Sumeet Kurmi, Executive Chef at Al Areen Palace and Spa by Accor, talks experimentation, inspiration and falling in love.

It has previously been mentioned that food science is what inspired you to be a chef. How did you become aware of this? Were you inspired from an early age?
I was in high school watching an episode of Kitchen Chemistry by Heston Blumenthal, where he was doing blindfolded experiments. This concentrated on the powers of each sensory [experience]. Each of our senses plays such an important role in our perception of our favourite foods and builds memories.
Recipes are important to follow, however at times they need to be adjusted. For example: what happens when you have very high humidity in a kitchen? Or the beef short rib you received is not becoming tender, even after overnight braising? Or the potatoes are not starchy enough while making gnocchi?
This is when Food Science comes in.

Who have been your mentors along the way and what is the most important lesson you have learned?
Throughout my culinary Journey, of 17 years, I have worked with some of the toughest and most humble chefs and general managers.
Chef Jeremy Touzelet, in Grand Cayman, inspired me to be patient and calm through any tense situations in the kitchen; Chef Michael Scott, in Bermuda, made me repeat some recipes more than 15 times! And my most influential mentor, Marie B Chapoton, [Al Areen GM] whose inclusive leadership and passion for perfection are my biggest motivators.
I am as good as my team.

What three ingredients do you always have in your kitchens and why?
Roasted garlic – which is widely used in dressings, sauces, marinations, dips etc.
Seasoning salt – a blend of eight types of salts and spices; a wonder spice that can be used for any veg, meat, poultry or seafood.
Fresh limes – king of acidity and freshness which brings out flavours and improves the palate.

What is your signature dish? How was it developed and what makes it popular?
Eight-hour Sous Vide Octopus. It’s cooked with a modern French technique, charred and crispy from the outside, drizzled with Canena extra virgin olive oil and served with caper crushed baby potatoes and locally sourced red pepper persillade.
It’s one of the trickiest types of seafood to cook; after multiple trials with various techniques, we achieved the texture we wanted through sous vide.
When a guest tries octopus for the first time in their life with hesitation and finally falls in love with this dish – my goal is accomplished! ✤