Margarita Vaamonde is chef of the new “MasterChef, the TV Experience” restaurant concept which has recently opened in Dubai, and inspired by the successful culinary competition
What does this new restaurant concept entail?
“MasterChef, the TV Experience Restaurant” is a new restaurant concept based on the very popular show. The idea is that customers can come and partake in this television experience a little. When you arrive, you see that the restaurant has elements everywhere that you will find on the television set, and we also propose dishes made by the winners of the MasterChef competition from all over the world.
Can you explain the “Deformalised dining’ concept to life?
We want to make sure that eating well is accessible. We offer very fine dishes using high quality products in amazing recipes, but we do not want customers to feel intimidated. On the contrary, we want to encourage them to come here and try new experiences, because that is the essence of MasterChef. It’s just a matter of being passionate about cooking and daring to try something different.
What is the “Mystery Box”?
Our “mystery box” is one of the most surprising proposals on our menu! We bring a wooden box from the show to the table, in which there are various surprise ingredients. Based on the customer’s selection, we create recipes especially for them. This means that the customer can test us, just like in the show! We have to use our imagination and creativity to prepare incredible dishes very quickly.
Is this your first position as chef?
My background is quite extensive, but this is my first position as chef. I come from Venezuela but I also lived in Argentina, where gastronomy is completely different. I worked here in Dubai in a French gastronomic restaurant for chef Pierre Gagnaire and then for an American company, which allowed me to go to California and Los Angeles for a while before coming back to Dubai.
Does your South American origin have a strong influence on the menu?
Yes, but not only that! What is interesting about our menu is that it is a real world tour with the winners of the MasterChef competition, each of whom has different origins. They may live in the United Kingdom, but they may be from Malaysia or Holland, and this combination of cultures is reflected in our menu. Our menu is not only South American, French, or British… but from all these countries at the same time!
Do you therefore buy products from all over the world?
Yes, this is one of Dubai’s great advantages. Here you can get quality ingredients from anywhere in the world, because if it’s not the season in one place, it will be the season in another
Did the success of the show contribute to this opening?
It is a welcome support for us, because MasterChef is well known all over the world. The program has been adapted in more than 60 countries and broadcast in more than 100 different countries. So yes, having that name behind us really helps us but I also think that the fact that we are the first to transpose the concept into a restaurant is a challenge for us to test ourselves and show the public what we can do.
What does French cuisine mean to you?
A great deal! My grandmother was French and I still have memories of my childhood at her home, with the family all together at the table. And then I also had the privilege of working with chef Pierre Gagnaire, to discover French cuisine and beyond that, elegant cuisine based on real skills and a great deal of work. It is also about respecting the ingredients and knowing how to sublimate them. It is all this that evokes French cuisine for me. And I have kept some of this tradition in my way of cooking. In a dish, it is not only the beef that counts, but also the potatoes, artichokes, beans…
Is it important to you that Matfer Bourgeat is a French brand?
Yes, of course. French gastronomy is a reference in the culinary world. In our profession, everyone wants to have experience in France, for the quality and technique that are undeniably the best there is. Having this equipment specially designed for professionals is truly an asset, because it makes life in the kitchen easier and allows us to work with more precision.
Is it your choice to work with Matfer Bourgeat?
I know Matfer Bourgeat very well. I have had the opportunity to work with this equipment on many occasions during my career. It is a very famous brand, not only in Dubai or even in Europe but also in America. In my opinion, when you use a quality product once, you will always come back to it. That’s why we chose Matfer Bourgeat to equip our kitchen today
Do you have a favorite utensil?
The rubber spatula; it not only simplifies life but also prevents the waste of raw ingredients and as such saves us a lot of money! You can try to scrape the bottom of the bowl but at the end there is always something left that is simply thrown away. So the rubber spatula is really a great utensil!