Day in the Life: Thamim Ansari, pastry chef at Andaz Dubai The Palm
From freshly baked pastries at breakfast time to intricate desserts drawing on Dubai's heritage and trips to the souk with his team
I generally arrive in the hotel around this time and the first thing I do is visit the breakfast offering to check the quality and make sure it’s perfect. If anything needs to be changed, I ensure it happens there and then. We have a dedicated pastry counter in The Locale and we incorporate the local flavours of Dubai, such as rose and zaatar, into the breakfast pastries. We also have Yemen Simr honey, which is very popular.
The pastries are all freshly baked to ensure the aroma lasts throughout the whole breakfast service. Our guests love this. It’s really important to me to chat to guests and get their feedback. I always encourage them to try our signature Andaz favourites.
At The Locale we also have a grab and go counter where residents can stop by to pick up a freshly made loaf of bread. We bake bread on rotation throughout the day, which changes every meal period to ensure the guests receive a variety of tastes when they visit. The sourdough is our speciality and our guests keep coming back for it.
Once breakfast has finished, I head to my office and check my emails and plan for the day ahead. This is my admin time and I have to ensure that all orders are placed. Lunch preparations begin straight after breakfast. Every day we have different pastries and desserts on offer for our guests, with a different theme to ensure that guests here on holiday get to experience new creations. Guests are invited to visit the dessert counter and select the one that they would like to try. It is so important that we can interact with the guests and tell them the stories behind each dish, because every dessert we make has a purpose, which allows us to express our Andaz. Andaz means personal style in Hindi and we are the lucky ones that get to bring this to life.
We have varied themes such as ‘the flavours of Arabia’ and ‘Chocolate in The Woods’, which is a delicious dessert based on five elements of nature: earth, air, fire, water and space. Each element is interlinked with the flavours associated; earth includes anise, air involves aerated chocolate, fire has charcoal smoked chocolate, water is the moisture and we have an edible sweet mushroom, and for space it‘s dehydrated berries.
One dessert I am particularly proud of is the Taste of Dubai. This dessert is inspired by the signature tastes and flavours of Dubai, using ingredients that can easily be found in most Emirati kitchens, including cumin, fig, simr honey, hazelnut and dates. It’s finished off with our signature edible perfume infused with the aromas of the spice souk. We really create theatre with this dessert and guests love it.
My team and I always try and have lunch together, it’s our chance to not talk about work, we chat about each other’s lives and crack some jokes.
I have a team of eight pastry chefs, a mix of Indian, Sri Lankan, Filipino and Tunisian. The team is small but very passionate about what they do. Dubai is a melting pot of cultures and I try to encourage my team to infuse their cultures into the work that they do.
Combining this mix of nationalities, passions and creativity we have created a strong team that work well together.
After lunch is when our creative juices come out. We chat as a team about future focuses, what’s coming up and brainstorm together. We talk about culinary trends and what’s happening in the world. For me it’s really important that I always identify my limit so I can make sure I cross it every time.
I try to encourage my team to live this ethos so that they too can grow and push themselves. I am not a leader or a boss, I am part of the team, I don’t consider myself as a leader as everyone in the team is as important as each other.
As a team we look after the whole hotel. We have developed the desserts for all outlets, in-room guest amenities, events, VIP guest gifts, outside orders such as birthday cakes and also birthday cakes for team members, this is always an important celebration for Andaz.
Once my shift finishes I am always on the lookout for new ideas, so as a team we plan once a week to visit the souks and art galleries in old Dubai to gather more inspiration. Rather than taking ideas from other cake shops or patisseries it’s really important to be unique. Andaz as a brand is focused on art so we ensure that our work is also reflective of this.
Time to switch off and re-energise.