Chefs Pantry | Ritz Carlton Bahrain

28 Dec 2016
3 min read
Yann Bernard Lejard talks about his favourite ingredients and the riches of products he finds in the region and around the world
Spoilt for choice

Manama City, located on the island of the Kingdom of Bahrain, was always a passage between the West and the East and used to import many resources. As the climate is very hot and humid not so many things were growing. During the season we can work easily with the local fruits and vegetables suppliers that offer us a great variety of fresh products. The people of The Kingdom have put significant effort into organic agriculture. They are now able to produce some fruit and vegetables all year long.

At the Ritz Carlton Bahrain one of our most interesting challenges is to source the best products, from local suppliers to international importers. Of course my food is really based on an experience for our guests. We develop recipes by always adding a touch of the local culture. We source amazing spices such as the Black Lemon or Lumee that we find in the Manama souk, using it in powder to match with a seared foie gras from France and fresh glazed pears from Egypt.

I really love the goat dairy products from Rashid Al Khalifa from Peninsula Farms produced in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The taste of the fresh goat cheese is amazing. We offer it to our guest for the Bahraini Breakfast Experience.

Manama gives us a privileged position. As it is located at the Persian Gulf, we get the best seafood, crab, octopus and all varieties of fish. Every day from the hotel we can watch the fishermen going out to sea with their typical boats and in the early morning we receive their catch. The Hammour fish is the most famous, a really tasty fish that unfortunately is an endangered species. I like to slow-cook the octopus, scrub it with Zathar or Lebanese thyme and chilli from Espelette, and serve it with mashed new potatoes cooked the Portuguese way in olive oil, bay leaf and garlic.

For the meat, we can find some incredible baby lamb at The Muharraq Central Market. It works particularly well in the typical dish called Ouzi in which the whole lamb is slow-cooked with rice, spices and garnish. I am currently working on a modern adaptation of this very classic Middle Eastern recipe.

For the imported food products we work very closely with Mark Huggins, the General Manager of IFI Inter Food Imports. We can sit down with him and explain every detail of the product we are looking for, from Japanese Wagyu beef to green or violet asparagus, from fresh white truffle from Alba to fresh cocoa beans—he always gets the products on time and in their freshest condition.

For a chef, The Kingdom of Bahrain offers a great culinary diversity of flavours, a lot of different cooking styles from around the world and of course the essential taste from the Middle East with big influences from the Egyptian, Lebanese and Yemenite cuisines, but also from Asia. Bahraini people love food, perfume and spices from the Far East. Another huge influence—and an inspiration for myself—is the Indian food, which is highly appreciated in this part of the world. I understand this affection as the food is so rich and diverse. Some of my close sous chefs are from different parts of India, Mumbai, New Delhi or the Himalayas. We work together to find some lesser-known products and include them in modern food creations. The research and development part of our kitchen is always looking for new flavours, seasonings and cooking methods. As a new step, our plan here at The Ritz Carlton Bahrain is to work on the South American food culture, and I am looking forward to implement these aspects in my food. What a great journey.