FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BAHRAIN BAY is Manama’s fine dining epicentre with multiple concepts being curated. JAYNE GREEN speaks to the wonderfully humble Celebrity Chef, WOLFGANG PUCK, about the long-standing relationship that both these iconic figures wholeheartedly share…
You’re a Michelin-starred chef and internationally renowned restaurateur. Do you feel any pressure with such acclaimed titles?
The pressure I feel every day is not about the Michelin Guide but that of the customer who I want to feel special so that they feel that they want to come back. at’s the biggest pressure and it’s what I teach everyone who is working with me. We aim to make people feel comfortable in our restaurant and feel like family.
Why is it important to keep not only your ingredients fresh, but, your dining concepts?
I really believe there has to be an evolution. We can’t simply do the same thing over and over again. I do like to maintain some tradition but mix it with innovation. I like to say that tradition mixed with innovation makes a good cake!
Why has the Middle East been an area of great interest for the WP Fine Dining Group?
When we started in London around 8 years ago a lot of people were visiting from the Middle East and saying to us “You must open a restaurant in the Middle East – in Dubai”, and we did and after Dubai we opened further restaurants in Bahrain and Doha. Bahrain has become my favourite as the people are so welcoming and make you feel like you are one of the family.
What influences do you take from the Middle East to showcase at other culinary destinations in the world?
In each one of our restaurants we want to create something special and use local ingredients from local people. We like to adapt the local produce such as fish and cheese to the with the expectations of our brand. People visiting our restaurant in London won’t have the same experience there as they will in Bahrain or Dubai and this is a purposeful decision to ensure they have a variety of experiences, but with some familiarity.
The critically acclaimed CUT by Wolfgang Puck is widely recognised as one of the top steak restaurants in the world. How do you maintain consistency throughout said restaurants and how do you ensure this level of excellency is executed with the Executive Chefs at Four Seasons.
It’s a very important principle but very simple. We buy the best ingredients. We never cheat with the ingredients and ensure the quality is consistent. Once we have these ingredients what we want to do is simply enhance them not alter them too much. I also work with chefs who remain with us, some for over ten years and they know my expectations for our style of hospitality and the need for the freshest and best ingredients. I want my chefs and managers to ‘own’ their restaurants and to make their reputations through the quality of their service. I tell them ‘I’m famous enough, this is your opportunity to prove how capable you are’ . My chef ’s are ambassadors for the brand and the customers know them and recognise the fact that they are responsible for the high quality of their experience.
The menu in re/ Asian Cuisine | Wolfgang Puck features your signature, modern take on traditional Asian cuisine and provides a “re”-evolution of what you have been passionate about for the majority of your career. How were you first drawn to Asian cuisine?
I opened my first Asian restaurant Chinois in Santa Monica in 1983 and this was one of the first real Asian fusion restaurants. Instead of using heavy cream in sauces I may use coconut milk which means that they are not as rich, but, just as delicious! People came to the restaurant and thought it was the most amazing thing. I remember I made a Peking Duck but replaced Hoisin sauce with a homemade fresh plum sauce. Everybody was using Hoisin sauce and we didn’t want to do that we wanted to be a little bit different. It’s the same principle as a musician. If you want to be successful you won’t get that way by always using the material of others. You have to create your own.
What is your personal opinion about the growing maturity and sophistication of the dining landscape in Bahrain.
It’s really very interesting as things started so slowly but they are now getting so busy and taking off . We have adapted our brand a little for the palate of the Bahraini community and as we get to know the scene better we are able to perfect our dishes to suit their tastes. We learn from one another in that they expand their food horizons but we also learn from their expectations and we are able to refine and adapt our dishes. The overriding thing that we have learnt is that we can not go overboard with prices and the hospitality element is very important. People expect to be presented with something to eat as they are seated and they expect more from us than the restaurant scene in London, for example. As guests arrive the bread and dips are waiting for them and they want to begin the meal immediately. We have learnt that this makes customers happy.
Tell us about future plans with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
At present we have no imminent plans but because of the synergy I feel we have with the Four Seasons if they came to me with a new project I would be happy to look at a new concept or at opening in a new venue. I’m hoping to do a lot of work on Chinois as it is very well known in London and throughout Europe and so renaming the restaurants RE: Chinois will help to make them synonymous with that brand and reputation. e logo will be very important as it represents yin and yang and therefore represents the coming together of Chinois and the restaurants in the Middle East and also my style of cooking coming together with the Asian style of cooking. What we want is for guests to be really impressed when they visit Bahrain. The hotel itself is one of the most beautiful Four Seasons and the quality of the finish surpasses that of the headquarters inToronto. Therefore it is fitting that the restaurants are of a comparable standard.
For more information please call 1711 5000 fourseasons.com/bahrain @fsbahrain