Culinary delight is one of the important factors that influence a traveller to choose a hotel to stay in. This makes the role of a chef crucial. Christine Karan sits down with Mauro Gomez, Executive Chef of The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC and talks to him about his hotel life, sustainability and everything in between.
Tell us about yourself? Were you always passionate about the ‘Hotel-Life’?
My parents owned a family restaurant in Argentina where I come from. It was a family restaurant in every sense because everyone in my family including my aunt and grandma was involved. This was the starting point of my career in culinary arts as I grew up in that milieu, watching and helping out my family create soulful food while learning the nitty-gritty of a busy kitchen at the age of 12. The behind-the-scenes activities at the restaurant were more interesting that really kindled my interest in this field.
Later when I started my career in a professional restaurant, I did everything – from waiting tables to cleaning them while learning the business, which was different from a family-owned restaurant.
What does this role of The Executive Chef entail?
In short, it’s all about delivering guest expectations. All our guests have a certain level of expectations from The Ritz-Carlton brand and I have to make sure these are not just met but exceeded by going an extra mile as they say. It’s not a one-man job so I need to ensure my entire team works in-sync so that our guest expectations are met to a T.
How does your daily life look like? What happens behind the scenes?
My daily life is all-inclusive – the entire gamut of culinary activities. Overseeing all activities in the kitchen, planning menus, ensuring the quality of raw materials, from meat to vegetables and everything in between, as well as managing culinary budget.
My day starts at around 6amand my first agenda is to make sure our planned breakfast menu is perfectly served as it is the first and most important meal for guests. We want all our guests to have a wonderful and healthy start to the day. We take into consideration all the dietary preferences and we include lots of vegetable and fruits. We also customize our orders according to the preferences of the guest. To add to this, we will also be able to provide the calorie count on the food, if the guest requests.
Then my day goes on to discussing our menus and brainstorming various ideas. Lastly, I do some desk work like replying to emails, doing some research on introducing new menus, etc.
What are the steps you are taking towards sustainability?
We source all our products locally. I think it’s important to support local producers who deliver excellent produce. We try to avoid importing products and thus reduce carbon footprint. We have some local entrepreneurs who make amazing burrata and mozzarella here in the UAE with the same quality as of Italy, so flying it will not make sense. We also have a strong recycling program and we follow it religiously. I also advise my team to recycle constantly and use bio-degradable items.
From a culinary point of view, how would you describe The Ritz-Carlton brand and how different is it from other luxury hotel brands in Dubai?
The Ritz-Carlton has a brand reputation of its own and the most important thing for us is to see our cuisine reflecting that. We constantly innovate and add to our growing culinary portfolio and surprise guests with our innovation.
We regularly do a blind tasting with our chefs as well to get a common opinion. I think quality, taste and innovation are key from the culinary aspect because that is what will remind the guests about us and bring them back.
What are some of the unique creations you have introduced at The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC?
For me, food has to be simple. Overpowering the food with various flavours will spoil the dish. I love to travel and during my trips, I have observed traditional ways of cooking from several regions. I have noticed that it’s not about adding flavours over flavours, or adding a twist, but respecting the food and understanding it and preparing it the way it’s used to be. That is very important. This is what I’ve brought to The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC, the respect for the food and what can be made with it.
Can you give us a cooking tip that our readers can use?
Don’t eat your food; enjoy your food. It’s as simple as that. There are so many flavours and essences out there and while many people want to try different cuisines, the common mistake would be trying all at once. So always understand your food and enjoy every dish one at a time.