Interview with Swedish chef Jacob Holmström

Jacob Holmström, the 32-year old Swedish chef was born and raised in a family of restaurant owners. Jacob is the owner of restaurant Gastrologik, which opened in Stockholm in June 2011 and got his first Michelin star two years later.

Jacob Holmstrom with teammate Sandy Sokalingum, of Constance Lémuria Seychelles

Jacob Holmstrom with teammate Sandy Sokalingum, of Constance Lémuria Seychelles

At the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau prize-giving ceremony in Mauritius this weekend, Jacob and his partner chef Sandy Sokalingdum, who presently works as chef de partie at Constance Lémuria in the Seychelles, finally learned that they had reached the second highest step on the winner’s podium.

‘Of course it is a little disappointing finishing second in the competition,’ Jacob tells me, ‘and saying that, I especially think of Sandy, who is a very talented chef, who ends up so close to the coveted prize of a stay in an European gourmet restaurant – and yet so far. But he is young, and I hope that he will be back next year. But saying that, I also must congratulate Masachi Ijichi and Dammika Sarath with their well-deserved win, which is even more impressive when you know that they had to work through an interpreter,’ Jacob says with a smile.

The past week has been a fabulous experience for Jacob – not only professionally, but also socially. ‘Among the many positive experiences of the Festival is meeting five very nice colleagues. And in spite of the fact that all of us have fought hard to win, I now leave Mauritius with five new friends from five European countries. The actual competition is unique in its format, and I have really enjoyed every minute of my stay, both inside the kitchens of Constance Belle Mare Plage as well as outside.

The location of the event is absolutely spectacular, the weather has been perfect, and the organisation of the competition flawless. In addition to having established new friendships, I also leave the resort with newfound taste buds and some new spices and vegetables, which I may well introduce in my own restaurant,’ the easygoing young Swede happily tells me.

I ask Jacob about his style of cooking. ‘In short it is simple, clean and focused on the produce,’ he says. ‘ I especially love cooking fish and shellfish, and in Gastrolologik we only use produce from Sweden – except seafood, which we get from the crystal clear waters of the Norwegian fjords. I find inspiration everywhere as most chefs. But the most important source is definitely the produce itself. And my 10 days of cooking and meeting new people here in Mauritius have definitely been inspiring in more ways than one.’

Interview by Peter Bojesen of Luxury Aficionados.

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Who will win the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014?

Yesterday’s finals in the 9th edition of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau did not by any means signify the end of this extraordinary and unique event at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

Gastrologik's Jacob Holmstrom advises teammate Sandy Sokalingum

Gastrologik’s Jacob Holmstrom advises teammate Sandy Sokalingum

Lots of things are still happening, and the result of the competition is still a well-guarded secret. Everybody – except for the jury members, who deliberated yesterday afternoon – have to wait until Saturday evening to know the names of the winning team.

The 12 chefs involved in the competition haven’t had a lot of time to spend on the beautiful beach at Constance Belle Mare Plage or golfing on Constance’s two championship courses. The chefs are still in the kitchen cooking – preparing tonight’s Six Star Dinner at the Deer Hunter restaurant. This lavish event, where each Michelin star chef prepares one course, is offered to journalists and special invited guests and represents one of the gastronomical highlights of this incredible week of culinary cooking.

Yesterday’s finals are still on everybody’s minds, however, and speculations on the winning team are heard everywhere throughout the resort. Everyone seems to have turned into an experienced food critic overnight. At lunch at the pool side restaurant Indigo, our friendly waiter tells us that he believes that the British chef Tim Allen and his Mauritian partner Yogessen Ramen will win, but the sommelier disagrees: ‘I think that the team of Nicolas Masse from France and Sasha Dinnoo had the most beautiful dishes of the all,’ he says, adding that Jens Rittmeyer from Germany and his Sri Lankan team mate Dinushan Patabadage stand an outside chance to end on top of the podium Saturday evening.

I’m keeping my thoughts to myself for now. At any rate, except for the members of the jury, none of us has tasted the dishes – only seen them as presented yesterday afternoon. And as taste counts double in the four criteria used by the jury (looks, smell, colour…, creativity & originality…, proper use of imposed products…, taste) anybody’s guess is as good as mine.

With some free time on my hands, I played a round of golf at the Links course this morning, situated 10 minutes from the hotel by shuttle bus. The course was in great shape and turned out to be much more forgiving than the other Constance course, the Legend, which has water everywhere and is much tighter than the Links.

Article by Peter Bojesen of Luxury Aficionados.

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These guys are good… Cook off day at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Thursday 3 April – it’s the BIG day for the six Island chefs taking part in the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

Constance Lémuria's Sandy Sokalingum with Gastrologik's, Jacob Holmstrom

Constance Lémuria’s Sandy Sokalingum with Gastrologik’s, Jacob Holmstrom

Luxury Aficionados journalist Peter Bojesen reports on the action from Mauritius.

Today is the day when the result of three days of intensive preparations will be put to the test. Preparations have been made in close cooperation with their Michelin-star European partner chefs – but today the Constance Island chefs are on their own, except for a commis-chef giving a helping hand. Each chef has four hours to prepare eight identical starters and main course to be judged by the jury.

8:30am: The Island chefs enter the kitchen after having a last, encouraging pep-talk with their European mentors at the Blue Penny Café The young local chefs seem tense and their smiles are somewhat strained. The next four hours may be crucial for their careers, and the importance of the situation weighs heavily on their shoulders. Mauritian chef Sandy Sokalingum, who will return to the Seychelles on Sunday where he works as chef de partie at the Seahorse restaurant at Constance Lémuria, leaves the Blue Penny with the words: ‘I feel well prepared to meet the challenge – but I must admit that I didn’t sleep much last night…’

12:30pm: The six members of the jury have taken their assigned seats in the Blue Penny Café. Members of the press and many hotel guests have arrived in the restaurant together with the six star chefs. Now these guys look nervous – having spent the previous hours speculating on how their Island partner is doing. We all (except the jury) gather in a miniscule ante-room close to the kitchen, where the action by the chefs can be followed on a TV monitor. In a few minutes the first of the starters will appear on its way to the jury.

Taste test: Judges Juan Amador Perez & Mrs Dominique Loiseau

Taste test: Judges Juan Amador Perez & Mrs Dominique Loiseau

A warning is called out, and six plates pass in a rush in front of our eyes. It is Sandy’s creation and his Swedish partner, Jacob Holmstrom looks rather pleased: ‘It looks close enough to what we wanted to achieve,’ he says before tasting the starter prepared for him. ‘The same goes for the taste – not 100% perfect, but close enough.’

Ten minutes later the next starter arrives. It is the work of Yogessen Ramen – the local partner of British chef Tim Allen, who also has a smile on his face. On so it continues. Every 10 minutes a new creation passes by, made by the partners of the Swiss, Japanese, German and French chefs respectively. First the starters – then the procedure is repeated with the main course, which has Berberie duckling as the main ingredient.

Every dish is welcomed by loud cheering and applause by all the people in the room. The noise and the heat seem to increase as the hours pass, which most likely is due to the endless flow of Deutz champagne. Tim Allen, star chef of the Launceston Place Restaurant in London sums it up: ‘There has been a fantastic ambiance since the beginning of the Festival, but today beats everything I have experienced. Great to see how all the chefs applaud each other’s creations in spite of us being competitors. I really think that lasting friendships have been made during the past few days, and that may very well be more important than winning.’

I am sure that Tim’s words sound like sweet music in the ears of the organisers.

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Mixologists from Constance praised as the best in Mauritius

Mixologists from Constance Hotels and Resorts set to work to impress the judges in the Chamarel Bar cocktail competiton at this year’s Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau.

Mixologists: Ashvin, Jimmy & Alexandre

Mixologists: Ashvin, Jimmy & Alexandre

The jury, composed of two members of Jack Daniels, commented on how gifted and surprising the three competitors were,  and stated that: ‘the overall level here in Constance Hotels and Resorts is higher than in the rest of Mauritius, the only thing they lack being self-confidence’. Another great night spent with Chamarel Rhums, for both the competitors and our guests.

Here are the cocktail recipes – let us know if you try them at home.

1st candidate : Jimmy and his Letchi Frizzes cocktail

  • Chamarel Premium white Rhum 4cl
  • Blackberry liquor 2cl
  • Mashed letchis 6cl
  • 3 pieces of ginger
  • 1 quarter of grapefruit
  • Sugar cane syrup 1 cl
  • Champagne for the finish
Sampling the flavour: The judge reviews each cocktail

Sampling the flavour: The judge reviews each cocktail

2nd candidate : Ashvin and his Chamarel Toasted Treacle cocktail

  • Chamarel Rhum V.S.O.P 6cl
  • A spoonful of brown sugar
  • Dash Angostura bitter 1cl
  • Fresh apple juice 2cl
  • Cointreau 2cl (flambée)
  • 2  orange peels

3rd candidate : Alexandre and his Candy Martini cocktail

  • 4 y .o Chamarel Farming Rhum V.S.O.P 4cl
  • Orange liquor 2cl
  • Orange juice 3cl
  • Homemade cinnamon syrup
  • Fresh lemon juice 5cl
  • Coriander
  • Crushed ice
  • 1 orange zest
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cherry, 1 lemon slice and squash leaf for the finish

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The heat is on… Day 3 at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Wednesday 2 April – the final day to get everything ready before tomorrow’s finals at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014.

Peter Bojesen gives the day’s highlights from Mauritius.

Event chefs: Jacob Holmstrom & Masashi Ijichi

Event chefs: Jacob Holmstrom & Masashi Ijichi

A final without the star chefs present – only the Island chefs will be allowed in the kitchen at Constance Belle Mare Plage, each with an appointed commis chef at his side.

Today was the day when the finishing touches to the recipes are made, the dressing of the dishes approved, the recipes written.

I arrive in the kitchen in the morning and the tension is palpable at several of the stations. Some chefs seem to be more relaxed than others, however. One of those is Mirto Marchesi from Switzerland: ‘I’ve been very lucky with my Island partner, Emmanuel Fortuno, who normally works here at Constance Belle Mare Plage,’ he says. The two are sitting at a table with their starter dish in front of them, trying to compose a fitting name and to write the recipe required by the jury. The starter looks like a beautiful painting, where red, orange and green colours dominate. Hopefully, it tastes as good as it looks…

Chef Masachi Ijichi comes from Japan, and runs a one-star restaurant in the French city of Valence and speaks very little English. As his Island partner, Damika Sarath doesn’t speak French a translator is needed, but apparently it hasn’t affected the bonding between the two chefs. ‘Everything is going just fine,’ Masachi says with a big smile, ‘we have the same kind of philosophy regarding gourmet cooking, and I have learned quite a lot from my new friend, who normally works at Constance Halalevi in the Maldives.’

German chef Jens Rittmeyer also seems quite cool in spite of the heat in the kitchen. ‘I enjoy working with my partner Dinushan Patabadage who comes from Sri Lanka but works at Constance Moofushi in the Maldives. Our two dishes are well under way, and I am sure that Dinushan will perform well tomorrow,’ he says, while his partner is busy dressing the main course on a bone white Raynaud plate.

Leaving the kitchen, I enter the Blue Penny Café, which today hosts the Service and Arts de Table competition, which for several years has been a part of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau. Five tables have been beautifully laid, each occupied by two carefully chosen guests. Each table has been assigned a waiter, each of whom has won an internal competition in five of the hotels in the Constance group.

The guests are served a gourmet lunch by the five waiters in question under the watchful eye of three jury members, one of which being Mme. Dominique Loiseau. I watch several courses being expertly served, red and white wine properly presented and poured, coffee and tea offered. Everything seems to be perfectly in order, and I am quite sure that the jury will have a tough task deciding on the winner.

But just like the cooking- and sommelier competitions, we shall all have to be patient and wait until Saturday night to learn the names of the different winners of the ninth edition of the Bernard Loiseau Culinary competition.

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Champagne Deutz sponsors Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Interview with Fabrice Rosset

Fabrice Rosset of Champagne Deutz

Fabrice Rosset of Champagne Deutz

An event of the magnitude of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau could obviously not happen without the support of sponsors. Luckily, their number is steadily growing every year, and at this year’s edition more than 30 companies from Mauritius and elsewhere are taking part.

One of those involved since the very beginning nine years ago is Air Mauritius, which since 2006 has brought hundreds of contestants, jury members and journalists to the island in its fleet from as far as Shanghai, London and Paris.

Another important, main sponsor since day one is Champagne Deutz and its sister company Maison Delas Frères with its selection of wines from the Rhône valley.

Both companies are managed by Fabrice Rosset, and I have talked to him regarding his relationship with Constance Hotels & Resorts in general and the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau in particular.

‘As with many other things in life, it all started through a personal friendship with some of the Constance hotel managers, especially Christophe Plantier and Bruno le Gac.

‘I also knew Dominique Loiseau quite well, and when they approached me a decade ago with the idea to create a tribute to her husband Bernard, I immediately found it worth pursuing. I also found the unique concept of the festival extremely interesting, so even though I do not have a big budget for events like that, I said let’s do it! A decision I haven’t regretted for a second,’ he adds with a smile.

‘Sponsoring an event like this is obviously also a question of image,’ Fabrice Rosset continues,’ and the luxury hotels of the Constance group and its world-renowned level of superb service fit perfectly with the profile we want for our two companies, Champagne Deutz and Maison Delas Frères.

Apart from sponsoring another hotel chain on the same level of high quality as Constance, The Peninsula group, we do not invest in events in other hotels. An additional benefit of working with the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau is obviously the fact that it gives my wife, Marie-Jeanne a perfect excuse to visit all our Constance friends in Mauritius once a year.’

Before leaving with his wife for a round of golf at the next-door Legend championship course, Fabrice Rosset informs me that more than 300 bottles of Deutz champagne areconsumed during the six day event. I look forward to my share of these magnificent, golden bubbles…

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