Dubai bans cooking with alcohol

Food establishments in Dubai are ordered to stop the sale of any dishes containing alcohol.

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DUBAI // Chefs yesterday said au revoir to coq au vin, arrivederci to tiramisu and bye-bye to steak-and-ale pie. No longer will alcohol be an ingredient in dishes served in Dubai's restaurants even in hotels after a determined push by inspectors.

The municipality said yesterday it had sent a circular to all food establishments in Dubai last week ordering them to stop the sale of any dishes containing alcohol. Managers at restaurants and hotels said yesterday they were dismayed by the order, which enforces a widely flouted 2003 law, saying it could damage business. "There have been a lot of violations, with hotels often hiding content of alcohol in food from customers," said Ahmed al Ali, the head of food inspections at the municipality.

"This is a Muslim society and visitors to our hotels are our guests. It is important to ensure they are informed about everything." Outlets found to be in violation of the ban face fines of between Dh5,000 (US$1,360) and Dh20,000, although an initial grace period will be allowed. The circular was partially the result of complaints from customers, Mr al Ali said. Hotels and restaurants must remove the offending items from their menus even if their alcohol content is clearly displayed.

"Serving alcohol in hotels is different and that can be done by getting a permit," he said. "However, alcohol in food is not permitted." Some chefs said enforcement of the ban would hurt their menus and argued that in most dishes the alcohol disappears during cooking. Yann Chevris, general manager of Nozomi, a Japanese restaurant at the Al Habtoor Grand hotel, said that certain delicacies would no longer taste the same.

"If implemented this is going to affect the food industry. In fact, it will change the taste of food in Dubai's hotels," Mr Chevris said. "At a certain level of cooking it is impossible to get the same taste with such restrictions. "In Japanese food, a lot of sushi is with alcohol, and so is teriyaki." Uwe Micheel, president of the the Emirates Culinary Guild, said: "This is not the final decision. A lot of the chefs have spoken to the municipality and we are hoping to hear from them on Tuesday. We believe that a new circular is expected, which will be less severe."

However, the Dubai Municipality said the law had taken effect and would be enforced. Some hotels have already begun to remove from their menus dishes containing traces of alcohol. Colin Clague, executive chef at Zuma, a Japanese restaurant in Dubai International Financial Centre, said he took alcohol off his menu last year when DIFC advised him to do so. "Most of my dishes can be done without alcohol. I have tried teriyaki without alcohol but it cannot be done.

"If the municipality wants me to take it off the menu, I have no other choice," he said. Other restaurants would have a harder time changing their menus, he said. Alcohol is a key part of many European dishes. It evaporates at 79°C - a lower temperature than water, which evaporates at 100°C - but some usually remains in dishes after cooking. How much depends on a range of factors, such as whether the dish was baked or flamed, for instance, and how long the heat was applied.

The circular also states that outlets serving alcoholic drinks must keep these separate from food products during storage, preparation and display. * With additional reporting by Eugene Harnan