Christopher Barber on competition day at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

The day of the competition is filled with tension and drama.

Dominique Loiseau, Jean Jacques Vallet, Gert Puchtler and European chefs at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

European chefs, Constance team and Dominique Loiseau

The European chefs have given the final briefing and words of encouragement to their Island partners, now it is down to them. We members of the Jury, ourselves a ‘Creole’ of nationalities, gather in expectation.

Whilst it is a competition, there is an overriding sense of camaraderie. the dishes leaving the kitchen are met with roars of approval from the European chefs, friends, family and supporters gathered at the kitchen door.

It is apparent that it is not the best chef or even the best dish which will win. Rather it is the best team which will shine through - those who have embraced the spirit of sharing knowledge and friendship.

This year’s dishes are difficult to separate, they are all of the highest standard.

The Jury have some tough decisions, and the debate rages for longer than ever before in their post degustation debrief. Cuisine is subjective, and even the jury members from the same country are divided on opinion. It is the most fascinating exchange of culinary wisdom.

Finally, a clear winner and runners up are established. The Jury are at one with the decision and are content that they have made the right choices. Only then are the identity of the teams revealed to the Jury… and they have to keep a secret until the prize giving on Saturday evening.

I do believe the best team won!

Want to know who has won?

Watch this space for the announcement of the winner…

In the meantime, check our Culinary section for all the events at the festival this week or visit the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau website.

Recipe: Hot cross buns from Constance Halaveli

With Easter just a week away, and the Easter school holidays about to begin, try your hand at making these delicious hot cross buns from the kitchens of Constance Halaveli.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

  • 30g fresh yeast
  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 40g butter
  • 1 ¼ cups sultanas
  • 1 ½ teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin

1. Lightly grease a baking tray. Place the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the flour, 1 teaspoon of the sugar and ½ cup warm water in a small bowl and stir well. Leave in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface. The mixture should be frothy and slightly increased in volume. If your yeast doesn’t have foam, you will have to discard it and start again.

2. Sift the remaining flour and spices into a large bowl, stir in the sugar and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in the sultanas. Make a well in the centre, stir in the yeast mixture and up to ¾ cup water to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth, adding more flour if necessary, to prevent it from sticking.

3. Place the dough in a large floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 30 – 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.

4. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently to deflate. Divide into 12 portions and roll each into a ball. Place the balls on the tray, just touching each other, in a rectangle 3 rolls wide and 4 rolls long. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size.

5. To make the crosses, mix the flour, sugar and 2 ½ tablespoons of water into a paste. Spoon into a paper piping bag and pip crosses on top of the buns.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Put the sugar, gelatin and 1 tablespoon water in a small pan and stir over the heat until dissolved. Brush over the hot buns and leave to cool.

Interview: Dominique Loiseau, CEO of the Relais Bernard Loiseau

Mrs Dominique Loiseau graciously accepted to preside over the prestigious Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau for the 7th consecutive year.


Mrs Dominique Loiseau

Mrs Dominique Loiseau

What is your principal trait of character?
Since I was very young, I’ve always had things I planned to do. And I’ve done everything to realise them. One step after another, at school and university, and then professionally, and of course as a family. Giving everything my all. Maybe that’s what’s called being a ‘fighter’.

What is your greatest quality?
I’m quite strict and have a strong sense of professionalism (too much so sometimes…). I emphasise with others (sometimes too much). But I try to keep myself in check!

What are the qualities you look for most in other people?
Kindness, loyalty and optimism.

What is your biggest weakness?
I can be terrible in holding a grudge.

What is your favourite tipple?
Wine from Volnay, for pleasure. Sparkling water to quench my thirst.

What is your favourite dish – and your least favourite?
Most: Truffle purée at the Relais Bernard Loiseau.
Least: Oysters and fresh coriander.

Who are the most important people to you in your professional life?
My team and my guests. Or my guests and my teams.

What, for you, is happiness?
It first comes from realising how lucky one is. It is also the satisfaction or pleasure you feel after making great efforts. Yet again, the excitement of a project you’re undertaking. Knowing how to be content with simple moments of happiness, like those that come from the beauty of nature: watching an open fire in the chimney, the sea, a landscape or flowers.

What is your most important personal possession?
It’s certainly my own home and my garden which I work on patiently, day after day.

With what talent would you like to have been gifted?
To be able to sing properly!

If you had not done this profession, what else would you have liked to do professionally – and why?
I was once a science teacher and a journalist, and I enjoyed both of them. But I realise that I also enjoy renovation works so I think a related field, such as architect, would also have suited me. However, the satisfaction I get from being a restaurant owner and hotelier, a magical little world, and the happiness that my guests feel in my Relais & Châteaux and my others restaurants – all that is absolutely irreplaceable!

What does the word ‘creativity’ mean to you?
Oh la la, it’s a word that applies in so many domains. In our case, it’s innovating without betraying the past and in sticking to our values.

What do you think best translates the wish to pass things on?
On this, I’ll stick to my own case, it’s such a vast subject.

It’s exactly the attitude I’ve had since I taught at the Hotel School in Paris and then as a journalist on the professional weekly, L’Hôtellerie. It’s also the spirit with which I was imbued when I took over the reins of the Loiseau Group in 2003, the perpetuating of a work both for its creator and his children.

Apart from the building (the beautiful Relais & Châteaux), our style of cuisine with its emphasis on taste, our professionalism, handing down also concerns our business culture, the values we share and the solidarity we have with each other. In fact, it’s a kind of immaterial capital within the company which sets us apart from others (the conviviality, the history, the authenticity).

And it seems to me that the family is one of the main assets for handing on in a business like ours. And I hope that one day my children will want to take over and do us proud!

How do you get away from it all?
A change of scenery, that means place, environment, rhythm… with new discoveries, by getting away in order to recharge your batteries and feel rejuvenated. The human organism needs variety and change, otherwise it starts to get bugged up with viruses, as we say in computer terms.

What inspiration do you get from Mauritius?
Its beauty, its sensuality, its gentleness, its peacefulness – in fact it’s another world.

What do you do when you need to recharge your batteries?
I go into my garden or to the Morvan (our Canada-like part of Burgundy).

What’s the best compliment someone can pay you?
Just carry on like this!

Which type of cuisine is currently the best in the world in your opinion?
French cuisine undoubtedly! There are so many reasons that I wouldn’t know how to summarise them here. There’s the whole history of cookery in France, unique in the world as it is something handed down including through the hotel schools, similarly unique in all that’s been written in the past about the culinary arts and so on.

You just need to read the documents that supported UNESCO’s decision to inscribe France’s multi-course gastronomic meal on the UNESCO world intangible heritage list to understand our culinary specificities, shared and enjoyed well beyond our own frontiers. The sophisticated nature of our food is a complex matter.

France should cultivate these advantages to promote the need for a varied diet, educate people about taste, promote seasonal produce, always look for produce that is as local as possible – and the handing down of these treasures to younger generations.

French restaurants provide great variety from simple cooking to the most prestigious kind (there are 3,420 French restaurants in the Michelin Guide).

Launch of our first service and ‘arts de la table’ competition

Chefs have become stars, pastry chefs have the status of fashion icons, sommeliers travel to festivals around the world. But what about service and the Maitre’D?

Competing in the first Arts de la Table competition

Competing in the first Arts de la Table competition

This week, Constance Hotels launched the first edition of the service and ‘arts de la table’ competition, setting the pace and the first stone of what will become a major event in years to come.

It’s a contest where passion, love for the job and refinement are key.

The 3 candidates had to impress – and they did - a very high profile jury:

  • Dominique Loiseau, President of Bernard Loiseau SA and Vice President of Relais & Châteaux
  • Enrico Bernardo, best sommelier of the World 2004
  • Denis Reichrath, CEO of Safran (a company specialized in top end supplies and material for restaurants
  • Marc Marivel, group HR director of CHE and former general manager of the hotel school of Mauritius

More to come when we find out who won later in the week…

Highlights from the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

It’s been a fantastic week in Mauritius so far, with the 7th edition of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau providing entertainment, drama, tension and excitement…

Official launch of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Official launch of the festival

The competition is in full swing today. As we wait to find out more, Bruno Le Gac brings us highlights from the last couple of days:

Our Chief Executive launches the festival

‘I declare the 7th edition of Festival Culinaire Bernard Loiseau open!’ Our CEO, Jean-Jacques Vallet opened officially the festival on Tuesday evening, in a ceremony oozing conviviality and happiness.

More than ever, the top management of Constance Hotels believes in culinary, is attached to the human values carried by the festival and wishes to develop this unique concept.

Music to the ears of the passionate team at Constance Hotels Experience.

Serge Vieira delights at La Spiaggia

Serge Vieira

Serge Vieira

Tonight, Wednesday, an exceptional dinner took place at La Spiaggia, the casual chic restaurant next to the villas at Belle Mare Plage. Festival 2011 winner and recently promoted 2 Michelin star chef, Serge Vieira (who is also Bocuse d’Or 2005) presented an amazing dinner full of flavours and freshness.

A unique occasion for our team of chefs to work next to one of the most brilliant representatives of the young French culinary scene.

Halaveli chef cooks up a feast at Le Prince Maurice

Another amazing dinner took place on Wednesday. New Zealander and Executive Chef at Halaveli, Glen Cooper, prepared a fabulous feast at L’Archipel, Le Prince Maurice. Fantastic oysters with caviar, delicious sweet potato soup, juicy, soft and extra tasty lamb shepherd’s pie, and of course Pavlova as a tasty and very elegant dessert…

The name of Constance Halaveli Resort, Maldives was on all the lips tonight…

Competition day at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

It’s Thursday and the big day has arrived at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau. Our island cooks go head-to-head as they create their fabulous dishes to impress the judges.

Fabrice Biasiolo and Ravish Mukri, Day 1 Trials

Fabrice Biasiolo and Ravish Mukri

The final countdown

Here, Christopher Barber shares his insights from yesterday as the mercury starts to rise in the kitchens.

The jury meet in the presidential villa of Constance Belle Mare Plage. There are new members this year so the final briefing is essential. The scoring system and judging criteria isn’t complicated but could be interpreted differently, so as a Jury we need to be at one.

As I write, the European chefs will have completed their final brief and the island chefs will be on their own. The tension will be high. I hope the Islanders can leave anxiety to their European partners, and that they can relax and do themselves justice.

The jury meets at 11.30. I will have a walk on the beach to clear my mind, and a very light breakfast – I have my eating to do today!

Patrick Bittner and Nuwan Hettiarachchi Day 1 Trials at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Patrick Bittner and Nuwan Hettiarachchi

Inside the world of our judges, European chefs and island cooks

We’ve published some interviews on our blog but there are lots more on our special website for the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau. Our judges, chefs and cooks reveal what drives them professionally, their favourite food, what creativity means to them and much much more.

The Jury – Christopher Barber, Enrico Bernardo, Patrick Bertron, Serge Vieira, Dominique Loiseau, Claus Meyer

The European Chefs – Fabrine Biasolo, Patrick Bittner, Jacques Decoret, Dominique Gauthier, Angela Hartnett, David Johansen

The Island Cooks - Ankur Daru, Kamlesh Doorjean, Nuwan Hiettiarachchi, Ravish Mukri, Jayram Seenanum, Hildy Sinon

More great photos from the festival on Facebook

Visit our Constance Facebook page to see more photos from the festival.

Don’t miss these great French culinary blogs

  • Chef Simon – for recipes, videos, commentary and more
  • Cuisine Addict – packed full of delicious recipes and foodie commentary