good way to have chefs step up to the plate and delve deeper into the world of culinary creativity to produce dishes that have never been tried or tasted before.They can then take the dishes back to their own restaurants to enhance the existing menus.
Understanding the need for education and understanding of the industry from a younger age, Chef Wolfgang Puck says he would also like to see the Kingdom of Bahrain have a hospitality school to allow the budding chefs or those interested in the hospitality industry as a whole an opportunity to purse their passion. This, he says, would allow the young Bahrainis or expatriates in the country to not only grasp the ethos behind the industry but will also make them eligible to work anywhere in the world. Practicing a similar concept of education and vocational studies through his organisation in Ethiopia, Dreams for Future Africa, with the help of his wife, Chef Wolfgang says the school that started with 24-orphaned children has now up to 800 children receiving an education. He says he looks to expand the school further and offer agricultural studies and an apprenticeship program where the students can study and work in a restaurant environment simultaneously.
Deeming Bahrain as one of the friendliest states in the region, Chef Wolgang notes his visit to the country each time has been spectacular, as his interactions with people from different walks of life have truly added to his visit. “You can have the most beautiful buildings in a place, but you have to have contact with the people, and that is what is important to me,” he says and with each visit, the award-winning chef truly displays his culinary savvy and expertise, all the while maintaining his humble demeanour, winning traits that have earned him his myriad of accolades – most recently a star on the Hollywood Boulevard – and acclaim across the globe.
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