When it comes to establishing and operating specialty cuisine restaurants abroad, one of the main concerns will be sourcing ingredients. Ingredients despite having the same namings at times, will taste quite different from one region to the other. Different terroir produces different produce and besides the variation in flavours, the produce can sometimes even behave differently in cooking. While today most produce is flown all across the world and specialty suppliers are capable of supplying you with just about anything that grows under the sun, to the restaurants and chefs who are considering seasonality, who are greener and "local" oriented, this does not make the cut. In fact, this type of produce is what they try to avoid. Instead they would go through a full exploration of an area's produce and research its workability with their intended menus and adjust their offerings as well as adapt their recipes accordingly.
On this link: See how Baker & Spice Dubai tackled this when they first arrived in Dubai from London.Some may argue that this leaves no place to authentic cuisine, however, every chef I chatted with about this concern have all agreed that it is actually workable. A tomato is a tomato, they all seem to agree. Yes it tastes different, and at times has different consistencies, but a chef has all the tools to adapt and adjust any recipe to work and produce authentic results.
The authenticity is more threatened by infusing ingredients or produce that are non-existent in the cuisine and terroir of the cuisine's original region. It can also be lost with the use of some foreign techniques to the original cuisine, a good example of which are the very new Risottos that have been brought into Arabic cuisine lately. If people continue to produce these, then maybe in the future they will become integrated into the cuisine and considered part of the influenced authentic cuisine, however at this point these stand as fusions.
With that said, using round zucchinis instead of Kusa in the making of the famous "Stuffed Kusa" dish, will still produce the same results. The recipe and cooking technique will have to be slightly adjusted as the skin of the round zucchinis is softer and more fragile than that of Kusa, however, nothing that drastically changes the dish, its flavours or authentic associations.
Ingredients - from flavour, texture, resemblance or difference from the original terroir's ingredients - are a major element to consider when thinking of establishing a specialty cuisine restaurant abroad. Not just flavour and function wise but also from a cost perspective as flown in ingredients are definitely folds more expensive than local ingredients, which in the end affects a restaurant's bottom line and ultimately its market share. Perhaps then it is worth considering purchasing local produce?
During the Italian Cuisine World Summit that took place in Dubai last November, establishing Italian restaurants abroad and ensuring their success, was one of the topics expansively discussed by the chefs and restauranteurs. During my chat with with Master Chef Walter Potenza we touched on this topic, especially that he is no stranger to the whole 'specialty cuisine restaurant abroad' concept. After all Chef Walter left Italy to the United States of America when he was only 18 years of age and through the years he'd successfully established himself as a Master Italian Chef and an authority on Italian cuisine. Watch the video below and listen to him explain his take on sourcing ingredients for 'Potenza' (his Italian Restaurant in the United States). In his case and point of view, it is about Italian cuisine restaurants, however this could be applicable to any specialty cuisine restaurant.
I would love to hear from those who are experienced in "Specialty Cuisine Restaurant Abroad" their take on this. What do you guys advise aspiring restauranteurs in terms of ingredients? Do you encourage local sourcing? Or do you advise them to go the purist way of ingredients from the original terroir? I am sure your experience and advise will be inspiring and hugely appreciated.