Two Michelin-star Chef Wolfgang Becker of Becker’s Restaurant is collaborating with Executive Chef Lam Chi Kuen of Liang Restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Doha on a six-course menu as part of the World Class Chefs culinary series, on until Saturday 6 November.
We spoke to Chef Wolfgang about the menu, his participation in the World Class Chefs initiative, and much more.
Marhaba: You are one of the first chefs to visit under the World Class Chefs initiative. What inspired you to join the initiative, and what do you hope to offer to diners?
Chef Wolfgang: I always feel inspired to meet with new chefs and learn about their experiences and techniques in working with new produce, I see this as part of my development as a chef. This is an opportunity for me to really represent myself and my cooking.
M: Your food is renowned for being a ‘no frills’ haute cuisine experience. What should diners expect from the dishes you are offering at Liang?
CW: As a chef I don’t like adding what is not needed to a plate, if its not part of the plate or tasting experience, so no unnecessary decoration for example. In creating three dishes for this menu I have showcased my different techniques. For the first course – Duck Liver Terrine – I wanted to show how a classical dish can be prepared in a modern way, with more variation than what you can get elsewhere. With course two – Lamb Loin – this dish is more complicated with a variety of flavours and techniques, but with the focus on the lamb, so the different components would make it the star of the dish. There is more decoration than I would use at home, and is a good example of how to show a picture on a plate.
M: Tell us more about how you chose the dishes available on the tasting menu, in order to bring an East-West fusion: did you work with Chef Lam, or know about his dishes in advance, in order to decide on your dishes? Did you feel that you have achieved a good balance with Chef Lam’s dishes?
CW: I didn’t know what he would do, but I think with my ingredients in my courses I have shown traditional European food with basics such as carrots. I wanted to represent fine European cuisine by using classical ingredients, like cauliflower in a variety of textures. However, it was more about each chef showcasing their special techniques and cuisine.
M: How do you create a dish? Is it based on seasonality and the availability of ingredients, for example?
CW: Respecting seasonal ingredients is important when creating a dish. I respect the seasons and try to work with the seasonal items. If I can get something in my country, good, or I will get from somewhere else if it is better. Like in spring, it is the use of fresh herbs, or asparagus in its season in Germany.
A popular readymade dish in Germany sparked my inspiration for creating a lamb shoulder with bolognese and crunch on top – inspiration can hit from unexpected experiences. The most popular readymade dish in Germany is like lasagne, but it is fish with a sauce. I was talking with a friend and I’d never heard of it but everyone in Germany eats it. So she invited me to her house and she made it for me and it was horrible! I was thinking: millions of people eat this, so I made a lamb with bolognese and aubergines, with a lamb salad and panko crunch, and small falafel in the middle. Not my country’s style but inspired by this readymade thing. Just for fun! With new dishes ,we try it, we then think ‘can we do this as a full plate in service?’ We make dishes with many ingredients and steps – you can do it but not when the restaurant is full. We sometimes go back and use this [lamb bolognese] dish again, same as other dishes, we can go back and reuse it.
M: Doha is fast becoming a hot spot for celebrity chefs and upmarket dining. What do you think of this new style of gastronomy, and how does the Middle East compare to Europe?
CW: I have just arrived for the first time to the Middle East, so haven’t formed an opinion just yet. However, following my experience in Bangkok, about 10-20 years ago Michelin-starred chefs started these visits. It elevated the gastronomic scene and developed Bangkok into a Michelin-starred hub, which I could see happening in Doha.
M: Do you have much time to eat out yourself? Will you be trying any local dishes while you are here?
CW: Yes I look forward to visiting local eateries, especially seeing the spices in Souq Waqif. I have two days free after the last service. It’s my first time in this region so it would be a shame not to see more.
M: What is your inspiration for creating dishes? Are you influenced by your own travels and experiences?
CW: That’s a must, as a chef I’m always inspired by my experiences and people I meet. Of course, that’s a must to be open to new things, to search for new things, even to decide what you don’t like. There are many things that I taste or try, it’s not for me; then others I like and use. There are not many things I don’t eat myself, that I don’t like. But if I don’t like it, I don’t like to cook it for my guests.
M: What is next for you, in terms of accolades or new ventures?
CW: As a family-owned business for over 25 years, I always look for ways to develop the business. I’m self-employed, I’ve got a family-run business. We’re always looking to develop in baby steps. This could be for hotel rooms, whether to renew or refurbish – these are all things you have to think about if you don’t have a company behind you. But you need to stay one step ahead. So next year we are looking at doing a market place with our own products, so guests can eat in a family market place environment.
Don’t miss this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience fine dining at one of Doha’s leading hotels!
Read more about the menu here
Mandarin Oriental, Doha Reveals ‘The Collaborative Menu for World Class Chefs’ By Two Michelin-Starred Chef Wolfgang Becker
Our thanks to Chef Wolfgang for the interview, and to the team at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha.
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