It's 10.45am and the 15-minute countdown to the opening of Gulfood 2012 has started. The Caterer Middle East team is raring to go - make sure you come and visit us in Zabeel Hall, stand Z-04...
11am: Gulfood is now open! HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance, opened the event and walked the show floor - even stopping by the Caterer stand in Zabeel Hall! Read more here.
11.30am: We just met with Mike Walden, commercial director of 4 Corner General Trading, who raised some interesting issues that look set to be running themes throughout this week's Gulfood. Walden advised a closer working relationship between chefs and buying teams, with 4 Corner looking to involve chefs, buyers and operators in the procurement process. He urged against knee-jerk buying, instead advising chefs to look for fixed prices for longer periods, and asked how many suppliers to the Middle East actually offer to take chefs to the source of their products. What better way to test the quality of the products you are investing in?
11.45: At the Austrian Pavilion in Sheikh Rashid Hall, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, Nikolaus Berlakovich, tells us that 20% of Austrian F&B produce is organic. From milk and meat to fruit and vegetables, Berlakovich said the European market was demanding quality organic produce - and he expects consumers in the Middle East to follow suit.
12:00: We head next door to the Italy pavilion and can't resist what looks like an ice cream, but in fact turns out to be a pizza! Pizza in Cono is a Milan-based company with 22 outlets. The firm offers a Simple Point station, that could be set up in airports, malls, exhibition centres and theme parks, with a chef making the rolled, cone-shaped pizzas freshly in front of the customer. Pizza in Cono outlets are already operating in Morocco, Egypt and Kuwait - at Marina Mall - and the company is looking for more business in the Middle East, said chairman Marco Khairy.
12.20: French baking expert firm Le Saffre is launching a new product at Gulfood for the Horeca segment. Star Bake is a range of ready to use preparations for professional chefs that comprise a blend of yeast, bread improver and taste enhancer. There are eight blends in the range, which can be used for everything from pizza to bread.
1pm: A.Ronai has a multitude of new products on show this week in Hall 2. Managing director Gavin Dodd walked us through some of the tableware ranges, which include: a dark and modern line called Koto from Steelite; a rustic line, Craft, also from Steelite, which uses a glaze that explodes in the kiln, giving each piece an inidvidual look; and a Melamime range from Elite Global Solutions that will enable hotels to offer themed restaurants by pools and on beaches.
14:30pm: I've never really craved nine-month old yogurt until now, but Eurodelices new range of long-lasting yogurts Milky Lux just launched at the show looks yummy and there are samples up for grabs on their stand in booth M-114, Sheikh Maktoum Hall.
14:50pm: Hotelier's roving reporter James Clarey has just checked in to say he's at an ice-carving competition, the winner is due to be announced tomorrow... see pictures of the ice creations here.
3:15pm: Caterer's Charlie just had a rather interesting chat with two RMAL Hospitality managers while they were shopping for Martini glasses. They revealed the opening dates of Marco Pierre White's new DIFC restaurant 'Wheelers' as well as Dubai's newest Trader Vic's! Find out more here...
3:45pm: All that gossiping must've made Charlie hungry, she just texted the Caterer newsdesk to tell us the new Bakemart Thamera pudding on offer on stand e-28, hall four is delicious! Well we hope she saves us some.
4:00pm: Hotelier's Louise Oakley just ran into Nico Dingemans from Hospitality in Health, who is writing a cook book called Health Cuisines. The book will feature recipes from 12 chefs in 12 different destinations and to find the chef from the Middle East, Dingemans will be launching a competition to find the Best Health Cuisine Chef of the Middle East in 2012. He wants to target the younger generation of chefs, but the judging progress will be a rigorous one, with candidates expected to provide research to back up their dishes.
4.30pm: Masterchef America winner Whitney Miller just gave an empassioned presentation in her first international appearance at the Gulfood conference. Peppered with tidbits from her journey on Masterchef and the publication of her first cook book, Miller's speech described her passion for cuisine from the southern states and her reinterpretation of her grandmother's classics. With her first cook book published and selling 50,000 copies, Miller is now focused on creating recipes for her second cook book and on building her 'brand'. To "create my brand in a world of great chefs", Miller says she is making use of Facebook and Twitter to promote herself and understand her followers. She has 4,109 followers on Twiiter and 33,743 followers on her Masterchef website, and says she endeavours to respond to every comment and question.
5pm: Word's in Unilever has big plans for 2012, with a massive focus on sustainability. Eelco Camminga tells Caterer that the firm is aiming to double its size and halve its environmental impact... read all about it here.
6.10pm: Hourly demos at the Manitowoc stand using Convotherm and Merrychef ovens have attracted a steady stream of hungry delegates throughout the day. They have been able to sample everything from prawns and lamb to liver and pineapple cooked in a matter of minutes using various forms of technology, such as induction. Hats off to chefs Paul and Karston for keeping the energy flowing all day and sending some lovely smells wafting over to our stand opposite.