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Luxembourg's master chef Kim Kevin De Dood has worked in some of the world's most prestigious restaurants but he has a secret – his favourite food remains his mother's quiche Lorraine.
The culinary supremo, who will be overseeing a team of 35 at the Luxembourg Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, had no hesitation in naming his mother's dish as the best he has tasted.
Now he is aiming to share the cuisine of his homeland with the world and is relishing the chance to demonstrate his skills on the big stage.
"I have gravy in my veins after getting my first real taste of cooking after helping at a restaurant at the age of 13," he said.
"My favourite food is still my mum's quiche Lorraine though and my guilty pleasure is still chocolate."
Reaching for the Michelin stars
Mr De Dood then graduated in hotel and restaurant management at the renowned Lycee Hotelier Alexis Heck in Diekirch, Luxembourg, after an internship at l’Arnsbourg, a restaurant in France with no less than three Michelin stars.
He plied his trade in Michelin-starred restaurants in England, Belgium and Germany before landing in Singapore in 2013 where as head chef he played a crucial role in helping the Saint Pierre restaurant achieve the status of two Michelin stars.
Mr De Dood said he plans to serve up a menu reflecting his home nation's multiculturalism at the Schengen Lounge restaurant, throughout the six-month duration of the expo which begins in Dubai on October 1.
The chef, who has worked in an array of the world's finest kitchens spoke to The National from the emirate’s Madinat Jumeirah where the final touches were being made to the menu.
Luxembourg a multicultural melting pot
“We want the menu to show just how much of a multicultural society Luxembourg is,” Mr De Dood said.
“We have a small population but because we are surrounded by so many other countries we have become multicultural.
“My ultimate goal is to show what Luxembourg has to offer from a food and beverage point of view. I want to give people a great experience that will make them want to visit the country in the future.”
He will be working with a team that consists of catering staff from the Jumeirah Group in Dubai, as well as students from the Culinary School of Luxembourg.
The accomplished chef with be serving up food along with his team at the 2,100 sq-metre Luxembourg Pavilion, which has a circular design to symbolise the circular economy, openness and dynamism.
The pavilion’s theme is “Resourceful Luxembourg”, which reflects how the country has been able to reinvent itself from an agricultural land to one driven by industry to its current focus on research, digital technology and the space industry.
Road to Dubai offered food for thought
While Mr De Dood is confident of delivering an experience worthy of his status as a world-class chef, the path to Expo 2020 Dubai has not been without challenges for him and his team.
“One of the main challenges was finding the produce we are used to using,” he said.
“Halal restrictions meant we couldn’t use everything we normally would as there are different restrictions on importing certain types of food.”
One of the ways the team got around those challenges was changing the ingredients to suit local tastes.
Kniddelen is a famous dish from Luxembourg, similar to gnocchi, that is served traditionally with bacon and cream.
“We need the dishes to be as halal as possible, while still retaining its identity and classic feel,” he said.
“I replaced the bacon and cream with smoked duck and duck jus to give it a modern twist.”
There will be room for up to 80 guests at the restaurant at the Luxembourg Pavilion when it opens, with 40 inside and another 40 on the terrace.
“How many times in your life do you get the chance to represent your country?” Mr De Dood said.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone and we are all looking forward to it so much.”
Another aspect of the Luxembourg Pavilion restaurant will be the opportunities for the nation’s catering students.
“We are going to have 31 students coming over in three groups, each one working on the pavilion for two months,” he said.
“Some of the students will be helping in the kitchen while others will be working in service.
“One of the advantages of the event being postponed from last year is that it has given me and the students an extra 12 months to work on the menu.”