Wieland Matzig – Executive Chef in Abu Dhabi
After a very successful apprenticeship in the renowned Taschenbergpalais Hotel in Dresden, Wieland Matzig has seized an opportunity – working as a chef in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. In doing so, Chef Wieland has experienced much and has learned an abundance of new techniques.
Wieland Matzig: A Chef’s Portrait
Wieland, at the moment you are an executive chef in Abu Dhabi with some years under your belt in the United Arab Emirates. How did you start out as a chef? What pulled you into the world of gastronomy?
The dream of being a chef came early in my childhood. In those days my grandmother cooked a lot with us and for us, so I gained this fascination early on with how you can cook up great meals with limited ingredients using the right preparation.
Countless hours of practice and Holiday work just confirmed my desire to be a chef and in 2008 I began my apprenticeship at the Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden.
And you had much success completing that. How did that time affect your culinary style that you still see in your work today?
Intensively, even though the training demanded a lot from me it has given me so much. The love of Mediterranean cuisine is something that I took away from that as well as the concept from my Chef in those days: “The flavors should remain pure, but the dish unique.”
As a young chef you started on your way to the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi pretty early. What spurred you to take that step abroad?
In the 3rd year of apprenticeship there is Career Day from the Kempinski in Munich. During my attendance I was offered a commis position at the Emirates Palace. However, the actual “push” to take that leap came from my mother, for which I am still thankful to her today.
Today, after 7 years in Abu Dhabi and a career to executive chef, it sounds like a fantastic journey. Were there some difficult times for you, like right at the start in Abu Dhabi?
Yes, there were. The high temperatures and humidity can get to you, additionally, low income for new chefs, only one day off a week and the many different accents in the language. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s worth it.
Do you have a tip for chefs that also want to find their way as a chef in the United Arab Emirates?
As a chef starting out, you should really take the time to find the right company for you. Also, this type of decision to work there should be taken if you don’t have your own family yet. Aside from that, you should just put everything you have learned to the test by just going for it, put yourself out there…the rest will follow.
You worked as a private chef in Abu Dhabi as well. Could you tell us a bit about that?
It was an amazing experience in my career to work for the royal family as a private chef. It was as you could expect very demanding and extremely intensive work to be on call every day, for every minute. It requires an enormous amount of organization and teamwork and unfortunately takes away a lot from private life and family hours.
Do you have any favorite spots in Abu Dhabi to check out the local food?
Mezlai Restaurant in the Emirates Palace, specializing in traditional Emirati cuisine with hints of the Middle East. Absolutely delicious!
What are the local specialties?
- Shawarma (Arabic version of Dürüm)
- Camel (usually large roasts)
- Machboos (Rice dish usually with chicken or lamb)
Abu Dhabi has a very international and quick-changing food scene. What are the current trends that you are interested in?
At the moment you can find almost everything in Abu Dhabi, from sushi, Thai, burger restaurants etc. including German restaurants. You even have restaurants with pork and alcohol. Currently “healthy restaurants” are the very popular.
Traditional country-specific cuisine with a new spin is a big trend at the moment.
Do you think that a concept like that with German cuisine could work in Abu Dhabi?
Unfortunately, no. I think the regulations on pork and alcohol would be prohibitive to the bottom line. It would be very difficult to successfully implement.
How would you describe your culinary style today?
Fresh, modern with a hint from Italy.
Which techniques in gastronomy do you find interesting?
I’m a big fan of braising dishes. Things like short ribs or veal cheeks are big hits.
From working with your international team: Which techniques, which creations were the most interesting for you, or totally new?
I thought the combination of fruits and Asian ingredients interesting, so that’s how I came up with the idea of a Gazpacho of green apple, lemongrass and tiger prawns. Also, cooking with a Tandoor oven really made an impression on me.
If you could cook anywhere, where would it be? (international job offers on Cook Concern)
The Philippines, a place that has so much to offer culinary-wise. Perhaps I can get there one day.
Worryingly, fewer and fewer of our younger generation are entering the culinary division, even with so many opportunities available that comes with being an international chef. You are also still a bit young, what could be done to make this profession more appealing to the younger generation?
A great idea is to impress upon children or young people the importance of cooking in general and hit upon how it integrates with their lives in all areas, through cooking courses. They can be active with this rather than just watching a cooking show. They can be designed for a variety of topics. It’s just completely different when you discover it yourself. Cooking speaks to all the senses and you can’t learn it solely in theory.
Thanks Wieland! And much success for the future!
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