This month, the FACT team meets culinary master Chef William Khala, who joined The Ritz-Carlton, Doha earlier this year as Chef de Cuisine at the hotel’s stunning La Mer Restaurant. We went to learn more about (and taste!) his cooking…
Hailing from Toronto , Chef William Khala’s plan was never to actually become a chef, but rather a surgeon. “I finished school and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” he says. “I wanted to be a surgeon; I like the detail part of it. “Then I came across food, hotels, and everything. I love food, as you can tell. I got into it, and I was fortunate enough to meet the right people at the beginning who set the tone of what cuisine should be like; how a kitchen should work, and what being a chef and traveling really meant,” Chef William recalls.
He has now been in Doha for around 15 months, working at La Mer, where he oversees the daily culinary operations of the kitchen, develops menus, creates high profile culinary events and, generally, helps to elevate the norms of legendary service at La Mer to new heights.
The first dish that we’re treated to is La Mer Salad with raw and pickled mushrooms, shaved asparagus, truffle labneh, and pine nuts. We love how fresh and light every ingredient is, and the seasonal use of truffle labneh complements the taste of every other component – just delicious! We’re off to a winning start.
We’re ecstatic to learn that some of Chef William’s favourite places to eat out in Qatar, are Nando’s and Turkey Central (ours too!). “You’ve got to give it to them; tasty, done right, and value for the money,” he says. He’s a chef who cooks fine-dining, but also appreciates popular street joints – an endearing quality that we love! Chef William’s culinary career has taken him all around the world – from Chicago to Spain, France and Rome, before joining The Ritz-Carlton in his home city Toronto.
As we’re chatting away, the next dish makes its way to the table. Arabian Gulf Cobia with Shimeji mushrooms, soy beans, truffle gnocchi, and dashi consommé. It’s fine-dining and seafood at its best. In fact, Chef William tells us that Cobia, a South American fish, is one ingredient that he never expected to find in Doha. “I didn’t think I could find it here, but the did at the market,” he says. “It’s meaty, fresh and exactly what I was aiming for.” The presentation of this dish is on point, and, again, we’re in awe of all the flavours and textures present. A definite must-try!
How does Chef William approach cooking? “Things are changing for me now, as experience makes you grow,” he says. “I like to keep the food interesting, having combinations with something new, but also I like to keep it simple at the same time. “I focus on ingredients – they speak for them self. I also like to focus on seasoning the flavours. Once I have the base, I play around on the plate to make it appealing for the guest,” he adds. The last dish to come out is Spiced Lamb Loin with smoked eggplant, tomatoes, lamb merguez, chickpeas and minted feta. It’s tender and tasty, and the feta adds a lovely twist. This is one dish that meat-lovers will appreciate Surprisingly, Chef William’s favourite ingredient is Japanese – it’s yuzu – a lemon, citrus juice! When it comes to La Mer, Chef William is beyond enthusiastic and dedicated to the restaurant’s concept and menu. “As a passionate chef, I am proud to introduce you to a style of cooking that will intrigue your palate, enliven your senses and leave you with a memorable dining experience,” he says. Well, it’s sure been a foodie delight that we won’t forget in a long time.
GO: Visit La Mer at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha. Call 4484 8000 for reservations and more information.