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in his spare time authors and operates an incredibly popular
food blog: www.sugerheadblog.com.
Sitting in Chef Christophe’s compact, daylight-starved office,
there’s barely enough room to swing a whisk. Shelves are stuffed
with books, files, images and dessert sketches. Settling himself
down with a cup of green tea, Widmer returns to the subject of
Dubai and his global travels. From an early age, he’s been on
the road, touring the world and honing his pastry skills. Along
the way he’s learned a great deal about food, people and what
makes for a good picture.
Pastry & Baking : The property looks amazing. How are
things at the Madinat Jumeirah and how is everyone
holding up?
Christophe Widmer:
Dubai is certainly on the recovery path
but with the macro economic variables beyond our control, my
team is concentrating on providing our guests with an experience
of a lifetime. Hardware will be the driver for our future success.
This place isn’t small! 3 hotels and 44 restaurants/bars.
What’s your biggest challenge in overseeing such a large
property?
Communication and working towards a common goal. Again,
hard work and diligence in maintaining the constant flow of
information provides our team the edge.
How big is your team what do you look for in a new
hire?
I have three teams. Each team consists of 11-23 members. Here
in Dubai we are fortunate enough to draw from a large pool of
international talent. However, I specifically look for someone
who demonstrates passion and the drive to make a difference.
Growing up in Switzerland, your parents desperately
wanted you to take up a solid profession. So, it was off
to culinary school and a three year pastry
apprenticeship. Soon after you landed your first job in
Saudi Arabia. What was that like?
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I hate to say it BUT, if I had listened to my parents I would
not have gone to Jeddah and probably never would have seen
the world. I wanted to experience working abroad and
promised my parents if it was really that bad I would return
to Switzerland. I never did and that was 28 years ago!
Along the way you’ve worked in Oslo, Sydney, Manila,
Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Tokyo. Just
to name a few. Did you find that travel was
instrumental in your development as a chef?
Of course. I was exposed to all sorts of cuisines, cultures and
languages. Without travel, I would not have learned
Kransekake in Oslo, Lamingtons in Sydney, Bibinka in Manila,
Tab Tim Krob in Bangkok, Nonya Kueh in KL, Pandan
Doughnuts in Singapore and Wasanboon Sugar in Tokyo?
Traveling is still one of my passions and I love learning about
new cuisine, trends, and the local languages.
As we’ve heard from many chefs, in order to be an
effective kitchen leader, one must be culturally aware.
What is your approach in Dubai?
It certainly can’t be a Hell’s Kitchen approach like the reality
TV show. One has to deal with as many as 28 different
nationalities, so respect and a good sense of humor will get
you a long way. Working in Dubai is much like anywhere else.
How do you keep current on pastry trends or are you
someone who relies heavily on various
interpretations on the classics?
I am following numerous food blogs from around the world
and get from them a very good indication of trends in our
food industries. These blogs are not necessarily from
professionals but from people with a driving passion and
love of food. Over the years I have formed friendships with
foodies from every corner of the world and communicate
on a daily basis and share ideas. Of course, classic dishes are
classic and I do not understand why Heston Blumental has
to destruct a Black Forest cake and make it his own? There
are only few ingredients. Just use the best possible ingredients
and let it stand for itself.