Two home-grown celebrity chefs dug deep to source their produce fresh from the farm in Abu Dhabi ahead of their appearance at Street Feast this week, which is being held in the Garden City of Al Ain as part of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Food Festival.
Mohammed Orfali and Houria Zanoun, chefs with Fatafeat, a free-to-air UAE-based food TV channel broadcasting to 21 Arabic countries, spent time carefully selecting a variety of vegetables at the farm in Al Rahba, just 30 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi.
The internationally-renowned chefs took a tour of the small farm, which employs seven people, before picking baby cucumbers, aubergines, red and white lettuce, and radish for their cooking pots.
Chef Mohammed, an expert in Syrian cuisine, said, "It's a really impressive set-up and great to be able to source excellent local produce right here in Abu Dhabi, just a short drive from the city. It's informative to talk to the farmer first-hand, see what he does and how he grows his crops and then take away the produce I need for my menus.
"There are many avenues to explore for local farmers and local chefs to collaborate and we need to develop these and improve our relationships." The chefs will be teaming up at Street Feast at Al Ain's Al Jahili Park on February 12th, 13th and 14th for the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, which is being organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
The event sees food trucks shipped from the UK joined by local traders from across the emirate to serve up gastronomic treats at affordable prices, with celebrity chefs demonstrating their skills in a series of master classes and cooking demonstrations. The following weekend, the convoy of food trucks heads to the West Plaza at Abu Dhabi Corniche to treat the capital's residents to its wide array of international cuisine.
"Smelling the lemon trees at the farm and seeing the vegetables growing is really enjoyable for a chef. Our dishes begin here - with the ingredients - and I am sure many people are not aware of the range and quality of vegetables and fruit that are grown right here in Abu Dhabi. With the right produce we can then create wonderful dishes," said chef Houria.
The farm, one of over 24,000 farms across the emirate, is supported by Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre which helps farmers with educational and extension services via a network of 39 offices, with the aim of developing a sustainable agricultural industry.
"We are educating farmers on the importance of supplying the market with high quality, fresh and tasty produce. Today, 83 percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in Abu Dhabi are now classified as ‘grade A', said Nasser Al Junaibi, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre.
"Abu Dhabi Farmers' Services Centre has also opened up new marketing channels for local farmers including our own retail brand, Local Harvest, meaning that the people of Abu Dhabi have the opportunity to taste local vegetables within 24 hours of being harvested, assuring freshness and locking in vital nutrients." Abu Dhabi Food Festival, which includes Emirati Kitchen, Street Feast and Gourmet Abu Dhabi, runs until February 21st.