While the global pandemic has not put a stop into the import of foreign products into the country, it, however, prompted many local business owners particularly those within the food industry to rethink their strategy and rely on locally grown food to fill the gaps on their shelves.
While official data is yet to be made available, front-liners working in different food shops and stores in the capital have noticed an increase in demands not only of fruits and vegetables but also fishes and other seafood.
Long before the pandemic, however, Chef Thierry Quintric has specialized in dietetics and healthy food and has been known within the industry and among his peers as a follower of new cooking method that incorporates in-value freshness and bioproducts. He has been championing the use of local products ever since he became the official Executive Chef of Hormuz Grand Muscat, A Radisson Collection Hotel and his effort was finally realized and understood not only within his cluster but within the capital as other luxury hotels and hospitality centres started turning to local produce for their establishment’s daily needs.
Chef Thierry is not a stranger to Muttrah. He has also been an avid checker of flea markets and local shops and has been collaborating with local producers as a way of stepping up their commitment to support local communities by highlighting the region’s speciality produce and relying less on imports.
In his own words, Thierry shared that the menu he creates for the hotel not only immerses guests from all over the world to the array of Oman’s wonderful flavours but also emphasised their commitment to the local community. Many of the intricate details presented on a plate are sustainably sourced from Oman’s azure waters and local bio produce within the country.
Chef Thierry works closely with Omani fisherman with small boats and fishing rods, in an attempt to honour the gems the sea provides, albeit in small quantities, as opposed to big boats that use weighted nets that drag on the bottom of the sea, destroying the aquatic ecosystem and discouraging the cycle of life.
“Obviously we know what type of fishes are available by season and we work closely with the fishermen to continue that biodiversity philosophy of fishing. Every two days we communicate with our suppliers and ask them what they have caught and this is how we create our seafood display ‘A la carte’,” he shared.
“I refuse to take any Omani lobster with eggs. As I’ve explained to our purchasing team and our fishermen suppliers, if we want to have Omani lobster in 10 - 20 years and more, we must let mother nature to do her job. I want to encourage and participate in the conservation of biodiversity,” he explained.
Other than the seafood, a great percentage of the ingredients in their kitchen are sustainably sourced from nearby farms. From herbs to salad greens, from vegetables to meat poultry, it’s all about exploring Oman’s bounty.
“We try and incorporate the fresh produce of the season in order to encourage local production. For example, last month we added locally sourced long beans and eggplant for vegetables. Lettuce for the month of November and tomatoes for December,” he shared.
“These are only a few examples among many others. In seafood, we still offer large varieties such as Halibut, Red mullet, Red Humped bream, Hammour, Grouper, Seabream, Parrotfish, Seabass, Octopus, Omani lobster, Grey mullet and Local shrimps, to name a few,” he added.
Chef Thierry is a firm believer that many of the locally produced vegetables, poultry, meat and seafood in the country can easily be incorporated even to the pickiest of luxury establishments.
“When our guests come to dine in our restaurants, especially in Omny, our signature Mediterranean a la carte restaurant, we want to take them on an incredible culinary journey and we had been doing that with the help of locally sourced seafood and produce. The thing about Oman is, it has plenty to offer in the cooking arena, it just takes a matter of innovation and reinvention,” he said.
“Overall, this initiative of looking into locally produced products encourage the growth of the local economy. It helps create jobs and sustain demands and appreciation for what is found in the country. At the heart of local purchasing is a commitment to environmental sustainability, the need of the hour,” he said.
Chef Thierry is convinced that food should bring the ultimate joy to guests, and he believes that the creative approach to cooking creates a lovely occasion to get together at the table. Sourcing locally for ingredients has also become a great asset for him and his team and the current condition has proven that they are on the right track when it comes to their policy and strategy.