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.

 

 

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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Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau gets underway in Mauritius

Journalist Peter Bojesen reports from the 9th Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau in Mauritius.

Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau - ingredients

Wonderful colours and ingredients

To me, a seasoned travel journalist who covers food events in many countries, the highlight of the year is the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau held at the luxurious Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius.

I have just returned to the hotel after a splendid lunch, which marked the official opening of the 9th edition of the event. Six days lie ahead, filled with international bonding and sharing between six Michelin star chefs from six countries and six ‘island chefs’ from Constance Hotels.

Today’s lunch was held at Le Chassé, a charming hunting lodge, next to one of Constance’s two championship golf courses, The Links. Some 100 people took part, where the chefs had the opportunity to taste the Mauritian cuisine, and meet the sponsors, the organisers and their fellow competitors.

I am greatly impressed by the super ambiance that already exists between the six foreign chefs. In spite of being competitors, I hear a lot of laughter and see plenty of smiles. Around the lunch table I listened to the chefs talking about their passion of cooking, sharing ideas, comparing techniques, discussing new trends.

We sampled sea urchins, oysters, palm heart salad, different kinds of curry, fried prawns, Chinese style dumplings – even a sorbet in the colours of the Mauritian flag!

After all that I should be heading to the gym but a sun bed under a palm tree on the beach sounds much more inviting. It’s a question of character, I guess.

On Monday, there is a draw to decide on the teams. Then everyone sets off for the market in the capital Port Louis. I look forward to joining them – and to following their hard work during the coming days.

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Find out more about the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau.

 

Culinary Festival fever mounts in Mauritius

As excitement continues to build for this year’s Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau we introduce the chefs and journalists who will bring the event to life over the next few days.

Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

Reporting on the event and bringing us all the up-to-the-minute drama from the various teams will be festival co-founder, Constance’s Bruno Le Gac, and international luxury lifestyle journalist Peter Bojesen from Luxury Aficionados.

Bruno says: ‘It started with an idea to honour the legacy of the great chef Bernard Loiseau, and propose something that he would be proud of,’ Bruno explained.

‘When we first had the idea, we didn’t know what or how we would do it… but we knew that we wanted to create something true, sincere, with spirit, not just a business event, but a festival with a soul.’

Now in its 9th year the festival has gone from strength to strength, each year bringing together some of the world’s top chefs to share expertise, passion and guidance with the best of Constance’s own chefs.

Michelin-star chefs taking part:

Masters at work

Masters at work

These prestigious European chefs will be teamed with the very best of our island chefs to create six separate teams who will compete in a week-long culinary challenge.

Other highlights include:

  • The 6 stars dinner
  • The Culinary Festival cocktail competition
  • A wine competition
  • An art of the table competition.

Book a last minute break to Mauritius

There is plenty for guests to enjoy throughout the Festival with special festival dinners being hosted at both Constance Belle Mare Plage and Constance Le Prince Maurice – see our Passion for Gastronomy Offer.

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Top 3 markets in Mauritius

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in local Mauritian life than to visit one of the island’s bustling market places.

Markets in Mauritius: Port Louis Market

Markets in Mauritius: Port Louis Market

Here’s our guide to three of the best.

Port Louis Market

This vibrant daily market at the heart of the Mauritian capital gives a fascinating insight into the life of the city and its people. Stalls selling freshly picked fruits and vegetables sit alongside stalls of fragrant herbs and spices. There’s a meat and fish section where sellers fillet and slice before your eyes. For souvenirs there are stalls selling local traditional crafts, as well as t-shirts and other mementos. Make sure you save time at the end to visit the food hall and sample some authentic (and delicious) Mauritian street food.

Flacq Market

Set in the village of Flacq, close to Belle Mare, Flacq Market is the largest open-air market in Mauritius. Catering for locals and tourists who are looking for something authentic, you’ll find beautifully fresh produce from across the island, giving the market its unique Mauritian charm.

Rose Hill Market

Rose Hill is the second largest town on Mauritius and is a treat for shoppers with its shopping arcades, boutiques and food stalls. The market here is more of a bazaar, selling everything from fruit and vegetables to arts and crafts and electronics.

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Rising stars head to Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014

The rising culinary stars of Constance Hotels and Resorts have been battling it out in kitchens across the Indian Ocean in order to make it to the prestigious Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau.

Will you be seeing dishes like this at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau?

Will you be seeing dishes like this at the Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau?

The festival, held at Constance Belle Mare Plage from 31 March to 7 April, gives the island chefs the opportunity to cook alongside some of the leading Michelin-starred chefs of the world.

Competition has been fierce as young, inspired chefs seize the opportunity to compete for a chance to represent their hotel or resort in a festival which celebrates culinary passion, and inspires innovation and the sharing of expertise.

The road to Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau

To qualify the chefs have gone through several rounds of internal competitions with only the winner moving on to the next stage.

Challenges have included a written stage where the chef must describe why they want to be entered into the competition and practical stages including creating dishes following a recipe from classic French cuisine and creating their own dishes from a mystery box of ingredients under timed conditions.

The chefs who have made it through have proved not only their culinary skills but their passion and dedication to creating innovative and inspiring food.

The chefs

The island chefs who have made it through to the final in Mauritius are:

Sasha Dinnoo – Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius

Traditional Indian Ocean flavours with a contemporary twist

Traditional Indian Ocean flavours with a contemporary twist

Sasha started as a trainee at Le Prince Maurice and has worked her way up through the kitchen. She qualified for the final stage of the competition last year and loved the experience so much she’s come back for more, although this year she’s more determined than ever to win.

Emmanuel Fortuno – Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius

Emmanuel loves cooking and is constantly striving for perfection, slowly and methodically improving his skills. It is this dedication and hard work which has taken him through the qualifying stages of this competition and into the Culinary Festival.

Sandy Sokalingum – Constance Lémuria, Seychelles

Mauritian born Sandy doesn’t let being a new father distract him from his passion for cooking or his determination to get to the final. Currently a chef de Partie at The Sea Horse, he describes himself as ‘in love’ with cooking.

Dammika Sarath – Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Used to working under pressure, Dammika brings a sense of serene and calm to the kitchen when he works. He loves everything to do with food and is proud to be part of the prestigious Festival.

Dinushan Patabadage – Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Always keen to learn new dishes and try new techniques, Dinushan is a very creative chef and is excited by the learning experience offered by competing in the Culinary Festival. Both passionate and ambitious, he is keen to put everything he has into the event.

Yogessen Ramen – Constance Ephélia, Seychelles

A chef at Ephélia, Yogessen is passionate about food and keen to add to his expanding skillset with techniques and advice acquired from the Michelin-starred chef he is paired with.

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