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Standing in his chef whites in a small kitchen nestled within the Opportunity District at Expo 2020 Dubai, Kim Kevin De Dood is bringing the unique taste of Luxembourg to Dubai.
Despite the city playing host to cuisines from around the world, chef De Dood, 30, takes pride in being the first to introduce a taste of his home to the UAE.
A far cry from the hot-tempered chef most expect to see in a fine dining kitchen, the chef, who says “gravy is in his veins”, exudes total calm in a sea of plates and steaming pots.
“A good chef doesn’t need to shout, well, at least not a lot,” he said.
Food preparation begins at 10am sharp every day, with the first diners welcomed at noon and the last waved off at midnight.
Standing over the grill joking with his junior cooks, chef De Dood gives The National a masterclass in "Luxembourgish food with a twist".
“I hate the word fusion, but what I’m doing is Luxembourgish food with an international blend, so yes, it’s fusion I guess,” he said.
“I want people to take away that Luxembourg is a tiny country but there is so much to discover. It’s multicultural, multifaceted and has great food produce.
Proud culinary traditions
“I generally think, worldwide, our food does not get the credit it deserves but, as a people, we are so proud of our local dishes.”
So what is on the menu? chef De Dood curated more than 40 fine dining dishes exclusively for Expo.
Joined by 31 students from the Ecole D’hotellerie Et De Tourisme Du Luxembourg, an elite gastronomy school, he said they had a “heavy hand in choosing and perfecting the dishes” with him.
“I actually graduated from that school myself so to bring young students along with me here is an honour, it’s like it has come full circle for me, I started as a student and now I am a teacher,” he said.
“When the opportunity to work for Expo came up, it was an automatic yes for me.
“My mentor told me to send a sample menu for Expo, I asked when he needed it by and he said 'now’, so we came up with a skeleton menu within 20 minutes.
“Two years later, the names of the dishes haven’t changed but the core of the dishes have, I’m proud of what we have created.”
Here, chef De Dood has picked some of his favourites from his Expo menu that is available from noon to midnight at the Schengen Lounge at the Luxembourg Pavilion.
What's on the menu
Dish: Home-made kniddelen
What is it? Traditional dumplings with smoked duck breast, crispy skin, fresh herbs and light duck jus
The first dish to get a Dubai twist is the popular kniddelen, or Luxembourgish dumplings for the less food savvy among us.
Traditionally made with bacon and cream, Chef De Dood replaced the bacon with duck and the cream with a rich jus.
The home-made dumplings are a family favourite back home, he said, with many choosing it as the dish of choice on cold winter days.
“We wanted to showcase the dish with a difference, so we changed the bacon for duck and the cream for jus,” he said.
“The jus takes 72 hours to make so it’s deep and rich. It’s a total change on the traditional dish but I tested it out with friends and family in Luxembourg and they all gave it a thumbs up.”
Dish: Pan-seared river trout fillet
What is it? Trout with a ginger fish sauce, dill oil and fennel three ways
Yes, you read that right, fennel three ways. If you’re scratching your head as to how you can do so much with the humble fennel, let Chef De Dood help. For this dish, he has a caramelised version, confit version and a salad alternative.
He said this dish showcases "Luxembourg produce rather than a traditional dish", but he is sure it will become a firm favourite with diners.
“I wanted to bring fennel and dill together with ginger to give it an Asian twist,” he said.
“There are a lot of Asians that live and work in Luxembourg so this is a nod to them.”
Simple to make, the trout fillet is cooked skin down, meaning the fish cooks all the way through but stays juicy. The dill oil adds a pop of zing and the ginger sauce takes it from home dish to restaurant worthy.
Dish: Confit salmon
What is it? Salmon with a crispy potato terrine, spiced lettuce foam and raw cauliflower
Get your napkins ready as this is one to make you drool. While the salmon is the main component, the inventive accompaniments deserve their own shout out.
“Potatoes are a staple in Luxembourg but to simply put them on the plate without finesse is boring,” chef De Dood said.
“I call this a potato millefeuille, a twist on the classic. We slice the potato, layer it with butter, bake it in the oven, compress it together so the butter seeps out, then we pan-fry it.
"What you’re left with is a crispy layered potato, it’s glorious.”
For the cauliflower, he has left one element on the plate raw and added a cauliflower cream to add more depth.
“Only a few years ago I discovered raw cauliflower is refreshing and delicious, all it needs is a squeeze of lemon."
Dish: Crusted loin lamb
What is it? Lamb with mustard scented sauce, potato waffles and wild mushrooms
Chef De Dood said lamb is a product used a lot in Luxembourg, so for this dish he wanted to showcase the waffle element.
“A lot of our traditional dishes were taken from nearby countries because they either conquered or occupied Luxembourg years ago, but we tweaked them and made them local,” he said.
“It’s more commonly known that waffles are from Belgium, but to me a waffle is a waffle, so it’s what you make of it that defines its origin.
“I didn’t want to do a plain waffle, that’s boring, so I made a potato waffle and topped it with mushrooms for this dish.”
Chef De Dood said the dish also includes a light, herby crust, made up of tarragon, basil, parsley, chives and chervil, and a creamy tarragon sauce.
With mustard regarded as a "must have on most meat dishes in Luxembourg", he also introduced three types of the condiment to this dish including grain, Dijon and pickled mustard seed.