Chadi Saloum believes that food should be simple and nice enough to be understood, yet unique enough to be compelling. Here, he discusses how he has brought that philosophy to the many outlets at Cove Rotana to ensure customers continue to come back for more. Why did you choose to become a chef? My uncle …
Chadi Saloum believes that food should be simple and nice enough to be understood, yet unique enough to be compelling. Here, he discusses how he has brought that philosophy to the many outlets at Cove Rotana to ensure customers continue to come back for more.
Why did you choose to become a chef?
My uncle worked as a chef in the Middle East, and since I have a passion for food and discovering new things, he recommended that I perhaps think about following the same path. I began my journey in 1994 when I started studying hotel management aged 18.
What has been your most memorable moment in your career to date? Explain how this has led to you getting where you are today.
As mentioned, I began studying hotel management in Latakia when I was 18, while simultaneously working in Cote D’ Azure as trainee – doing everything from washing fridges, setting tables, cleaning the kitchen and cooking. This enabled me to work in all sections of the kitchen; always listening, watching, practicing and taking notes. I became very determined and committed towards building the career I wanted, and I fell in love with my work. I volunteered to work longer hours to ensure I was constantly learning and building up my knowledge of the kitchen to chase perfection. The culinary industry may be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding, and I still believe in this today.
You’ve worked in restaurants across the Middle East. How does running a kitchen here in the UAE differ from other countries you’ve worked in?
In the UAE, there is a multitude of cultures to work with – and this is something you don’t tend to experience so much in other countries across the region. I find that chefs here are more committed and creative, and this is partly down to the fact they have the right tools and range of products available to plan menus for the entire year.
What do you believe is the secret to running a successful restaurant and keeping customers coming back for more?
My cooking philosophy is that food should be simple and nice enough to be understood, yet unique enough to be compelling. I am for my dishes to excite all of the senses with uncomplicated layers of flavour. I use herbs, spices and sauces to enhance fresh vegetables, meats and fish, not to mask flavours. To become successful is not difficult; maintain the success is the achievement itself, and I believe this is down to putting the quality, the service and the experience first.
Have you had any kitchen nightmares during your career?
I was in Syria for the opening of a new hotel, and had wedding event for 650 guests. We were hosting a seven-course set menu in the grounds of the hotel outdoors. While we were taking the food to the hot cabinet outside, the whole cupboard fell to the ground and more than 150 plates of beef steaks were broken, meaning I had to redo 150 covers. Thankfully, we had another event the following day so we had enough meat in stock, but I had to call the supplier late at night for a new delivery the next morning!
The Cove Rotana has a number of restaurants – do you have a favourite, and why? And why should our readers visit?
Basilico is my favourite – we serve Mediterranean cuisine in a fantastic, fine-dining environment, combining fresh seafood with Italian and Mediterranean influences. You will find authentic paella, Greek mezze or your favourite pasta or pizza, alongside a wide selection of grills and fresh fish. If you are a chocolate lover, you must try our chocolate and aubergine tart – you’d never believe it’s actually sugar free! We also have a lovely outdoor terrace which is very romantic, and would make the ideal al fresco dining option for Valentine’s Day!
What is the most bizarre request you’ve ever had from a customer?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “strange request,” since the culinary world is constantly changing, meaning food is transferring more into fusion cooking, and a lot of creativity is now required. These days, I’m receiving more requests that are centred around health and allergen diets, such as gluten free and dairy free. However, one day I received a request from a guest who didn’t eat eggs, meat or fish, was allergic to dairy and gluten products, as well as kiwis and mushrooms… and the question was, “what do you recommend chef?” I think recommended for them to call a taxi home.
What can diners expect from restaurants at the Cove Rotana in the coming 12 months?
We host a Friday brunch – the Gourmed brunch, in which we provide an array of tapas dishes alongside our authentic menu. Diners should also make sure to leave space for dessert, as we have a fantastic choice of delicious sweet treats on offer, including chocolate cake with passion fruit, chocolate pecan pie and caramelized lemon tart topped with glazed Italian meringue and fresh seasonal berries. In addition, we run parties on the beach – with grilled meats sizzling on our live BBQ, offering kebabs, fajitas and burgers; all cooked with a lot of love in an authentic and traditional way.
Details: If you’d be interested in visiting the Cove Rotana, please go to the website for more information.