Gourmet Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s annual fortnight-long-culinary festival, has recruited two of the UAE’s brightest, up-and-coming gastronomy stars to chair proceedings at its two-day Culinary Creation Stages, where a dozen international masterchefs will demonstrate their talents and skills in practical workshops.
Saba Wahid, an American-raised TV presenter, culinary enthusiast and gastronomic consultant of Pakistani descent, and Faisal Naser, a half-Emirati, half-Kuwaiti culinary blogger, will don kitchen whites and present the Culinary Creation Stages to daily audiences of up to 150 people.
Running February 8 and 9 at five-star The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, the new-look Culinary Creation Stages – previously known as the festival’s masterclasses – will feature six chefs per day in a six-hour marathon of cooking demonstrations, live presentations and a standing buffet lunch.
“I am so excited to be working with so many global gourmet stars,” said Faisal, 27. “I have countless questions in my head and having the opportunity to meet these chefs is a dream for me; I will take note of every word they say and make sure I’m an able conduit for the audience – I want them to get all the information they need.”
Having discovered a passion for cooking whilst studying at the UK’s Leeds University, Faisal revealed he’s planning to surprise the international chefs – especially German-born Ernst Knam, a renowned pastry chef working in Milan, Italy – with a few local ingredients he loves using himself.
“I’ve been experimenting with macaroons a lot recently and I’m planning to bring a batch made with rose water and saffron which give a real Arabic twist. I really want to get the chefs thinking about ingredients indigenous to the region – including desert truffles.”
Historically used across the Arab world as alternatives to meat, desert truffles grow in years when unseasonal rains fall post-summer. The white truffles, which have a sticky mushroom-type texture, have already become staples of Faisal’s popular Instagram account (@chef_faisaln85). Despite the allure of the desert truffles, Faisal’s macaroons are most tempting to Saba, 32.
“Faisal’s told me about his special ‘Arabic fusion’ macarons – which just so happen to be my most favourite sweet treat – and I’m really looking forward to trying them. Faisal seems very knowledgeable and enthusiastic – we connected through food straight away. I’m sure the Culinary Creation Stages audiences will share our passion.”
Having attended New York’s French Culinary Institute, completed a degree in Hospitality Management and worked for a Manhattan catering company, Saba’s two-and-half-year stint in the UAE has been about bridging the gap between her eastern roots and western upbringing. Gourmet Abu Dhabi, which is organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), represents the next step.
“This sort of opportunity doesn’t come around very often, so I’m going to cherish every moment,” said Saba. “To be surrounded by so many culinary greats and be working so close to them is just amazing. I’m looking forward to learning from the best in the business and seeing them work their magic up close at the region’s most exciting culinary event.”
Tickets to the Culinary Creation Stages are available from www.gourmetabudhabi.ae and cost AED120 for one day or AED200 for two days. Gourmet Abu Dhabi’s landmark fifth anniversary schedule features 56 international gourmet artisans from 14 nations on a 16-day culinary journey across 20 of Abu Dhabi’s fine dining restaurants.