Hotel catering staff flat out for Christmas day rush

With takeaway turkey specials gaining popularity, hotels require much advance planning to prepare for Christmas.

Chef Daniel Irvine prepares takeaway turkey meals at Jumeirah Etihad Towers hotel yesterday in Abu Dhabi. Preparations for the big day are a year-long job, says the hotel’s executive chef, Loughlin Druhan. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Christmas means many things to many people, but to the catering staff at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel it mainly means turkey – great flocks of them.

As well as serving the bird with its traditional Christmas dinners, the hotel does takeaway turkey dinners.

“When we order turkeys, we order them in the summertime just to make sure there’s enough time to make sure the quality of the turkeys we’re ordering is available,” executive chef Loughlin Druhan said.

“Everybody wants turkey this time of year.”

Mr Druhan, an Irishman who has worked in the food business for 22 years, says the hotel can cook up to 60 turkeys at a time in 14 large ovens.

Customers can order a turkey weighing between 7 and 9 kilograms, served with all the trimmings, to be picked up at the hotel.

The hotel would not say how many orders it had received for Wednesday’s big day.

Mr Druhan said preparations for yesterday’s festivities began as soon as the last Christmas was cleaned up.

“Nobody realises how far you have to plan back to get it where it should be,” he said.

Cooking preparations start on Christmas Eve. The chefs start cooking the turkeys about 6am on Christmas, in a process that takes up to six hours.

But it is not just the big birds that take so much time. Marinating the Christmas pudding starts up to eight months before the big day.

Sumeda Palihakkara, the hotel’s executive pastry chef, said December was the busiest month for him.

His team of 29 pastry cooks and bakers created up to 75 varieties of dessert for one restaurant buffet alone.

“This is absolutely the most festive season,” Mr Palihakkara said.

Staff begin preparations for the next holiday season early in the new year.

Menu development and tastings take about three months and involve up to 50 chefs.

Two or three chefs from each restaurant draft their festive menus, which Mr Druhan reviews and finalises to have them ready by September at the latest.

“The best thing about Christmas and the festive season is when you can sit together with the team afterwards, when all the notes are still fresh in your mind, and compile a list,” he said.

“You know exactly what you want to do next year and what the guests want.”