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…

Keep up-to-date with all the action from the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

 

Finally, it’s cooking time… Day 2 at Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Bringing daily highlights from the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau in Mauritius, Peter Bojesen, luxury travel and food journalist, is at the heart of the action at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

In the kitchen - Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014

In the kitchen – Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014

After 24 hours of intense talks, the six teams taking part in the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau finally found themselves in front of the pianos in the kitchen of Constance Belle Mare Plage early Tuesday morning, 1 April 2014.

British star chef, Tim Allen has been raring to start cooking since he arrived in Mauritius, and I have the distinct feeling that the others have felt the same way, including the Island chefs. Cooking is their passion, and cooking is the reason why they all find themselves in this beautiful, sun drenched country in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Today is the day, when the strategies of yesterday laid out by each team shall be tested, implemented and tasted.

‘Are we on the right track? Do the two dishes live up to the credo of Bernard Losieau: “The taste, gentlemen, the taste”?

‘Is the recipe too complicated for the island chef to make all by himself on the final day? Can he/she create eight identical starters and 8 identical main dishes within the four hour time frame? Have all the compulsory items been properly used in the menu?’

These questions and many others have to be answered by no later than Wednesday afternoon.

Swedish chef Jacob Holmstrom tells me that he has had some rather heated discussions with his partner Sandy Sokalindum, who normally works at the luxurious Constance Lémuria in the Seychelles. Jacob likes to keep things simple (which is by no means easy to prepare – rather the contrary), while Sandy is used to a more elaborate cuisine.

And this is a perfect example of what the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau is all about – sharing ideas between professional chefs with different cultural backgrounds and traditions. Jacob feels that the exchange with Emmanuel is healthy and mentally challenging, and he is convinced that it can only lead to a better end result. He and Sandy obviously hope that the six jury members agree when they convene on Thursday afternoon, 3 April.

The atmosphere in the kitchen is slowly starting to change. From a very relaxed start in the morning to a more tense and nervous mood as the hours pass by. The game is heating up, the race towards the top of the podium is on. And time is running out…

Here’s a glimpse of the action from Day 1 at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau.

 

 

Chefs visit Port Louis market, Mauritius

The start of the week at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau marks the draw of the teams, followed by a trip to the market in the Mauritian capital of Port Louis, writes Peter Bojesen of website Luxury Aficionados.

Chefs visit Port Louis market

Chefs visit Port Louis market

Monday at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau is the day that defines the rest of the week. At 8am, we meet the European and Island chefs at the Blue Penny Restaurant at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

After a short breakfast, it’s time to draw teams to decide which European one-star chef is paired with which Constance Island chef for the forthcoming competition.

I watched the young Constance chefs introduce themselves to the Europeans, and I was fascinated by the immediate bonding. Each team quickly tried to find a quiet place in the crowded restaurant to share thoughts on how to approach the challenges ahead.

The discussions continued in the bus to the market in the capital, Port Louis. Once parked in a narrow street in the busy centre of the city, we found ourselves next to the covered produce market, packed with fruit, spices and vegetables of every imaginable size, colour and shape.

Many of the exotic products were new to the European chefs, so their newfound local partners had a lot of explaining to do. Each team had received 500 Mauritian rupees (approximately £10) to buy samples, which goes a long way on a market in Mauritius. I think all the six teams left the place with money left in their pockets – in spite of a bulging shopping basket.

Having followed several of the teams through all the stalls, there is no doubt in my mind that the European chefs learned a lot during the hour-long visit. I am also totally convinced that the chemistry between the two chefs in each of the six teams already seems to be working extremely well both on a professional as well as on a personal level.

Having talked to all the Island chefs, I realize how important this competition is to each of them. The possibility of working for a month in the kitchen of a European star restaurant is a dream they all share. And on Saturday, the dream will come true for one of them. So the tension is already starting to build, the excitement is growing – and they haven’t even started cooking yet. That happens on Tuesday when all the teams start working at their individual stations in a specially appointed corner in the kitchen at Constance Belle Mare Plage.

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Interview with Gert Puchtler, General Manager of Constance Belle Mare Plage

I met the General Manager of Constance Belle Mare Plage Hotel during the inaugural luncheon of the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau. Even though he has a very busy week ahead of him, the German born hotelier seems relaxed and pleased by the surroundings.

Constance Belle Mare Plage's General Manager, Gert Puchtler

Constance Belle Mare Plage’s General Manager, Gert Puchtler

Mr Puchtler tells me that the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau means a lot to the Constance Group. ‘We want to bring an international culinary spirit – not only to our hotels – but to Mauritius in general,’ he says with passion, ‘and it seems to be working. Also, it is nice to see that the event works both ways, as more and more European chefs put Mauritian spices and other specialities on their menus.’

‘It is also obvious that the week of the festival becomes an important feature for our guests – and I am very pleased by the fact that an increasing number of guests return to Belle Mare Plage to take part in the event,’ he continues.
But the competition is not only a matter of image building within the hotel industry and beyond. It is also very much a tool to motivate the employees of the Constance Group.

‘The island contestants are initially hand-picked by their peers, after which they have to pass a rather tough test, both oral and written. The competition is fierce, as everybody wants to have a chance to win a one-month apprenticeship at a European star restaurant. Several of the previous local winners today have important positions in the restaurants of our group of seven hotels,’ Mr. Puchtler happily adds.

We end our discussion by discussing if the Culinary Festival is good business for the Constance Group. ‘Absolutely not,’ he says with a smile. ‘The festival is not about money, but rather about sharing and building friendships across the borders in addition to motivating the staff. Luckily, we have many loyal sponsors to share the financial burden of the event and more are coming on board each year – so we must be doing something right,’ he adds at the very moment his youngest daughter turns up at our table asking him to join her sega dancing. I guess the interview is over…

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Constance Hotels supports Earth Hour 2014

In support of the global environmental movement, Earth Hour, we held a number of candle lit events in the Maldives and Seychelles.

Earth Hour at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Earth Hour at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

At Constance Halaveli guests celebrated the global solidarity of Earth Hour with a beach barbecue. We turned the lights off in staff areas, guest villas and along the jetty and guests enjoyed the occasion in atmospheric candlelight at Jahaz Bar , Restaurant  and the reception area.

At Constance Ephélia guests were invited to a ‘chilled wine dinner’ at fine dining restaurant Cyann. All dishes for the gastronomic 3 course dinner were prepared in advance and served chilled by candlelight.

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Read how Constance Hotels & Resorts is working to support the environment