Stacie Overton Johnson
More than a dozen international chefs will share their culinary skills at this year’s event. Don’t miss your chance to meet and cook with these masters. Here are three to watch:
Michel Roux Jr
Michel Roux Jr is a British chef who leads the kitchen at Le Gavroche, a London restaurant that holds two Michelin stars.
Roux will be cooking roast pigeon with peaches, turnips and sage in his demonstrations and will make asparagus maltaise in the cooking challenges. He says: “I think food festivals are really fantastic. It allows people the chance to try food from places and chefs they might not have come across before. I really do feel that food brings people together and Taste does that on a global scale.”
Roux, who describes his style as classic French gastronomy for modern palates, always knew he would be a chef. He says: “Either that or I wanted to play for Manchester United.”
“I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to do what I do,” he says. “I try to be in the kitchen as much as I can.” Outside, he says: “Going for a run in Hyde Park on a sunny afternoon is one of my favourite things to do. I try to go in between lunch and dinner service to clear my head and collect my thoughts.”
This year marks Le Gavroche’s 50th anniversary. “We’ll be celebrating that throughout the year,” says Roux. “I’ve had so much success and I’m grateful for all of it, but after the anniversary, it’s time to sit back, reflect and decide what’s next.”
• Roux will be in the chef’s theatre on Thursday at 8.30pm; Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 3.30pm. He hosts cooking challenges on Thursday at 6.30pm, Friday at 5.30pm and Saturday at 4.30pm. Sign up 30 minutes beforehand.
Aldo Zilli, an Italian chef, is based in the United Kingdom and regularly appears on television. He opened several restaurants in London including his signature restaurant in Soho, Zilli Fish, in 1997, and in 2012, left to pursue other ventures.
He has written several cookbooks, is one of the founders of the original Taste of London festival and holds the Guinness World Record for flipping a pancake the most times in one minute (117 times).
He is now the executive consultant chef with the San Carlo Group. Zilli will make fresh pasta with cuttlefish ink at the festival and will teach guests how to make risotto during the cooking challenges.
He specialises in healthy pescatarian Italian cuisine.
“I really just like to educate people about the Mediterranean diet because it’s perfect for people who enjoy good food, hate dieting, but want to stay healthy,” says Zilli.
“The best part of being a chef is being in the kitchen and cooking. It can be a stressful environment at times, but I find that it relaxes me and actually helps get rid of my stress.”
Zilli’s advice to aspiring young chefs is simple.
“Be prepared to work hard. It’s a tough industry. Always strive for the very best whether it is the location of your first restaurant, the ingredients you use or the staff you hire.”
• Zilli will be in the chef’s theatre on Thursday from 6.30pm, Friday from 1.30pm and Saturday from 6.30pm. He will host cooking challenges on Thursday at 7.30pm, Friday at 2.30pm and Saturday at 5.30pm.
At just 23, British chef Luke Thomas has already had an impressive career. He has appeared on Junior MasterChef, Great British Menu and the BBC Three documentary Britain’s Youngest Chef. He has worked with chefs such as Gary Rhodes (also at this year’s festival), Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal.
Thomas is often in the kitchen at his restaurant Luke’s Dining Room at Sanctum on the Green, Berkshire, in the UK. He also has a restaurant in Dubai on The Beach, JBR, called Retro Feasts.
“Dubai is a real leader in the culinary scene,” says Thomas. “It has been set on fire.”
Thomas, who will be cooking what he calls a “fish stew with attitude”, says his grandmother inspired him to cook. “My grandmother was a real family-style cook. She used good ingredients and cooked from the heart.”
He says being an accomplished chef at such a young age comes with challenges.
“It’s understandable that people question your position and ability when they have worked hard for a number of years and not got to that stage,” says Thomas. “Titles are irrelevant and age is also irrelevant.”
He says festivals like Taste of Dubai are great for the industry. “It’s a way of bringing people together with a shared passion. Whether you’re cooking, curating, attending or a singer performing on stage – it’s a great way to celebrate all that is great about food, drink and music.”
Thomas is excited about where his culinary journey will lead him. “My main priority is to love and enjoy what I do,” he says.
• Thomas will be in the chef’s theatre on Thursday at 10.30pm, Friday at 2.30pm and Saturday at 12.30pm. He will host cooking challenges on Thursday at 4.30pm, Friday at 8.30pm and Saturday at 2.30pm.