Recipes for success: Chef Yann Lohez offers advice and a tasty tomato salad recipe 

DUBAI: French chef Yann Lohez has spent 15 years in five-star hotels around the world, at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the Kempinski Hotel in Geneva, the Evian Resort in France and now the St. Regis Riyadh, where he the executive chef.

His passion for cooking began at the cozy country school where his mother cooked for 80 children.

“Every morning, during the break between classes, my classmates asked me to go to the kitchen and ask for the menu,” Lohez tells Arab News. “I would run into the kitchen and smell the food.” These memories are in my head and embedded in my DNA.”


The St. Regis Riyadh. (attached)

The first dish he tried to make on his own, he recalls, was mayonnaise.

– My grandmother always made egg pasta for Sunday lunch, it was my job to make the mayonnaise. It’s a great memory. I remember this food was amazing,” he says.

Here he discusses his favorite food and his top tips for amateur chefs. She also shares an heirloom tomato salad recipe.


The St. Regis Riyadh. (attached)

When you first started, what was the most common mistake you made?

I faced a lot of challenges, especially when making pastries. With pastries, you always have to follow the recipes and follow the technique. As a chef, you prepare the recipes yourself. It was difficult for me to follow the correct recipe. Cooking is more about sense and feeling, but with pastries you have to follow the recipe exactly to get the right texture. It was challenging. I always say I will never be a pastry chef because I don’t want to follow these recipes. That was my challenge.

What is your best tip for amateur cooks?

Take steak for example. When people cook at home, they take the steak out of the fridge and put it straight in the pan. This is a mistake. It should be kept at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. When the protein is in the fridge, it is very hard, so you need to make it finer. And it definitely needs some marinade. Add the sauce, olive oil, and some spices to overwhelm it and let the spices turn into fibers. Only then cook the steak.


Greek Mezze. (attached)

What ingredient can instantly improve any dish?

This is not a real ingredient. It’s patience. And love. Whoever you are cooking for – you, your family, friends or even customers – you cannot prepare the right food without passion.

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself criticizing the food?

Not really. I always go to restaurants to enjoy, not to criticize. It makes me happy to learn about different cultures, different foods and different ways of cooking. And that gives me inspiration.

What is the most common mistake you find in other restaurants?

It’s about how you relate to the guest. Sometimes the waiter is too close or too eager to interrupt. When I’m in a restaurant, I want to be free, enjoy the food, and not be interrupted every 5 minutes.

When it comes to food, I’m French so I like my meat rare. Rare meat is hard to come by in this part of the world. It should not be cooked from the inside, but hot. Very few restaurants make steak the way I like it.


Slow-braised beef check orzo ragout. (attached)

What is your favorite cuisine?

I don’t really have it. I am very open about food and food culture. I think this is the best way to get new ideas. I love Indian food. I love Arabic food. I love Asian food. When I go back to France, I like traditional slow-cooked meat or something with butter or cream.

What is your favorite food when you need to cook something quickly at home?

Omelette. I will make it very, very quickly. I’m also a fan of it because my father raises chickens and I always get organic eggs. I think this is the best way to get adequate protein as well. An omelet gives you strength for the whole day. It really takes five minutes to make. You can make it with anything, anything you have at home.


Wild Aquerello risotto with aged parmesan. (attached)

Which customer request annoys you the most?

Sometimes the guests don’t respect the team. Errors may occur. We take opportunities to learn from our mistakes, but there is no point in showing disrespect to anyone.

How are you as a head chef?

To answer this, I will tell you a little about my background. As I said, my mother was a cook, but my father was a military policeman. So I learned that discipline is very important to get things done right. However, with this new generation, it is very important to be fair and close to them. You have to lead by example. This is the most important. I’ve had chefs who yell a lot, but that mindset doesn’t work anymore. I don’t shout in the kitchen. I’m strict, but I want to be close to my team. This is the secret of success.

Chef Yann’s heirloom tomato salad recipe


Chef Yann’s heirloom tomato salad recipe. (attached)

INGREDIENTS:

160 g of goat cheese; 10 g of honey; 2 g of Espelette chili

For the Bloody Mary jelly: 0.5L tomato juice; 5 drops of Worcestershire sauce; 2 drops of tabasco; 10 g vegetable gelatin; 2 g celery salt

For the heirloom tomatoes: 1 beef heart tomato; 2 black Crimean tomatoes; 1 green zebra tomato; 2 yellow pineapple tomatoes; 8 cherry tomatoes; 1/2 bunch of cherries; 1/2 bunch of dill; 4 g of oregano salt; 2 g of a mixture of three peppers

For the basil oil: 200 ml extra virgin olives; 1/2 bunch of basil leaves

For kalamata soil: 50 g kalamata olives; 50 ml balsamic vinegar cream sauce

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, honey and chili with a fork.

2. Roll four 80 gram balls. Wrap each in a 15cm x 15cm square of foil. Close it by pinching the four corners together and turning it to make a tomato shape.

3. Put the four balls in the freezer for three hours until they harden, then remove the plastic and insert a skewer into each. Keep in the freezer until the Bloody Mary jelly is ready.

For the Bloody Mary jelly

1. Heat all the ingredients for the Bloody Mary jelly in a pan and stir until the jelly is smooth.

2. Soak the goat cheese balls on their skewers in the jelly until they are red and shiny.

To the eternal paradise

1. Cut all the tomatoes into different shapes.

2. Keep four green tomatoes for decoration. Fry them for 30 seconds.

3. Seasoning is important. Season with salt and pepper five minutes before serving.

4. Use cherry and dill leaves as decoration. Dry them together with the tomatoes for five hours at 60 degrees.

For the basil oil

1. Place the basil leaves and olive oil in a blender and blend. Strain the oil through a coffee filter to obtain a pure green oil.

For Kalamata soil

Dry the olives for five hours at 60 degrees (same as tomatoes). When they harden, let them cool, then mix until you get a powder.

PLATING:

A cover is always an opportunity to bring your creativity to the stage. My only advice is to reflect nature on the plate. Start with the beef heart tomato slice in the middle as the base for the goat cheese balls. Don’t forget to add a tomato stalk to them to make a ‘realistic’ tomato. Create a garden around it with the other tomatoes. Add olive powder and a dash of balsamic vinegar cream sauce for acidity. Food should be served at room temperature.

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