By Demola Balogun
If you are a lover of the pizzazz extravagant dining culture in Europe or America with crystal Martini or fluted champagne glass in hand and you probably have to glance from the keyboard of a grandmaster pianist, then Eko Signature Hotel is the place to be every Tuesday for haute cuisine buffet style and entertainment cracker reserved for celebrity gourmets and aficionados.
Nestling in the ocean view ambience with international hospitality standards, Eko Signature led by avant-garde chef, Gioacchino Liguori is beckoning on celebrity artistes, Nollywood personalities, guests and business executives to revel in the glamour and lively pizzazz of music, dining pleasures with exotic wines and signature cocktails and champagne in the exclusive bar.
In 2014, the executive management moved to re-invent the hotel’s convention centre and its luxury style accommodation facilities and fine dining restaurants which coincided with the appointment of Mr. Liguori as the hotel manager. Along with the head chef, Paola Amilcar, who holds sway at 1415 Italian restaurant, the hotel offers avalanche of African and Continental a la carte/buffet menu, which features a bold signature and distinctive flair ensuring a decadent treat yet relaxing dining experience.
Other chefs, Abdullah Outa, head pastry and Paul Sasson, plying the culinary art at Eko Signature and working with Liguori, a prolific chef has raised the bar in innovative product offerings and dining style.
The chefs shared their secrets and flair for food in an exclusive chat with TS Weekend. Enjoy it.
Paula Amilcar (Head Chef 1415 Italian Restaurant)
What inspired your career in culinary art?
I came from a family of great culinary tradition with flair for food craft. My father and grandfather were lifelong chefs and my mother a professional sommelier. I was introduced to the culinary arts and hospitality career at a tender age because our family established a boutique hotel in the Alps, Switzerland.
What’s your international experience as a chef?
After graduating from the Bellagio Hostellerie School, Italy, I started work as an apprentice chef in a Michelin star ranked restaurant. Working hard, I progressed with international brands which led me to become head chef.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
One of the things I love about cooking is that it affords you to prepare a meal using fresh ingredients, a task which is one of the most exciting, personal and intimate things you can do for someone. You are literally providing plated nourishment made with own hands and creativity for delicious treat. From the intense aroma of natural garlic, to the crackle from the skillet (pan) and the sight of perfectly spicy roast bird (poultry) coming out from the oven gas cooking system. Just Meravigilos! (Mesmerizing!) Cooking speaks to all my senses. It’s a joy for me to cook for guests, friends and families.
Abdullah Outa, Head Pastry Chef (Eko Hotels)
How did you come into the hospitality industry?
I was born in the ancient city of Baalbeli, Lebanon known as the city of the sun. Almonds, cherries, apricots, pears and mint leaves, (natural food flavors/spices) set the stage for my culinary career.
I attended L’Ecole Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil de Paris, France and after graduation moved to Beirut to start career in the hospitality industry. Through the art of baking, we touch all five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. Through the pastry, you can get the maximum pleasures that gratify the soul as you pursue every quality confectionery and baked goods with gusto. Your eyes will be grated by the beautifully crafted pastry pieces while your nose is stimulated by the natural flavors that fill the air as you bake snacks and confectioneries with incredible precision and efficient heat distribution across the baking surface of muffins, croissants and rolls.
You can perceive the noise from the crispy pastry crunch delightfully in your mouth, leaving you wrapped in a rewarding dining pleasure. The pursuit of quality means to continuously innovate by capturing from traditional concepts to new inspirations in product development. It is our pleasure to blend passion, dedication chemistry and art of culinary to delight you at all times at Eko Hotels.
Paul Sasson (Sous Chef, Eko Signature)
What’s your experience like as a cuisine chef?
I was born in Lagos and found my passion and creativity in the culinary art. I attended the Benin Republic School but my flair for cooking tasty dishes drove me to the kitchen where it all began. Honestly, I do not have a fancy degree in culinary art but that did not diminish my professional training and skill development as a chef. I worked hard with a crack team of culinary experts and I was thrown into the deep end with this job – prepping, cooking and engaging impossible shifts to become a chef. It is my pleasure to share my culinary secrets with our esteemed guests and diners at the 1415 Italian Restaurant. A plate for me is a white canvas (fine chinaware) where I can diligently place in a harmonium way, fresh delicacies in pure, natural colours to skillfully create delectable taste-tempting edible piece with a superb blend of flavors that will scintillate your senses.