Chef Piotr Kamieniczny, executive sous chef at Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, tells Hotel & Catering News ME how he runs the reigns at the leisure destination.
Situated in a palm oasis away from the fast-paced vibe of Dubai city, Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa offers its guests a unique experience amidst sand dunes and natural habitat, and the hotel’s Polish executive sous chef says most of his inspiration for the menu at the property has come from his travels across the globe.
“Before joining UAE chef’s community, I travelled to explore cuisines across Cyprus, Ireland, France, and England. I’ve had the pleasure to work in the famous Institute of Paul Bocuse in Lyon and Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin Star restaurant,” Kamieniczny says.
“I am passionate about seeing different places, experiencing diverse cultures, and sampling their cuisine to get familiarised with their ingredients. It is sometimes overwhelming to experience how a country uses a particular ingredient in different ways. I love experimenting with unusual flavour combinations and always try to reflect my diverse travel experiences in my menu here at Al Maha.
“This resort provides an exemplary culinary experience. Be it our dishes on the menu, curated events or dining options, great reviews on various world-renowned travel websites are a testimony to the gastronomic experience Al Maha is renowned for.”
Being located in a secluded area, majority of the guests that stay at the property prefer dining there too, “Most of our guests book with us on full-board basis which entitles them to three meals per night,” Kamieniczny explains.
“Given that we have one signature restaurant, Al Diwaan, it is important for us to offer variety in the fare to ensure guests enjoy a unique experience each time they dine with us. The resort offers separate menu for lunch and dinner while also offering a healthy menu which can be opted for during any meal. We also like to keep our dishes simple with great quality to complement the natural beauty around our resort.”
Flexibility and variety are two things that top Kamieniczny’s operational ethos spearheading the hotels culinary offerings, “Guests at Al Maha Desert Resort are our priority and we make it our mission to satisfy their cravings. They sometimes like to shuffle with the lunch and dinner menu and we are happy to accommodate, unless the inventory is insufficient, in which case the service staff will offer the next best substitution to fulfil their requests,” he says.
“With three different menus to choose form, guests are offered an assortment of choices ranging from simple comfort food to gastronomic masterpieces.”
The nature of the hotel also means a lot of guests prefer in-room dining, the chef says: “Al Diwaan is usually the most used venue for meals. However, in-suite dining is also an option for guests who are fond of staying in. As all the villas have their own private pool, pool deck dining is also a popular option as guests can enjoy their meal with views of the dessert and wildlife. For those who wish to enjoy a more intimate setting, the resort also offers a curated desert dune dining experience with a five-course menu and choice of sparkling.
“Maintaining the hallmarks of our resort’s brand, guests can also opt for luxurious options ranging from caviar to oysters among other favourites. Our team is renowned for creating culinary masterpieces whilst accommodating guest requests,” Kamieniczny says.
The change in weather in the desert is quite often the reason behind changing the menu, according to the chef, “We offer three menus at our restaurant, lunch, healthy, and dinner to ensure that our guests have ample options. I try to change the menu at least twice a year keeping the drastic weather in mind. Winters are extremely cold in the middle of the desert hence we incorporate dishes that are warm while the summer menu relies more on dishes that nourish the body in the heat without compromising on taste,” he says.
Chefs are now witnessing a shift in trend in the dining industry world over with respect to healthy eating and this is the route Kamieniczny is also working towards, “We are witnessing a big boom in lifestyle well-being and healthy food preferences. People are becoming more and more health conscious and are opting for simple and honest food, prepared with quality ingredients. People are also looking for authentic farm to table experiences to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Each chef brings their spin to the menu but the ultimate aim is to create food that offers nutrition without compromising on taste,” he explains.
“Our plan for 2018 is to continue exploring novel flavour combinations and surpass guest expectations. There are a few activations in the pipeline, one of which is the extravagant brunch in October.”
What is your hero dish?
There are many dishes loved by our guests, but if I had to list a few names then it would either be the foie gras caviar, duo of lobster or our Al Maha Tiramisu.
What advice would you give chefs starting out in this region?
A vibrant city like Dubai gives excellent career opportunities to talented hospitality professionals. Due to the rapid development and expansion here, almost all famous hospitality brands are present, creating easy access to the newest trends, technology, and products from around the world. I meet a lot of young chefs who want to lead the kitchen very early in their career, but just like any other profession you have to wait for your turn. My advice would be to be persistent and put in the hard work before claiming the throne.
What suppliers do you work with?
We work with more than 40 suppliers to source ingredients and produce required at our restaurants.
What are the most challenging items to source?
No ingredient is impossible to source over here. The challenge is to ensure consistency. However, technology has advanced to a great extent making it possible to transport items far from their source of origin in perfect conditions.