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in Business Aviation / Features

Enjoying the fruits of their labours…

Posted 25 April 2017 · Add Comment

From the simplest of ingredients to offering a rare and expensive pineapple, nothing is too much trouble for Executive Gourmet – the exclusive caterer at the UAE's Al Bateen Executive Airport

A division of Gate Gourmet, Executive Gourmet has hubs all over the world, including Geneva, Hong Kong, and Rio. But its stand-alone unit at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi is something that makes Menezes de Aguiar and Harker, very proud.
“Al Bateen is the first and the only exclusive airport dedicated to private and general VVIP aviation in the UAE, and the region has seen tremendous growth in business aviation,” said Menezes de Aguiar.
“We first opened here in 2011 and it has gone from strength to strength. We are now fully settled in at Al Bateen and happy to announce 30% of our business is in the UAE, with Falcon being our biggest customer.”
While the company offers carefully designed guideline menus, it mainly lets the customers decide what they want.
“Our menu is just an indication, but the customer can ask and order whatever they want, and we do it,” said Menezes de Aguiar.
Harker is at the helm of the kitchen, and has a natural flare and instinct when it comes to food and what a high-end customer expects.
“I basically love food,” he said. “I love everything from the smells, textures and the abundant flash of colour it delivers.”
Harker has been a chef for 41 years, which has included being an executive chef for the last 16, working all over the world.
“As an executive chef you need a wear a million hats, it’s not just about cooking,” he explaioned. “You need to be a friend and a disciplinarian at the same time, you need to listen and advise, you need to be a mathematician and a scientist, an agony uncle and a peace keeper.”
Harker is currently working on his new menu for Executive Gourmet that will be complete in February.
He has the help of nine international chefs offering their own expertise.
“We are a 24/7 company and all of my chefs work over three shifts,” he said. “We work closely with the jet crews to supply what the customer profiles are – and this order is usually within a day, but it can be just hours before.”
Harker said customer requests have included everything from caviar and fresh Canadian lobsters to hand-crafted Belgium chocolates and green tea ice cream from Japan. He added that healthier menus were also being requested more often now.
One item requested was something many of us will think we can just pop to our local supermarket for… a pineapple.
“There is a pineapple, a simple pineapple, that is grown in Cornwall in England,” said Harker. “However, the growing technique dates back to the Victorian times and the fruit is nurtured in a special climate-controlled greenhouse. Needless to say, it was difficult to get my hands on the special fruit – you need to pre-order it a year in advance – and at a cost of $21,000 per pineapple. We managed it, though, and it pleased our customer.”
Saying that, the company also makes sure it can deliver fast food as requested, down to a McDonalds that one particular royal client enjoys.
The company also provides other services to customers including flower arrangements, concierge services, international magazines and newspapers, and laundry services.
It recently launched its latest range in luxury amenity kits by designers including Bvlgari, La Prairie, and L’Occitane.
Asked if Executive Gourmet plans to expand anywhere else in the Middle East, Menezes de Aguiar said:” We are very comfortable here at Al Bateen, but we are open to all possible opportunities and have a few ideas. However, at present, there is nothing concrete.
“For now, we want to continue increasing our customer portfolio – we are currently in discussions with Dubai South and Emirates Catering – and extending our offer to other airports in the UAE working along with other stakeholders.”
 

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