During a recent visit to Dubai, acclaimed chefs Nathan Outlaw and Nigel Haworth each hosted an evening of gastronomy at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management with the school’s students.
Each chef, alongside the students curated a specially-thought out menu to serve to fellow culinary professionals, suppliers and members of the media.
Commenting on why it’s important for experienced chefs to give back to those coming through the ranks, here’s what the two chefs shared about the experience…
Why did you decide to host a culinary evening with the students of Emirates Academy?
Nathan Outlaw: I was approached by Michael Kitts and couldn’t miss the chance to work with some of the students at the Emirates Academy, especially after having heard through the grapevine how talented they are. It’s great to see the enthusiasm that young chefs have and I often go into a catering college local to my Cornish restaurants to work alongside students there. When I heard of the Academy here in Dubai, I wanted to go along and work alongside those students too. I wasn’t disappointed. They’re a great bunch of people and I was impressed at their level of skill.
Nigel Haworth: My intention to host a culinary evening at the Emirates Academy was to start a relationship with the Academy, its students and guests, and of course impress on the students and wider audience the importance of ingredients and in particular regional Ingredients that bring colour, interest and excitement to the area that we work in.
Why are events like this important for the training and development of culinary and F&B students?
Nathan: I’ve always been an advocate of giving culinary students ‘real’ experiences. They need to be able to function well in a professional kitchen and this type of event helps with that. I also believe that in order to raise standards, experienced chefs need to invest time in working with those coming through. The students also gain satisfaction and increased confidence knowing that they have been a part of an event like this and that can only be a good thing. Sometimes I learn as much from them as they do from me!
Nigel: I can’t say enough how important it is for students to experience working with chefs from different restaurants and hotels, from different countries all over the world. The style of cookery changes from chef to chef and sometimes from country to country and from region to region. If the students can engage in an environment where chefs are willing to pass on their skills then the benefits are obvious. Inspiration is a very powerful commodity and if students can be motivated and empowered by having the challenge and benefit of working with various teams of chefs it can only strengthen their knowledge.
Looking back at your journey as a chef, tell us about how you started out in the kitchen and developed as a professional chef…
Nathan: My Dad is a chef and I began by going into work with him on Saturdays and doing menial tasks from the age of about eight. I loved the buzz of the kitchen and also realised as I grew older that I was quite good at cooking. When I was old enough I worked in the local pub kitchen then, when I left school, went to catering college for two years. My first ‘real’ job was at the Intercontinental Hotel on Hyde Park Corner, a very steep learning curve but great experience as I worked with chefs from all over the world and learnt about different cuisines. After two years, I realised that I was fascinated by fish cookery and at the time, Rick Stein was on TV constantly cooking seafood. I decided that I wanted to work for him so I jumped on a train to Cornwall and asked for a job at The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. The rest, as they say, is history!
Nigel: I started life as a chef as a college student, from the moment I was inspired to cook I have simply always wanted to give of my best and to be the best at what I do.
For chefs coming through the ranks, what would your word of advice be for succeeding in this industry?
Nathan: Watch everything. Listen carefully. Ask questions (at the right time!). You will learn what to do, and also what not to do. Get out and visit your producers so that you know where the ingredients you’re cooking come from. Learn about the financial side of things before deciding to open your own restaurant. Do all that and you’ll be fine.
Nigel: If you want to succeed in hospitality, aim high, accept only the best, and enjoy every moment. Cooking is an inspirational craft, enjoy it and pursue it to the best of your ability.