Master Chef Stephen McGarrie is set to inject a new standard of deliciousness to the already glitzy Concorde El-Salam this Ramadan. Read about his food legacy and earning the Master Chef title.
Words like elegance and luxury are often thrown around when describing the myriad of hotels that are scattered across this magically ancient land. All too often hotels invest entirely too much money in installing extravagant chandeliers and statues, forgetting that the most important part of running a hotel is consistency and service.
At the gorgeous Concorde El Salam Hotel in Cairo, the words extravagant luxury means something, as it prides itself on providing a consistently high standard in every aspect, from service, accommodation, amenities provided and, most importantly, the quality of food.
With a variety of restaurants tailored to pleasing both Egyptian and foreign tastes, we decided to head down to their delicious Italiano restaurant and sit down with the new Executive Chef of the whole hotel and all of its food and beverage outlets, Stephen McGarrie, who is excited to raise the standards in an already established institution.
Earning the title of Master Chef takes over 25 years of culinary experience and shouldn't be mistaken as an award given out by a Gordon Ramsay reality show. Despite cheapening the title for ratings, Master Chef McGarrie only had kind words for Chef Gordon Ramsay, explaining that when he met him, it was obvious that his TV persona is all for show, describing the famous chef as an actual gentlemen. The pair met in Cyprus, when Chef Ramsay was especially taken with a kofta-like dish, which was actually a lamb burger, and begged the old butcher for his recipe. “If you ever read in Gordon Ramsay's book a recipe for Lamb burgers, it is not his; it is from this old man Cyprus. I know this for a fact because I saw it happen,” laughs McGarrie.
In order to hone his own craft, McGarrie travelled the world working with Michelin star chefs, developing technical knowledge and international tastes. According to the Master Chef Mcgarrie “My culinary journey started at the age of nine in my grandmother's restaurant; starting from the bottom I learnt all the various aspects surrounding the restaurant industry.” In love with the culinary arts from a young age, McGarrie sought to further his education London receiving his certification at the prestigious Savoy Hotel.
From there the Master Chef developed his culinary palate, first travelling through Europe, where he started with Germany, followed by the Caribbean islands, the United States, and even Saudi Arabia, advising and learning global trends. “Cuisine is a lot like fashion. What is in today is out tomorrow. The trend I am noticing now is that with all the austerity measures being placed, people are resorting back to their own traditional dishes instead of splurging on exotic cuisines,” he explains. “These days, it is less about what I want to cook and more to do with what the people want to eat.” When asked which traditional Egyptian dish was his favourite McGarrie quickly admits “I love Arabic sweets. If I walk past an Oriental pastry store, I have to take one.”
Preferring the vibe of big cities, McGarrie makes it clear that he wants to be here in Cairo, and doesn't let the political turmoil get to him. When talking about Cairo he speaks passionately about the city and its people, saying, “Anytime I think of the Pyramids I think of Egyptians as that solid mass that can't be budged. Whatever sweeps over the country; sandstorms, earthquakes, political strife, the Pyramids are still there standing as a testament to Egyptians' resolve, which I have always admired."
When asked if he is excited to possibly fuse Egyptian cuisine with other cuisines, Master Chef McGarrie points out, “Egyptian food is not a cuisine you can fuse. You can twist and redesign it, but the Egyptian people have a real understanding of their food and are very protective of it.”
With Ramadan quickly approaching, the real question on our minds was whether Master Chef McGarrie is prepared for the nightmare of feeding an entire dining room at the exact same time. “It is not a nightmare! If you coordinated and you have the proper staff to execute it isn't a problem, and we definitely have a talented team here that understands the importance of timing and consistency.” The only real worry for this Master Chef is making sure that the portions are suitable for those who are fasting. “Ramadan differs to other feasts around the world, because its portions have to be their portion, that’s tradition. What people expect is what we have to deliver, Ramadan is special and we can't play with its tradition.”
Master Chef McGarrie has visited Egypt on a few occasions, but is now officially relocated and set to take the gourmet helm at the Concorde El Salam hotel. It isn't everyday that a world class culinary artist arrives in Egypt with the goal of raising standards to new heights. Considering that the Concorde El Salam Hotel has already garnered the reputation of being one Egypt's finest hotels, the addition of McGarrie is simply the decadent icing on an already delicious cake. With Ramadan just around the corner, the Concorde El Salam Hotel may just be the most satisfying and divine way to break your fast this season.
Check out Concorde El Salam on Facebook here.