“Militante!” shouted Giorgio punching the air with his fist and grinning at us as he turned around and walked back into the cool air-conditioned Ronda Locatelli leaving us feeling exhilarated, ready to take on the world. Giorgio Locatelli is a man of great passion and it is easy to become infected by his passion as he shares his love of good Italian food with many stories of his childhood.
The surprise Sally and I had arranged for the participants of the Dubai Food Styling and Photography workshop was a full on success. Meeting Giorgio Locatelli was a well deserved treat that happened later on the first day after a packed few hours of photography and styling techniques and theory. Sally and I had organized our second food styling and photography workshop in Dubai, this time at the gorgeous venue of Miele’s lovely gallery.
Miele’s gallery provided the perfect location for the workshop. Sally had had her eye on it for a while and when she sent me the images of the gallery, I knew this was going to be it. Large, spacious, flooded with plenty of natural light, it not only offered great opportunity for photography but with its state of the art kitchen it was just the right venue to offer our delegates a fantastic all round experience - cooking, styling, photographing and plenty of good food and laughter.
While planning the workshops it is important for me to offer the delegates an experience that will stay with them for a long time. Moments that they will cherish and take home with them, smiling each time they remember those moments. Paying attention to fine detail, the two days focus very intensively on food styling and photography but the emphasis also lies on food and a food experience that the participants will enjoy.
Sally and I walk on the same wavelength and it is such a pleasure to work with her in planning these workshops. We understand each others ideas and can visualize the concepts without many words - it just works. Once again, we collaborated with a few pretty awesome people, who were extremely professional in their forte and working with them was so much fun.
We kicked off the first day with an opulent Scandinavian brunch prepared by a charming Chef Russell Impiazzi of Lafayette Gourmet, whom I met the last time I was in Dubai and was totally enamored by his enthusiasm and energy. So I was thrilled when he offered to be a part of the team this time again. If you happen to be in Dubai, please take some time and visit Lafayette Gourmet at the Dubai Mall. A gourmet deli delight offering an entire cheese and sausage room, meat, fish, organic vegetables and fruit, spices, nuts and other exclusive grocery items. They also have a range of eating selections - everything from Indian curries, to perfect pizzas and divine desserts.
Our group of delegates were motivated, covering a wide range of knowledge and experience. It was great to listen to their goals, their challenges and what they wanted to achieve.
Class started straight after the brunch and with a very rigorous and packed day we tackled the basics. We discussed principles of food photography and styling, covering the fundamentals talking about how important light is, learning how to control the camera and sharing styling secrets The group had several questions and we covered the topics in depth addressing each query. A few practical exercises to address and practice what we had discussed helped many of the participants understand the subject in more detail. It was easier for them to see how each function work individually and how they work together.
As the time came closer to wrap up and head out to Atlantis, The Palm for our field trip, Sally and I could hardly contain the surprise we had planned for our group.
Over the months of planning Sally, I and each of our partners exchanged emails and ideas, daily, hourly even - often late into the night. As the programme came together we were both very excited but actually seeing it happen was an entirely unique experience. During the planning phase, I hardly had time to think about meeting Giorgio Locatelli, did not consider the ecstatic and generous amounts of food our generous partners at Atlantis, The Palm spoil us with. Last time I experienced all this when we held the workshop at Nassimi Beach and this time again - we were taken on a splendid foodie tour around the world in a matter of hours.
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai were our amazing hosts and we sampled some of their divine foods in just a few of their venues: Asia Republic, Nobu, Saffron and of course Ronda Locatelli with Giorgio Locatelli in person. I can still remember the heady and musky perfume of the precious white truffles he cradled in his arms snuggled tightly under a glass dome. As he lifted the dome I could clearly identify that earthy and unmistakably intense scent. Placing the plate in the middle of the table, he was introduced to us and as he pulled up his chair next to me I have to admit I broke out into a very happy grin.
He is a humble and down to earth kind of man with no airs and when he chatted to us he seemed to have tucked his Michelin-star away. In his Italian accent he told us about growing up in the Lago Maggiore area.
“Every year my Grandfather would get us kids together and we’d pile into the back of his Cinquecento and drive out to a garage in the middle of nowhere. He would hand over some cash for one of the new season truffles which had been picked that morning. It was like we were buying drugs or something. The smell of it in the car was incredible!”
He continued to tell us how his grandmother would make a simple risotto that same day using the truffles brought home. “We indulged in this once a year but we enjoyed it!” He then went on to say how moderation seems to be a dying fad these days in our quest to have everything available to us all year round. Sitting at the Atlantis in Dubai, the irony of his words seemed to ring out loud. As he began to explain how sensitive truffles react to the impacts of the environment, he energetically addressed the issues of seasonality, sustainability and that everyone should grow vegetable gardens. We fueled his discussions with questions and our thoughts and he took time for each of us.
While he was telling us his stories, his team served us samples of the truffle menu currently available at Ronda Locatelli. He does not like creating complicated or fancy dishes, simple dishes focusing on the flavors of the ingredients is what he is famous for. Thus, we savored a delightful four cheese pizza topped with truffle, followed by an exquisite dish of scrambled egg with shavings of truffle and finally the most heavenly risotto al tartufo.
We bid our farewells to Giorgio Locatelli, our next stop was Asia Republic where we sampled a wide array of delicious food from South East Asia, China and Korea. There was Pad Thai, Laska, Duck, Char Siew Bao and Gyzoa and so much more, it was hard to tear us away from the food. The food at Asia Republic is prepared to order and served quickly from a diverse menu, containing a variety of appetizers, soups, wok fried noodles, vegetables and rice, mains and desserts.
The Zen-style garden at Nobu offered some respite after all the food and here we found homegrown herbs, bringing up Giorgio’s words into my head again and I could picture him stealing into this patch to pinch handfuls of herbs from Nobu’s garden.
Our final destination and our dinner venue (yes we were still going to have dinner) was Saffron. With 20 theatrical cooking stations Saffron is a contemporary interactive buffet featuring International and Asian inspired cuisine. I do not think I have ever seen so much food in so many varieties all in one place in my life (and I am a hotelier of a hotelier who grew up in hotels around the world ;o)). While everything I tried was incredibly good I have to admit I was overwhelmed by the sheer opulence and abundance of it all.
If day one of the workshops always make me nervous, day two enthralls me even more and in this case it was no difference. On the contrary I was even more excited than usual as I was pairing up with the fantastic Dima Sharif. I had met Dima in April at a dinner Sally arranged for us. Dima and I hit it off instantly. I told her that evening that we’d stay in touch as I had a few ideas for us. I knew then I wanted to partner with her on the next workshop. During the planning phase the three of us coordinated like a fine tuned Swiss watch. Easy, to the point and efficient; that is Dima - add to that professional and bubbly and you have all the makings of a fun and informative cooking session. I discussed details with Dima about what I was looking for, giving her the specifications of the assignment and the cuisine and she put together a fantastic Moroccan menu.
Day two started with an all-new session, one we added to test how it would be accepted. Sally is a Marketing Communications Consultant, specializing in Social Media Strategy and I thought it was the perfect topic to add for our participants, who many of are bloggers and keen to learn the tricks of moving about in the ever fast paced world of Twitter, Facebook and Co. Sally is cool, collected and knows her subject well. We’ll be building up on this session a little more next time as it raised great interest amongst the participants.
We continued the class with a look into post-processing, in particular Lightroom and how it offers the all-in-one tool to post process images. It was then time to work on the challenging assignment I had set each of the teams. It was going to be a buzzing day filled with plenty of activity and I started the eager delegates off with a little peek into the way I would typically style and shoot an image. They were able to see exactly what my thought process is, consider the points we discussed the previous day and how they are applied in a practical situation. Using the lovely props sponsored by Tavola we were able to create a diverse range of moods and set-ups and each of the teams were able to produce the desired results.
The teams were then let loose to style and shoot their assigned images for the major assignment. Switching roles from cook, to stylist to photographer, they were pushed to the limits to produce their final photographs. Lunch provided a needed respite and a chance to relax over Dima’s wonderful flavorful meal.
We started with a beautiful scented pumpkin soup, thick and creamy, spiced with cumin and coriander and some crunchy rustic bread to wipe the plates clean. The main course was the most succulent and aromatic tagine of lamb with aubergine with an almond couscous. The meat was fork tender and the aubergine provided an earthy highlight to the dish. With Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino, from our kind sponsors, flowing freely, I kept reminding our delegates to keep themselves hydrated and refreshed throughout the day.
I loved seeing the intense and focused looks on the faces of the delegates as they huddled together with cups of coffee later in the afternoon, working on selecting, post-processing and creating their final presentations. Only hushed whispers could be heard while the teams consulted each other and as they were engrossed working on their presentations on the laptops, the Miele gallery became still. It was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of just a few moments ago.
Going back into the class I was excited to see what the participants had created. Had they paid attention to all the aspects? Did they use all the points we discussed? Did they have difficulties? I am often blown away by the immense progress many make is a matter of a couple of days. We had some incredible results and as we began to wrap up I heard Chef Russell’s distinct voice, who was back in the kitchen this time joined by the Spanish specialists Tapeo ready to fire up the stoves for an incredible Paella dinner finale.
The aromas in the kitchen were spicy and fragrant as the “Fiesta Boys” prepared two types of paella for our delegates and invited guests. I had the pleasure of finally meeting a few people - friends - and was overjoyed to connect with like-minded people, once again ideas flowing for future projects. Chef Russell had brought along a few sensational Heritage Angus steaks from Canada, peppering them with Smaromi’s Tasmanian pepper I had brought for him - fusion food at its best! The sangria was missing a vital ingredient but with all the relaxed chatter, laughter and good food the evening proved to be totally intoxicating on its own.
The participants were such a talented and energetic group and I hope they left feeling inspired and eager to put all they learnt in the short two days into action. I had a ball at this workshop with the incredible team we have created around us.
So I say thanks to:
Cynthia Farhat - Miele Gallery
Dima Sharif - Food Artisan
Russell Impiazzi - Lafayette Gourmet
Kari Heron - Tavola
Alison Carmody - Atlantis, The Palm
for helping Sally and me create the most awesome foodie experience for our participants at this workshop. Looking forward to getting back together with you all again next year!
A massive thanks to our fabulous Goodie bag sponsors:
Toffee Princess for once again supplying us with her luscious Scottish tablet in the most divine flavors.
Aqua Panna and San Pellegrino for quenching our thirst throughout the course of the 2 days.
Lindt chocolates for the luxury boxes of pralines
Lime and Tonic Dubai for a fantastic voucher for a food related experience
not forgetting Dima’s divine foodie gifts of marinated aubergines, her sublime olive oil and spice rub.
And to all of the delegates who attended the workshop:
Shailaja | Moya | Sandy | Catherine | Lionel | Minna | Antone
thank you for taking the time to spend two lovely days with Sally and me. We hope you had a blast with us!
Finally a massive hug and my gratitude to my partner Sally Prosser. I love you and I love your company - working with you simply rocks. Rest has been said ;o) Look forward to the next one!
Posts and photographs from the participants (not everyone had a blog, but I will update this as further posts, Flickr albums etc. become available)
Minna | Naked Plate
Shy | Cooking with Shy
Catherine | Cat In The Dunes
Antone | Antone Photography
Sally | On Moderation and Militants
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2012 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First