SINCE 2004, the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel has provided the Iftar meal to the many thousands of daily visitors to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque during the Holy Month of Ramadan. In the beginning, around four thousand meals a day were provided to worshippers.
Today, this colossal undertaking sees the Officers Club and the Grand Mosque give away up to thirty thousand Iftar trays per day to worshippers who have come to the capital’s main religious site to break their fast and pray. In addition to this, the Officers Club also provides up to six thousand meals to workers cities in Abu Dhabi, providing nourishment for workers who have often come in from a full day’s work outside whilst fasting.
Chef Karsten tells us: “The team that works on it we bring in from all our operations. We have the Officers Club, where we have approximately 200 chefs, but we also have outside operations which are closed during the day during the month of Ramadan, so those workers come here and help us out with the Ramadan operations.” The entire team of the Armed Forces Officers Club comprises a staff of around 350 chefs, 160 stewards, 450 service staff, as well as the teams from purchasing, stores, accounts, quality management, maintenance and transport. They all work together to ensure the preparation and delivery of many hundreds of tonnes of food is conducted smoothly and successfully, with a consistent quality throughout the course of the Holy Month.
“Preparing the packages for each day takes a full 24 hours, from cutting the vegetables and marinating the meat to cooking the rice and so on,” Chef Karsten explains. “It is then all processed and packed. At the mosque, each person is given a tray, and on that tray will be the hot food parcel with biryani, chicken or lamb, as well as salad, an apple, laban drink, water, dates and juice.” Each meal is portioned into takeaway dishes, which are then packed on shelves in mobile temperature-controlled cabinets to ensure food safety standards are maintained. The wheeled cabinets are then loaded on to a fleet of generator-powered trucks for transportation to the site.
“Every cabinet is signed off and sealed once it’s filled, and one goes to tent one, one goes to tent two, and everything is monitored, including temperature at time of sealing and temperature at time of opening, so we know how every trolley moves. There is a team dedicated just to this,” Chef Karsten says. It might seem like a gargantuan task, but the organisation has 12 years of experience under its belt, and Chef Karsten himself has been overseeing the show for the past few years. Also crucial to the operation, however, is Chef George Gebrayel. As Executive Chef of the kitchen of the main clubhouse of the Armed Forces Officer’s Club where the entire process is carried out, he is directly responsible for the food preparation process.
In addition to the Grand Mosque Iftar, the club still maintains its own operations, which include a 600 room hotel, three main restaurants, several cafes and lounges, and expansive leisure and sports facilities, including football pitches, tennis courts, squash courts, a 50m Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, a children’s village with games, a bowling alley, shooting range, ladies’ and mixed gyms, sports halls, paintball centre and track and field area.
GO: Visit www.afoc.mil.ae for more information