As the holy month approaches, Chef Jéan van der Westhuizen looks at how professional chefs should plan for Ramadan in Dubai
Being a Western chef, I’ve cooked many turkeys and roast dishes with mashed potatoes and all kinds of vegetables. Mostly over the western type of holidays.
But I’ll never forget my first Ramadan season and the emotions I felt preparing for it. I was excited but also a little bit nervous.
Excited because I had all these great ideas for new dishes and I wanted to make the owners of the restaurant proud by serving great food; that would make the customers come back again.
However, I also felt nervous because this would be my first-time planning for such an important religious event for so many people. I thought about how important Iftar and Suhur were for a person who fasts for an entire day.
I realised the food should be healthy, and because it’s also a time to think of those less fortunate, which means I must manage my food waste. Yet, my buffet should be very attractive with a variety of dishes.
I searched the internet to try and get some advice or ideas but most of the content was for individual people wanting to plan their personal Iftar meals. There was very little advice for chefs needing to cook for hundreds of people.
Ten years later, I am a seasoned professional in putting together a Ramadan menu. I have learned many things, especially from the Middle Eastern teams I have worked with in the kitchen.
So, I’ve put together just a few important things that I’ve learned. Hopefully they will help you if this is your first Ramadan season.
- Design a functional buffet: Think carefully about the layout, traffic flow and splitting up sections for plates, breads, welcome drinks and desserts.
- Monitor dish consumption: Cost your dishes carefully and place the lowest cost dishes that are more abundant at the start of the buffet.
- Cost effective ingredients: Think of dishes that use low-cost meat cuts like Kharouf Machchy – using lamb shoulder or leg.
- Save cost on beverages: One example is serving jugs of refreshing ice tea rather than soft drinks. There are more profits to be made on tea.
- Stand out from the Iftar crowd: Take to social media, start a trend or mix it up with weekly specials.