Going Downtown

Ramada Downtown Dubai chef says good kitchen relationships are crucial

Chef Belal Kattan has a passion for creating authentic dishes
Chef Belal Kattan has a passion for creating authentic dishes

Chef Belal Kattan, the new sous chef at Ramada Downtown Dubai, reveals the importance of good relationships in the kitchen, the things that make a true leader, and why he will be making menu changes as soon as possible in his new role

What is the most important part of a sous chef’s role?
I think it’s to be a strong team leader, because as the head of the department you have full responsibility in the kitchen. You must show the staff the professional way to handle the operations and service in the kitchen, keeping in mind that all your work must meet the highest standards of hygiene and quality.

What are your immediate and long-term plans in your new role?
My immediate plan is to change the menu in The Orchid Restaurant, including the food-for-room service, so that the guests and associates will notice there’s a change in the food that the kitchen team serves.

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The long-term plan is to provide training for all my kitchen staff in courses such as hygiene, HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points), food standards, operation and service training, and quality control. I also want to maintain the five-star hospitality standard that we apply to the food, menu, service and operation at Ramada Downtown Dubai.

What are your career ambitions?
My ambition is to become a successful and famous executive chef, not only in the Middle East but all over the world. I would also like to continue my family’s legacy by cooking dishes that my father and uncles cooked and then adding to them. I want to create my own recipes to pass down, and share my passion for cooking.

How important is the relationship between a sous chef and an executive chef?
The relationship between a sous chef and an executive chef is very important because they are the first and second leaders in the kitchen department and they act as models for all of the staff. Both of them must have good knowledge, training, professionalism and communication skills so that the kitchen operation is smooth and successful. It is only by having these qualities that they can serve the best dishes to their valued guests and associates.

How much responsibility does the sous chef have in the kitchen?
The responsibility of a sous chef is extensive, particularly at the moment because I am actually acting as executive chef. All the administrative duties in the kitchen department fall to me, plus other duties like the operation, costing, quality control and service. I must be flexible, adaptable and set a good example.

How hard is it to come into a new kitchen and learn the ropes?
To come into a new kitchen is always a bit of a challenge. As head of the department, I work with different nationalities and cultures so I need to be able to adapt. I must first learn about the attitude and personality of the staff before I implement new rules. The rules in a new kitchen are the same anywhere in the world – you just need to know how to handle and implement the rules as the head of department.

What is your favourite dish?
My favourite dishes are fish harra, beef or chicken teppanyaki, maple lace chicken as well as traditional dishes such as hummus, kebbeh and mixed grill. It’s a mix of Arabic and international dishes that I love to cook and eat – maybe it’s due to my culture as well as my exposure to the different countries and people that I have worked with in my career.

How much freedom do you have to dictate menu changes as a sous chef?
I have a lot of freedom in terms of dictating changes. First of all I study the needs of my guests. This includes their nationality, culture, belief and religion. By doing this I can prepare dishes that my guests will absolutely love to eat. For example, when cooking traditional Arabic dishes I make sure that it is prepared like people would have it at home, so our Arabic guests feel the dishes are authentic.

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