December 26, 2012 | 8:10am
With every well-branded name comes an image. Abercrombie & Fitch: preppy, half naked teenagers. Lulu Lemon: hot, yoga moms. Holiday Inn: cheap. Trump: gaudy asshole.
And then there's the Ritz-Carlton: special, luxurious, wealthy, 1,000-thread count sheets. It's a brand that every one can recognize, yet so few can actually enjoy.
Well, The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale
, now has a new executive chef. Whether or not this news is something you will be able to appreciate for yourself, he has some interesting points. Clean Plate Charlie has a chat with Egyptian-born Khaled Ibrahim.
Clean Plate Charlie: You have had a long history in hotel kitchens. How did you first get involved with this sort of cooking?
Ibrahim: I went to a hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh looking for an accounting position, but had no luck. My friend who worked in the hotel suggested that I work in the kitchen until the holidays passed and an accounting position was available. After spending a few weeks in the kitchen, hearing the sounds of knives being used and food being cooked, I just knew, the kitchen is where I belonged!
How does it differ from cooking in a privately owned restaurant?
Working in a hotel comes with a lot of guidelines. Down from to what kinds of food you purchase, to the brands and from what companies you choose them from, there is always a policy.
You were trained in your native country of Egypt. How has that shaped your style of cooking?
What I love about Egypt is that every market sells organic food. I would go to the store with my mom every day to buy fresh ingredients. In Egypt, everyone is brutally honest about the taste of food. Everything must be fresh and must have a lot of seasoning. If anyone found something wasn't to their liking, you would know in an instant. Thanks to my mom and grandmother, I learned that when it comes to preparing food, there are no shortcuts. And working with the best/freshest ingredients is key.
You've been with the Ritz-Carlton for some time now. How does the brand differ from others in terms of the food and operations of the kitchen?
What I love about our brand is that no matter which of our hotels you go into, we all have the same philosophy in the kitchen. We all execute the same safety protocols. We know that we have to keep up with our luxury standard and make that a priority.
Have you spent much time in Fort Lauderdale prior to taking this position?
Yes, I used to be be the restaurant chef at The Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott, so I am very familiar with the area. I love Fort Lauderdale. I love that the locals encourage us to produce great food here.
Where do you eat when you have time off?
I love to spearfish, so on my time off, my favorite thing to do is catch my own fish and then take my fish back home to cook with my family. But, if ever I go out to eat, I really enjoy eating at Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau.
What changes are you hoping to implement in the menu of the hotel?
I am hoping to rework the concept of the restaurant keeping some of the authentic Italian dishes, but adding a Mediterranean flair to the menu.
Who are your culinary idols?
My all-time culinary idol is Thomas Keller. He inspires me and his books can always be found in my office. Another idol is Ferran Adria.