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1 Canapes

Nothing helps kick start a classy event than some sumptuous canapes. For many years though, the same bites were being carried out to an increasingly disinterested crowd.

But with so many innovative chefs in the region, canapes are once again demanding 'oohs' and 'ahs' from guests.

Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel says that canapes have become "especially popular for us in the hotel industry".

"Networking events demand high quality bite-size tapas/nibbles that are tasty and cost-effective," he explains.

"In this region of growing diversity, we have seen an increase in popularity for smoked duck breast, beef bresaola, carpaccio and beef chorizo."

Beef is certainly demanding respect in the world of canapes.

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2 Steak Tartare

While steak tartare has been around for a long time, many have only just noted its growing popularity.

"As the global gastronomy landscape widens, and guests become more aware of the kinds of dishes that can be created, we are likely to see interest in the trend sustain," says sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar.

Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center

Hotel says the availability of beef as well as advanced transportation, storage and handling methods have all greatly improved the ability to serve quality raw dishes, such as tartare.

"These trends are also moving across borders and cultures, with steakhouses now existing on every continent," he continues.

Gaucho's managing partner Ross Butler asserts that the consumer has become better informed about food and is therefore open to try and experience new flavours.

"In addition raw beef, like raw fish gives a completely different experience to the guest, in terms of flavour and texture hence its growing popularity," he adds.

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3 Camels and Goats

Of course many alternatives to beef and camel meat have been consumed in the Middle East for many centuries.

"Somalia, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Kazakhstan and other arid regions tend to have greater access to camel as a source of protein," Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel.

"Camel meat is like coarse beef with older camels producing tougher meat. The meat does however become increasingly tender the longer it is cooked."

Pawar adds that local produce and natural habitation lends "notes of authenticity to local cuisine".

For Asado's executive sous chef at The Palace Downtown Dubai, Norberto A. Valdez Palacios, a big surprise has been the region's love of baby goat.

"In Asado we are grilling five full baby goats per night and normally by 11 pm we don't have any more baby goat - it is a very popular dish."

Did you know?

Global meat production rose to 297 million tons in 2011, an increase of 0.8% over 2010 levels, and was projected to reach 302 million tons by the end of 2012*.

*Source: The Worldwatch Institute.

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4 Charolais

The world of gastronomy has rightly become obsessed with the origins of products. In the Middle East, particularly amongst the high-end hotels and restaurants, names count and people expect the best.

With this in mind, Charolais is the name that counts when it comes to beef. Originally from France, Charolais cows' high level of red meat and low fat ensures a higher yield of meat.

"They are a popular breed due to their ability to breed with other cattle breeds, namely Angus and Hereford," explains Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel.

"The size and musculature of Charolais, when compared to other beef breeds, makes it one of the most popular breeds in the industry right now," he adds.

Despite this worldwide popularity, chef de cuisine and manager for M's Beef Bistro and M's Seafood Bistro at Le Meridien Dubai, Yvan Rocher, says this type of beef hasn't yet taken on in the regional market.

"The Charolais is not really popular in UAE as it has just been introduced," he asserts.

"We try to sell it but it's not popular with our guests."

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5 Cow Vs Chicken

While world meat production is rising, in developed countries it is actually beginning to shrink. Poultry production however rose 3% from in 2011 compared to 2010.

Sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar argues that beef consumption tends to be lower than poultry, "with 60% leaning towards poultry".

"One of the key reasons for this is that poultry tends to be lighter in calories and fat compared to meat, while considered safer and more hygienic to maintain," he adds.

There is also the question of affordability and with poultry less expensive than beef, Neumann says poultry's growing popularity is understandable.

Although in some restaurants there is only one winner.

"We are selling more than 200 steaks per night and no more than 10 chicken on a good evening," says executive sous chef at The Palace Downtown Dubai, Norberto A. Valdez Palacios. Overall though, chicken is still winning this battle and as recessions bite in the Western world, beef consumption, especially choice cuts will continue to fall.

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6 Frozen Vs Fresh

With advances in technology, it is possible to freeze and transport meat around the world with relative ease. Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel, believes therefore that frozen meat is common in many restaurants, with 100% of the fast food industry using the product.

"At New York Steakhouse, we only purchase chilled meat. Even though it is pricey and has a shorter shelf life, you do get what you pay for," he asserts.

"These qualities are lost when freezing meat then defrosting it afterwards. I do however feel that the use of frozen meat is very much focused around its target market though."

Sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar concurs adding that "chefs by nature and hotels in particular, prefer purchasing fresh meats as opposed to frozen foods".

"The quality of fresh meat will always surpass that of frozen, especially since it does not need to undergo the thawing process," he adds.

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7 Health

Beef has had its fair share of bad press in the past. BSE scares have nearly crippled beef industries in various countries.

But BSE is not common in this part of the world, according to sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar, because "the local authorities lay out strict rules and regulations to ensure meat imported into the city undergoes immense scrutiny, keeping health-related challenges at bay."

Aramtec food service manager Hossam Shabayk trusts that the region's high food standards will prevent any possible outbreaks.

"We always ensure that our meat comes from animals who have lived on a vegetarian diet through their life cycle which highly contributes in the safety of the product."

Moritz Neumann, sous chef at New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel also agrees that the "availability of quality suppliers is constantly growing in the region."

Butler says that fortunately for the Argentine beef industry there has never been an incidence of mad cow disease: "The black Aberdeen angus cattle that provide our beef are all free range and are fed only on pampas grass."

Top Tips for The Perfect Steak

Buy a quality piece of meat. Cheap cuts will not produce the same flavour or consistency.

Buy hearty steaks with good marbling. The fat provides plenty of flavour.

Steaks love pepper. Season your steak with plenty of salt and pepper.

Use oil first and add the butter towards the middle or end of the cooking. You don't want the milk proteins to burn in the butter.

Let it rest. Allow the muscle fibres to relax and therefore be able to hold onto more of the beautiful juices.

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8 Safety

In order to ensure beef is safe for consumption, there are a number of factors that need to be considered.

"The main factor is to ensure that meat is purchased from a trustworthy and approved supplier, while packaging and slaughter dates need to be checked, especially since the meats are imported," Sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar insists.

"In line with the highest standards that we uphold at The Address Downtown Dubai, we send our meats for lab tests, to ensure meat served to guests is the right temperature and texture."

Gaucho's managing partner Ross Butler says his restaurant has "full traceability" of the beef it uses.

"Each cut arrives vacuum sealed to the restaurant and we can trace each piece of meat back to the animal from which it came, and the area of pampas on which it lived," he explains.

Aramtec food service manager Hossam Shabayk also stresses the importance of never taking any chances with safety, as while he operates out of a modern facility with temperature controlled equipment, he also ensures "all delivery trucks are temperature controlled and monitored very closely to ensure that goods are kept at right temperature during deliveries."

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9 Beef Alternatives

Why anyone would want an alternative to beef we don't know, but there are vegetarian alternatives.

Moritz Neumann, sous chef New York Steakhouse Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel, says that protein alternatives "have evolved greatly" and are more and more widely available to vegetarian consumers.

"There are many restaurants devoted to providing only vegetarian options, and we also provide vegetarian options at New York Steakhouse."

Executive sous chef at The Palace Downtown Dubai, Norberto A. Valdez Palacios recommends quinoa , a "cereal of God" as he puts it.

"This particular grain has been very popular in Dubai since last year," he says.

"We have been trying to do some quinoa burgers - the result is very good, however it's still on trial."

Aramtec food service manager Hossam Shabayk agrees "that there is a big vegetarian community in the UAE, especially from the sub-continent and restaurants are increasingly catering to this market segment."

However "There's nothing quite like a good steak," he happily admits..

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10 Trendy Beef

With booming economies in Asia and South America buoying beef production, it's popularity is certainly not in doubt, but is there growth in the near future?

"As long as there are good chefs using the highest standards of meat, consumption of meat will continue to increase," asserts sous chef The Address Downtown Dubai, Anup Pawar.

"With superior meats such as Wagyu available to consumers, the industry will continue to witness increased growth."

Butler doubts however that beef consumption will continue to rise in general terms over the next ten years.

"Costs are being driven up as many farmers are abandoning cattle farming to pursue more lucrative opportunities, for example the production of soya," he argues.

"I believe that the premium beef market will continue to grow. The consumer is much better informed on the health implications and quality differences that can be found between different products.

As this knowledge grows, the discerning consumer will choose the premium market, at the detriment of the lower levels."

However, Aramtec food service manager Hossam Shabayk believes that the rising popularity of beef, and the increasing pressures on world supply will have the opposite effect.

Because while the premium market will always exist, the majority of us will have to rely more and more on less traditional cuts.

"The pressure on beef supply will increase as demand is on the rise, we will have to start using new cuts of meat which are popular in other parts of the world such as Tri Tip, flap and brisket and then train chefs to use these cuts and how to engineer their menus accordingly," warns Shabayk.

Did you know?

Argentina and Uruguay are the largest consumers of beef in the world.

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Publication:Hotelier Middle East
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Mar 13, 2013
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