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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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.

 

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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Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau 2014

The Culinary Festival Bernard Loiseau, held at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius, is a highlight of the international gastronomic calendar. Next year, the festival will celebrate its 9th year, taking place from 29 March to 6 April.

Bernard Loiseau Culinary Festival at Constance Hotels & Resorts

Bernard Loiseau Culinary Festival at Constance Hotels & Resorts

The festival pairs European Michelin-starred chefs with the best island cooks from across the Constance group in a week long competition.

The festival promotes an open sharing of ideas and culinary inspiration and techniques between the acclaimed chefs and their island counterparts.

Using only fresh local produce, sourced by the teams at the vibrant Mauritian market in Port Louis, each team must come up with an exciting, creative menu. This menu is then prepared by the island chefs on the final day and judged by a panel of leading culinary professionals.

The festival, a partnership between Constance Hotels & Resorts and the Relais Bernard Loiseau, was launched in 2006 to commemorate the chef Bernard Loiseau.

Guests at Belle Mare Plage and Le Prince Maurice during the festival can look forward to a week of sumptuous meals prepared by the visiting chefs, demonstrations and a celebratory awards dinner.

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