What chef Vineet Bhatia's serving at Expo's UK national day during Prince William's visit

The Michelin-lauded Indian chef is creating a feast fit for a future king at the UK Pavilion

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Ahead of the UK's country day celebrations at Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday, celebrity chef Vineet Bhatia is whipping up quite the storm.

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Bhatia has been nominated as the culinary ambassador of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland campaign to raise the UK's profile on the world stage.

On Tuesday, he gave seven competition winners from Gems Schools in Dubai a behind-the-scenes look at his preparations for the UK's country day reception, which Prince William is expected to attend. It will celebrate the start of the Commonwealth Games Queen Baton Relay at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The three-course lunch will be served to dignitaries and special guests.

Chef Vineet Bhatia hosts a plating class with students from Gems Schools. Antonie Robertson / The National

The students – aged 15 to 17 – were taken on a guided tour of the UK Pavilion and shown dishes that will be served during the reception.

They include: smoked salmon shaped into a crown over a bed of roasted butternut squash with beetroot and ginger drops; gol gappas with chicken and mango covered in truffle; Welsh lamb with herb potatoes and cumin spinach; and poached pear with orange marmalade, ice cream and crumble.

The canapes – which the students got to taste – were equally delicious and included mashed potato and Welsh lamb in filo pastry, salmon with green pea mash and a touch of gold, and bite-sized scones with a hint of cardamom and a generous dollop of jam and cream.

Prince William has arrived in the UAE to celebrate the UK’s country day at Expo 2020 Dubai on February 10. AP

Moulding young minds

For Bhatia, the initiative is all about inspiring the next generation.

“I think of this as an extra activity for them [the next generation of culinary masterminds]. Not everyone has to become chefs, but it should be seen as an artistic thing – perhaps similar to learning to play the guitar,” he said.

He sees the rise of baking in 2020 as proof that more students are interested in learning.

“When everyone was stuck at home, what did they want to do? Bake banana bread. Everyone wanted to learn to cook. At that time, I was based in Dubai, and we wanted to do something for the children.”

Five winners were selected from about 140 entries in a baking competition across Gems Schools in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Speaking about the competition, he said: “We have some truly unique entries, from chocolate and avocado to small muffins with garnishing. It’s all about how artistic you can get.”

On becoming culinary ambassador for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland campaign

As an Indian-origin chef, Bhatia’s appointment as the culinary ambassador for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland campaign may seem strange. But when you consider the UK has chicken tikka masala as its national dish, it soon makes sense.

From opening a small restaurant on Old Brompton Road in London to restaurants in Harrods, Bhatia has proved he’s worth his salt.

“As a chef, I believe you wear many hats. For an event like this, you have to take a spin on classic British dishes and add a bit of spice to it. Being of Indian origin, those spices and flavours come to us naturally,” he said.

“Meanwhile, in the UK, the produce you get is of a very high quality – so much so that you don’t need to do much in terms of cooking it.

“With the best quality produce from UK and spices from India, you can’t go wrong.”

Updated: February 10, 2022, 12:35 PM
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