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Sudeshna Ghosh takes us on a gastronomic tour of Italy as the Italian Cuisine World Summit comes to Dubai

Dubai turned into little Italy for a couple of weeks last month, as the eighth edition of the Italian Cuisine World Summit took place from November 7-21, with dozens of Michelin starred Italian chefs making their presence felt, at various events across town.

The event has grown to become a credible showcase of Italian gastronomy, now enjoying the support of the Italian government, and also being a key part of the Specialty Food Festival.

Alongside all the trade talks and business banter; masterclasses and competitions, there was a party atmosphere pervading the whole festival. Nowhere more so than at the summit’s flagship event, the United Nat Marriott Marquis pool terrace – a glittering evening with 27 Michelin starred chefs showcasing their signature dishes. The likelihood of finding Giorgio Locatelli casually ambling past, or catching Heinz Beck taking a selfie with guests, was just as high as being personally served specialty dishes by non Italian chefs such as Vineet Bhatia, and Dubai stars like Reif bin Othman, Colin Clague, and Amrish Sood in this true melting pot of an event. With spectacular live entertainment, and an on-site art gallery pop-up, this vibrant evening felt like a true celebration of and for the chefs, who seemed to be having the most fun!

Another gastronomical export of Italy is of course, its grape beverages, and they may well be one of the country’s best-kept secrets. These secrets were, however, uncovered in a special dinner, Best kept secrets of Italian wines, hosted by Dubai-based Italian sommelier Luca Gagliardi, and Heinz Beck, at his signature Social by Heinz Beck restaurant. As several sommeliers took turns to introduce guests to various grapes from different regions of Italy, chef Beck himself manned the kitchen to serve up a gourmet four-course feast.

Several other events, and bespoke dinners, took place at restaurants across the city with various guest chefs taking up residency. The summit culminated in a family-friendly market style weekend event at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina where Michelin star chefs served up street food from food trucks, and went beyond the borders of Dubai to host the Italian Ambassador Dinner to mark the commencement of the global initiative by the Italian government, ‘Italian Taste Week’, at Bice Abu Dhabi as the closing event.

The singular message that seemed to come through in this year’s summit was that of real, regional Italian cuisine, and its varied characteristics, as chefs from all over the country did their bit to highlight the specialties of where they come from. As one guest described it, it would be a much bigger challenge for anyone to travel across Italy to try all the various regional cuisines and dishes, than it is to come to one place, Dubai, and get to sample it all in a curated fashion.

From the world’s best pizza and espresso, to unique Italian culinary secrets, it was all here, helping to not only cement the importance of Italy as a purveyor of fine foods, but also Dubai’s position as a world food capital.

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Chef Talk

Here’s what the stars had to say about the event:

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Annie Feolde, from the three Michelin starred Enoteca Pinchiorri, and newly opened Dubai restaurant The Artisan:

“Events like this really help Italian cuisine, as we don’t communicate about our cuisine well enough – this is the difference between French gastronomy (and government) and Italian. Everyone thinks Italian food is pizza and pasta, but there is so much more, so it is important for us to be able to share that.” 

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Heinz Beck, internationally renowned celebrity chef and holder of multiple Michelin stars:

“Everybody thinks they know Italian cuisine, but that isn’t true, there is so much more to it, and there are so many things that people think that is Italian but it actually isn’t so. That is why events like this are great, because the masters of Italian food are cooking. There is nothing better than this sort of an occasion to experience real Italian food and way of life.”

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Tomaso Arrigoni, Head chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant Innocenti Evasioni, in Milan, and TV chef:

“I travel a lot for events such as this, and it is very interesting, because it helps us to meet people, interact with other chefs, and learn about new trends in cuisine. It also helps us to understand new products, and new ways of working, so I think for chefs like me, it’s really important.”

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