Abu Dhabi to Toronto is an effortlessly seamless transition as if walking from Soho to Midtown Manhattan, Mayfair to Chelsea, Alexander Platz to Postdamer Platz, made possible thanks to Etihad Airways. Going from a table at Frankie’s at the Fairmont to embark on a three day delicious food show in Toronto. Chef to Chef. Farm to table. Fairmont to Fairmont. How simple life can be and how much fun. Yet nothing is complete without food, it is the essence of life, and if you don’t like eating then I don’t want to know you. Toronto has it Delicious Show and you don’t want to miss this experience, of wine, cocktails, beer’s, foods, cafe’s, and learn how to cook without oil or butter without comprising taste. The Dj’s get the party started, and from start to finish it’s just one big party the kind you don’t want to miss. I recently got inspired to look into kitchens of Chef’s thanks to a brilliant stage play The Kitchen. During the Toronto Film Festival My Name is Khan featured the kitchen of Toronto Chef Brad Long’s Cafe Belong with films of the day. In Abu Dhabi it started with Kings of Pastry a 2009 Documentary about collar awarded to the winner of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France the ultimate recognition for every pastry chef, it is a dream and an obsession. Along came films and the Chef Marco Pierre White food and films, and so the journey seems seamless as the thread that connects is food. The adventure of discover and the party never stops at My Name is Khan.
“Eating is one of the most important aspects of living. I like indulging. I like to eat one food at a time, to savor each individual thing.”-Marco Pierre White
Chef Marco Pierre White is considered to be the hottest finest master chefs that the United Kingdom has ever produced, and in Abu Dhabi you will find his restaurants in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, if attending the film festivals or the Formula One race’s then stop in take the time and savor the food from the kitchens of this master chef. All Chef’s are artisit’s and so expect them to behave as such and this old school rocker molded in the manner of Mick Jagger is just that, a rock star chef, who likes food, wine, women. Two things are certain about Chef Marco Pierre White, he is talented, very talented, and he has personality. If you meet a Chef without personality, please, please walk-out the food will be just like the Chef. In Super Chef at My Name is Khan you will only meet those who have the creative style to break the mold and innovate food sending your sense’s hurling into orbit of some distant planet. Chef Marco Pierre White is also like Marlon Brando. While Mick Jagger went googo, gaga over his knighthood, Kieth Richards or Ronnie Wood would just balk at it. Chef Marco Pierre did the same, awarded the three stars of Michelin something no one had achieved in the United Kingdom Chef Marco Pierre renounced the award and retired from cooking. In 2002 he was named the AA Chef of the Decade. This is my kind of guy. Good films are not about Oscars it’s all about the passion for the art, from making films, driving F1 cars, music, being a creative director of a fashion house it’s the passion that propels one to keep on going. The kitchen of Chef Marco Pierre White is constantly in flux, and always innovating. Perhaps one day I can take you inside the kitchen of this master Chef Marco Pierre White in Abu Dhabi on My Name is Khan.
If you were a silk spaghetti strap of a burgundy silk dress by D & G grafting the body of Heidi Klum, glamorous beyond belief, stylish, sensual, with startling golden hair, luminous, scintillating as she saunters into the Michelin star awarded Silk Bed Restaurant of multi-award winning Chef Mario Lohninger you would be in a dream. A dream it is when you go to Silk Bed Restaurant in Frankfurt, or so it was for me, the week it was awarded it’s Michelin star. Silk’s concept combines visual effects, and culinary indulgences with a third experience. Selected DJ’s playing silky lounge tunes that set the mood for the panoply of orgasmic creations beginning with an aperitif stimulating all culinary receptors that tease you, for the thirteen course dinner. This dream like culinary experience comes at the hands of Gault Millau’s chef of the year 2011 Mario Lohninger as you float away with the food, the drinks, the music into culinary heaven.
The silk fabric has weaved it’s way from New York fashion week, to London, Milan and now Paris Fashion Week and Heidi Klum is no stranger to them, yet what a thrill it must be to arrive in your homeland, slip into comfortable slippers at Silk, and enter into the spherical ambiance as if in Roman or Asiatic time, stretching onto white leather couches, with cosy cushions. Everything at silk works like nature, in a rhythm all of it’s own seemingly effortlessly, as you listen, see, and taste. This is the first of a series of features on Chef Mario Lohninger during this Paris Fashion Week. So for those wanting to jump on a short flight from Paris to Frankfurt, you should do it, you will only live once, and while you have been looking at silk all week long you should take the time to experience the theater of the Chef, and the magic of his food. I did, I still have not forgotten the adventure as I discovered the magic of Chef Mario Lohninger as he assaulted me with culinary designs and innovations, the aromas from his roots Austria, France, Asia, and the America’s. The adventure of discovery never stops at My Name is Khan.
Cameron Crowe is certainly idiosyncratic as a writer as Chefs can be about their kitchen. Both Chefs and writers can be loved by critics because they are off beat or simply not understood. At Toronto International Film Festival sitting with an exceptional writer is like being with a master chef with the taste for the exotic. I was asked where to go to write and without missing a beat I suggested Amalfi Coast and the new luxury hotel Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi where my friends husband Alberto Annarumma is the Chef. The writer asked me how was the view from this hotel? and I told him well it is like being in paradise, where your mind will want to wander and you will see that the world is always there, always interesting and always a challenge to write about but a writer needs to write and a reader needs to continue to read. The writer smiled and asked me about the food. Well I think that Madonna, Cameron Crowe Eddie Vedder, Keira Knightley, Bono, Edge, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and crew as well as those Formula One drivers Jenson Button, and other should take a brake and taste the orgasmic food from the kitchen of Chef Alberto Annarumma. Just like I did. So first let me introduce you to the destination and you will want to buy a ticket or jump on a jet.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the Prince of Amalfi. Italy has long history with the name Khan. It started out with Marco Polo who went to meet the great Khan in China only to learn of the exotic spices and teas, then The Aga Khan once had a luxury hotel group in Italy, so it should be no surprise that today once again Khan as in My Name is Khan discovers the magic of Italy with Chef Alberto. The interview is in Italian and English.
Cosa ti ha ispirato a diventare uno chef?
In realtà da piccolo non avrei mai pensato di diventare uno chef ma il mio sogno era dipingere (passione che coltivo ancora ora); mi piaceva disegnare, copiare, riprodurre, stilizzare. Tutto, qualsiasi cosa, paesaggi, personaggi dei fumetti, animali ecc ecc.
Poi, la vita vera, sai com’è, ti riserva altri progetti ed all’età di 8 anni, un po’ per gioco, un po’ per evitare che la strada mi “raccogliesse” (la mia terra, ai tempi della mia infanzia era una terra difficile), d’estate, finita la scuola, cominciai come garzone di pasticceria. Dopo un paio di anni, poi, ebbi l’occasione di fare un’esperienza in una cucina. Ancora non fu subito amore, ci vollero ancora altri 2 anni perché qualcosa scoccasse; e qualcosa scoccò. Iniziai ad incuriosirmi, ad informarmi, e, ad innamorarmi.
Così, si può dire che l’amore per la cucina è arrivato per caso.
L’ultima volta che ti ho incontrato, stavi raccogliendo delle erbe dal tuo orticello; ne hai uno anche ora?
E come farei senza!?! È facile comperare da fornitori specializzati delle erbe rinomate come il centocchio, il coriandolo, rosmarino, il timo limonato, ma le erbe che raccogli tu stesso, non so, sembra abbiano tutto un altro profumo. E poi fresche raccolte!!!
Quando viaggi, che cosa cerchi/guardi nei ristoranti?
Mmm… Premetto che quando vado a cena fuori mi piace sedermi con le spalle rivolte alla sala del ristorante per godere al meglio chi mi sta accanto, amici, parenti ecc. Però sono molto attento al menù, ai prodotti della terra di quel territorio che altrimenti a casa mia non troverei, piuttosto che alla cultura intessuta in quel luogo concernente la gastronomia. Mi piace immaginare come riuscirei a riprodurre quel piatto, quel gusto , quella sensazione in chiave Alberto, con un tocco asiatico che nei miei piatti non manca mai.
Dove prendi l’ispirazione per i nuovi piatti?
È raro che immagini un piatto in assoluto… capita ma è raro. Un piatto di solito lo concepisco pensando a tutta la carta, studio il menù a “tavolino”.
Pertanto mi arrivano dei flash, a casa a letto ad esempio, sotto il cuscino ho un block-notes. Sullo scooter mentre ritorno o vado a lavoro penso ad un ingrediente base per costruire un piatto… Quando è il momento di concepire una carta, allora diventa un vero e proprio momento di studio che dura intere settimane tra flash, spunti, schizzi di disegno su carta di come sarà costruito esteticamente e cromaticamente il piatto (e qui metto in essere la mia prima passione!). poi le prove tecniche, le cotture e infine la ricetta finita.
Alcuni chefs a volte utilizzano il loro tempo libero per viaggiare ed esplorare. Lo fai anche tu?
L’ho fatto per una vita intera!!! E continuerò ancora.
In questo nuovo luxury hotel, cosa ti aspetti che le persone sentano/percepiscano quando entrano nel tuo ristorante? Vuoi che vengano a scoprire cose nuove?
Suonano come due domande differenti. Cominciamo dalla prima:
Mi aspetto che percepiscano familiarità, armonia e affabilità. Non amo la forma espressa in quanto tale. Si può essere cordiali, informali e professionali allo stesso tempo facendo sentire l’ospite un conoscente di vecchia data.
Non proprio. No, anzi direi di no. Non mi aspetto che vengano a scoprire cose nuove… anche perché sembra quasi tutto già inventato o scoperto… mi soddisfa però il fatto che l’ospite se ne vada con l’idea di aver compreso cosa ha mangiato; mi gratifica che chi viene al mio ristorante, porti via con sé il ricordo di cosa ha mangiato, a prescindere che dietro a quel piatto ci sia della tecnica. Se poi c’è anche la curiosità di capirlo, il piatto intendo, di informarsi, di chiedere magari al cameriere come venga concepito, allora sì, la giornata ha raggiunto e anche superato il suo scopo.
What inspired you to become a chef?
When I was a child I never thought to be a chef, my dream was to be an artist (painting is my passion that I grow even now), I liked to draw, copy, reproduce, stylize everything such as landscapes, cartoons, animals, etc… Then, you know, real life had other projects in store for me. At the age of 8 years old I’ve started a bit for fun but also “to keep away from the road” (my land, at the time of my childhood was a difficult land). During the summer, after the school, I started as a pastry trainee. After a couple of years I had the opportunity to gain experience in a kitchen. Still it was not love at the first sight, yet it took another 2 years for something to shoot one, and something struck. I began to intrigue, to inform,, and to fall in love. Therefore one can only say that love for cooking has arrived by chance.
Last time I saw you, you were walking through your herb garden, do you always keep a garden to select herbs etc, for your kitchen? Do you have one near the hotel now?
How would I do without!?! It’s easy to buy from specialist suppliers of herbs such as the coriander, rosemary, lemon thyme, etc.. but the herbs you collect yourself, I do not know, seems to have a completely different scent. Just fresh collected!
When you travel, what do you look for when going to restaurants?
Hmm … I state that when I go out for dinner I like to sit with my back to the dining room to enjoy people around me, friends, relatives etc.. But I am very attentive to the menu, products of the region that otherwise would not find at home, rather than interwoven with the culture in that place on the food. I like to imagine how I could reproduce that dish, the taste, the sensation in Alberto’s key, with an Asian touch that never fails in my dishes.
Where do you get your ideas for new dishes?
It’s rare for a plate images ever happen … sometimes it does but it’s rare. A dish usually conceive it in mind throughout the menu. So I get the blazes, at home in bed for example, under the pillow, I have a notebook. While I’m travelling on the scooter to go to work I think of a basic ingredient to construct a plate … When it’s time to design “la carte”, then it becomes a real moment of study that lasts for weeks on the blaze, ideas, sketches, drawing on paper will be constructed of how the plate appearance and color (and here I put into being my first passion!). Then the tests, and finally cooking the recipe.
Some chefs take time off to travel and explore do you do this as well? I did it for a lifetime! And I will do it for ever.
At the new luxury hotel, what do you want people to feel like when the come to your restaurant? do you want to them to feel as if they are coming to discover some thing new? something unusual? Etc
They sound like two different questions. Let’s start with the first: I expect that they perceive familiarity, harmony and friendliness. You can be friendly, professional and informal at the same time making the guests feel an acquaintance of long standing.
Not really. No, I would say no. I do not expect them to come and discover new things … because almost everything seems to have been invented or discovered… It satisfy me the fact that the guest go away with the idea of having understood what he ate; it gratifies me that whoever comes to my restaurant takes away the memory of the plate, whether behind the dish there is the technique or not. If then there’s the curiosity to understand, I mean the plate, to inquire, to ask the waiter how it is even conceived, then yes, the day has reached and even exceeded its goal.
Pearl Jam, rolled into town for Tiff to showcase a documentary on the band their 20th anniversary in the year 2011. The film also features Neil Young who went to my high school here in Toronto a legend all on his own. The film was directed by the man who wrote, produced and directed one of my favorite films Almost Famous. Cameron perhaps the best person to do a film documentary Pear Jam Twenty. For me this was a highlight of Tiff, it brought together Neil Young, Pearl Jam and a memory of Eddie Vedder recording The Long Road with Pakistan’s greatest singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for the track of Dead Man Walking another great film. Pearl Jam also performed and Neil Young added to the mix amplified the evening to another level. Some of Pearl Jams band members walked into Magpie my friends design studio and picked up some items of fashion all and all a plus for everyone. So the question is when you have got your tour buses where could you get some food to top it all off, Cafe Belong.
Chef Brad Long also is a musician, and is a perfect fit for the likes of Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam and Neil Young. The kitchen was in full swing getting ready, it was like being at a sound check. All these documentary’s at Tiff and Brad Long informed me he has made his own documentary. One thing is for sure Chef Brad Long has good taste, and his entire concept which is not a novel concept is what would appeal to Pearl Jam and Neil Young. Not to mention getting to Cafe Belong you could take the Long Road while listening to Eddie Vedder and Khan after all this is My Name is Khan. The wine to go with Pearl Jam and Neil Young I selected at Cafe Belong was Cave Spring 2007 Pinot Noir which should be decanted is an elegant and complex which is why it’s perfect for the food, the film and the music. It’s all here at Cafe Belong, with Pearl Jam, Neil Young and My Name is Khan.
Who Belongs here. Let me start. The guys who are opening the Toronto International Film FestivalU2 belong here. Bono getting to Cafe Belong is like driving into St. Paul de Vence to get to our favorite place La Colombe d’Or. This is Chef Brad Longs own oasis like the sole Joshua Tree amid the natural beauty, it is not South of France but only a few minutes from the hustle and bustle it has a mix of that Dublin modern among old bricks, well not nearly as old as Dublins. For Madonna, Clooney, Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda, Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, guys this is like going to Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur for some nice wine accompanied by what you really came here for the food. For Frances Ford Coppola, Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright this is a mix of Sonoma and Napa and while it’s not the French Laundry it is where you will feel right at home while Brad Long does his magic. Rachel Weisz, Eathan Hawke, Clive Owen, Keira Knightly, Tilda Swinton, Sam Neill this is like Geoffreys and this is as close you will get to Malibu in this city. To all the Aussie’s Cafe Belong will remind you of Sydney Harbour and you know how nice that can be and the kicker is the food and wine. The drive to Cafe Belong reminds me of the time my godfather would take me from his home on Baroda Drive to Spago on Sunset, in the day’s when Wolfgang was still trying to find the right mix. Chef Brad Long is a true artist he is still tinkering, not with the food but the place, kinda like Michael Jackson never finished really finished. My Name is Khan will be bringing films, foods and wine together each day of the festival from the kitchen of Cafe Belong. So get ready for the feast of films, food, wine and off course need I spell it out champagne baby!
It’s show time ladies and gentlemen. It was at the Toronto International Film Festival years ago that Ismail Merchant and I sat down in front of the press corp to announce my companies five film finance agreement with a showing of Maurice with James Wilby and Hugh Grant, directed by James Ivory. It feels like old times in Toronto as people trickle in from all over the world. This year at the Toronto International Film Festival there are 123 world Premieres, with 2,502 International Submissions, and 59 Countries are represented. So let the games begin and to all enjoy the egalitarian city of universal love where My Name is Khan will take you from the kitchen to the silver screen each day that you are here the party never stops at My Name is Khan.