Now in it’s eleventh year, the Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau has grown tremendously since its inception – each occasion grander than the last. Celebrating the life of former 3 Michelinstarred chef, Bernard Loiseau, the event takes place annually over a one week period at the Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius.
Each year inviting six Michelin-starred chefs to participate alongside six island chefs from across Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles, the competition has seen the likes of chefs Michael Caines, Serge Viera, Tim Allen, Bruce Poole and Mike North take part over the years.
To kick-start the competition, each Michelin-starred chef is paired with an island chef. Set in teams of two, the pairs are then challenged with serving eight plates for each of three courses, comprising one canapé (the only course that can be made hands on by the Michelin chef), one starter and one main course, all showcasing local ingredients. Although the teams work together to plan, create and learn their dishes together, only the island chefs are allowed to cook the starter and main courses for the judges, while the Michelin chefs act as coaches, teaching new techniques and skills.
Over the course of the festival, not only does the competition take shape day by day, but the renowned chefs and special guests also orchestrate exclusive dinner menus and cooking demonstrations for participants of the event. For foodies, this provides an amazing opportunity to meet gastronomes alike, taste dishes prepared to the highest of standards and delight in new, exciting Mauritian flavours.
Overall, the main purpose of the festival is to support exchange, experience and knowledge of all participating professionals, including the chefs, food-focused media, food consultants, and others, all of which share a common passion – the love of cooking and the art of the table. During the festival, special attention is given to the art of hosting through the ‘Art De Table Competition’ and through the ‘Sommelier Contest’, ‘Barman Contest’ and ‘Café Gourmand Contest’.
During this year’s edition, the panel of jury comprised Mrs Loiseau, chef Patrick Bertron, the founding member, Paolo Basso from Switzerland, the best sommelier of the world 2013, Walter Kei, a famed food writer and influencer from Hong Kong, and the renowned French pastry chef, Pierre Hermé, amongst others.
Harvesting influences from a mix of settlers who arrived in Mauritius years ago – French, British, Portuguese, Dutch (to name a few) – chefs were equipped with a wonderful range of flavours and ingredients to create recipes with. In doing so however, they had to ensure a superior mix and balance of tastes to please the judges. They were also tasked with using local ingredients including palm heart in particular – a local Mauritian product which is firm in texture and pale in colour. It’s quite subtle in flavour, and almost resembles that of an artichoke, with nutty hints.
After tough deliberation, the judges admitted it came quite close between two teams in particular – they didn’t know which teams at the time however, as they judged the competition blindly – I must admit the competition was fierce and full of passion. Bringing the event to a close, a gala evening saw the winners of the competition announced, with Kritesh Halkory and the one Michelin-starred chef Michel Husser proudly taking home the trophy.
For eager foodies wishing to engage with those who share the same culinary interests, the Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau provides the perfect platform for showcasing talents in the kitchen – and what better place to do so than in the breathtaking surroundings of the East Coast of Mauritius.