Men who never spent time in the kitchen started exploring the uncharted territory during lockdown. Cooking during the same time helped unite families which allowed them to spend quality time not only at the dinner table but also with its preparation. However, humans always show ability to adapt to new challenges and respond quickly and positively to changes. A few of them from the hospitality industry shared their views on ‘have men become good chefs during lockdown?’
Malik al Jahdhami
President, Oman Chefs Guild
My answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ ‘Yes’, because the lookdown pushed chefs to be more creative in the menu and service while having restrictions. More takeaway dishes were created to meet customer’s satisfaction with serving healthier food as the key aspect. Nevertheless, chefs became more cost conscious and have a clean balance sheet to sustain business. ‘No’, because lockdown forced many F&B businesses to close with chefs losing their jobs. They lose their skills by not practising culinary and are forced to take a different job.
An engineer-turned-chef, Malik says the pandemic had a positive and negative side. He says the negative side was because all of us are going through it with lockdowns and F&B industry failures to sustain. Positively more opportunities and skills have grown at the same time.
The senior head chef at Transom Catering says: “When men are given the space and time we can go to extremes in creativity, and look for ways for perfection. We have seen on social media many sharing cooking skills during lockdown where they showcased their experience in cooking especially in grills. I documented my first attempt making smoked brisket which received many comments on social media and continued to post more food recipes.”
Abdullah al Balushi
HR Director, Hormuz Grand Muscat
A Radisson Collection Hotel
It took a lockdown for most men to spice up things in the kitchen. I have never cooked before however I thought to give it a try now. I was glad that I could give my wife some rest as I started experimenting with various dishes, some of which turned out pretty well.
People had no choice but to cook for themselves. This involved exercising creativity involving husbands and children in the kitchen helped stay away from negativity. Choosing ingredients carefully also provided important lessons in healthy eating, sustainability and good practices.
Cooking is selfless and makes one stress-free, helping feed dear ones with favourite dishes in these testing times.
With the vast influence of social media, and easy access to recipes from YouTube videos to TikTok challenges, encouraged men to try out recipes and spend time with the kids. Men especially found it fascinating to come up with different dishes with one ingredient and we learnt to do much more with ingredients as the grocery run was precious.
Sheraton Oman Hotel, Muscat
During lockdown, dining options were limited. Cooking home definitely became more popular within most households. We had to plan ahead to ensure that we had enough supplies at home. A common option was to order take away or have food delivered home.
About shopping for food it is important to use the right ingredients. This was my opportunity to get more involved in the meal planning and preparation, and through grocery shopping I was able to learn about the brands and foods my family prefer. I don’t usually cook as my wife is an excellent cook. I usually support in prep work and during lockdown I got to spend more time in the kitchen prepping and cooking as well.
We looked up new recipes online and learned how to make our favourite foods at home. We also tried to focus on healthier cooking due to the reduction in physical activities. I became a better cook and learned a lot and tried to be part of the meal planning and supporting healthy eating habits. For my kids it was a good change as they enjoyed seeing me in the kitchen.
Hormuz Grand Muscat
A Radisson Collection Hotel
Food has become one of the main subjects of conversations these days. Men who used to cook before lockdown started to be more creative with their food. Some might say even trying to experiment by mixing flavours from different cuisines to create fancier dishes. For some it became a form of relaxation. Some learned to make delicious meals from last night’s leftovers thinking about sustainability and food wastage as we chefs like to say ‘make something from nothing.’
Men who never spent any time in the kitchen started exploring the uncharted territory. They discovered the location of the stove and how to use it. They have found the cold box better known as ‘refrigerator’ and also mapped the distance between the fridge and the couch.
This is already a step forward in the kitchen department. Once this was under control they tried mixing things and cooking all by themselves. Some even found their hidden talent. Some committed to cooking at least one meal per week for their families.
JW Marriott Muscat
We had to adapt to a completely ‘new normal’ as our opening was certainly not as expected. We were faced with a new set of challenges, from temporarily closing our restaurants to managing them with new social distancing regulations, to issues with obtaining supplies. Though it was a huge challenge for me and my team, it was a learning curve.
Due to change in circumstances, we had to work extra hard and think outside the box to re-establish the way we manage our kitchens. Our operations are always conducted with the highest standards of health and hygiene, but we have had to adapt and enhance our protocols, working with extra caution to continue serving our guests safely, while making them feel comfortable.
He mentions it was an unhappy sight to see fewer guests in restaurants, especially during the night curfews, when the place would usually be buzzing with life.
“We have actually been more creative with our day-time events. From relaxed business lunches to lavish weekend brunches, and even our JW2G0 takeaway and home delivery menu, our guests have been able to enjoy our culinary delights. A big bonus is that our menus now feature much more local produce including Oman’s treasure trove of seafood and some other high-quality ingredients that earlier had to be imported,” he adds.
A meat lover, the special moment for Angelos came while at Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen in London, where he served celebrities like Christiano Ronaldo among others.