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  • Choose Life - Food

Chef Chat: Mohammed Khelfi

Pastry chef at The Hamptons Cafe in Arabian Ranches, Mohammed Khelif, shares his love for creating delicate, delicious desserts and the importance of using fresh, local ingredients

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Sat in the centre of Arabian Ranches, The Hamptons Cafe brings a piece of Long Island charm to the heart of Dubai, along with unique style, warming atmosphere and friendly service. Having first opened its doors on Jumeirah Beach Road in 2014, the Emirati-owned and founded concept has since expanded to include a branch in Jumeirah Islands and Arabian Ranches. Themed around the picturesque Hamptons in New York, the interiors instantly transport you to a chic beach house in East Hampton whilst the food is comforting and delicious. We recently caught up with Mohammed Khelfi, Pastry Chef at Hamptons to find out more about is inspiration in the kitchen and top tips for at home cooking!

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Algeria.

Did you eat your veggies? Yes, I grew up with a family who taught me the nutritional value of eating healthily. It’s important as a chef to use this information in dishes.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

It was 1999, I remember just loving everything about cooking and creating something from scratch.

What is your favourite food memory?

I have a serious passion for food. I can’t pick just one, but I think perhaps just sitting round the table with family enjoying home cooked food and making memories that will stay with me forever.

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Where were you trained, and how difficult was your training?

In Algeria and I was trained by the chef who makes cakes for the president of Algeria. I used to hold master classes in the kitchen in Algeria, so I’d say I was very lucky with my training. It’s always easier training when you’re doing something you absolutely love.

How do you get your inspiration?

Everything inspires me on a daily basis, I get inspiration from things in life that I see. I like to work with fresh ingredients that I select from top grade suppliers. I also read a lot about food trends and create dishes that are based on that.

Favourite kitchen equipment or gadget?

I think the knife is the most practical so therefore my favourite, it is something I use every day and I definitely couldn’t do my job without it!

Best piece of advice you would give a home enthusiast?

Concentrate, focus, work hard and love what you do.

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Best cooking tip for a novice just getting into the business?

Clean up as you go – it saves time and is also the most hygienic way to work!

What’s the most popular dish at The Hamptons and what’s your spin on it?

Macaroons! You get them free with every tea/coffee and people come in just for that! There are nine different flavours and we also personalize them for events. Our breakfasts are also super popular, the way they are presented makes them perfect for the Instagram picture!

What products should we be buying in the UAE to best make fresh, wholesome meals?

The most important thing for me is that everything is fresh, healthy and locally sourced. I am particularly fussy about ingredients.

Five ‘must-have’ items in your basket…

It has to be olive oil, garlic, seasoning, dark chocolate and a good quality flour.

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Funniest kitchen incident? We once had a delivery of potatoes and one looked like Donald Trump! It was actually scary how much it looked like him. We kept him sitting watching over us for weeks!

Who in the food world do you most admire?

Pierre Herme – he is a French pastry chef and chocolatier. I am such a fan of his work. It’s so detailed and intricate which is how I work with the food at The Hamptons. Every little touch makes such a difference.

Favourite foods to cook with?

Good quality ingredients. It is so important to source the best ingredients for your dishes. Fresh locally sourced good quality ingredients is super important.

What do you think is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

Cilantro – it’s one of those ones people either love or hate.

What do you like to eat when you’re at home?

Pasta, something filling and easy. I love comfort food!

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Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Cilantro! It’s honestly makes such a difference to dishes and when you don’t like it, you can really taste it, even when it’s just a little!

Favourite cookbooks?

A cookbook called Nopi. It’s from acclaimed London restaurant Nopi and I find it really interesting to learn how the brand works from the

head chef.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Opening more Hamptons brands in Dubai. Expanding on my knowledge with pastries and learning new skills. I love the idea of the brand growing and we have some interesting concepts coming soon!

What is going to be the next big thing in the food world?

Plant based diets are already popular, but I think it’s going to become more popular in 2020. People are a lot more aware of what they’re eating.

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What do you do for fun?

Netflix and chill! I love nothing more than switching off and being at home.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Home is where the heart is for me! Family time in my home country.

What do you most love about your job?

There’s a real community feel here. The team are like family. I also love nothing more than seeing families coming in and sitting together over a meal. Watching them talking about their days and laughing. There’s no better feeling!

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If you had just one wish, what would it be?

I’d love for people to actually enjoy the food and not just come through the door to sit on their phones and take a pic for Instagram! It’s so refreshing to see people talking. So I wish people took more time out of their lives to put their phones away for family time!

What would be your ‘Last Supper’ meal? Your ‘Death Row’ meal, as Anthony Bourdain puts it?

I am obsessed with mashed potato! It’s such comfort food.