At a live awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi held on January 30, 2023, the World’s 50 Best revealed its power list, showcasing the diversity and richness of food culture in the region.
Valrhona was honored to be the official chocolate partner for the second edition of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants and sponsor of the Best Pastry Chef Award. As a taste artisan since 1922 and a pioneer and specialist in the world of chocolate, Valrhona continues to pursue its mission “Together, good becomes better” with passion and commitment. Indeed, its partnership with MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants reaffirms Valrhona’s commitment to excellence and taste innovation, celebrating the region’s gastronomy and talented chefs.
From a Caviar-Komuntu 80% activation with Kaviari at Hitlon Abu Dhabi Yas Island’s first consumer event, to the launch of Hukambi 53% at the Conrad Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi on Award night, or the extraordinary 35 dishes menu developed by the Conrad’s team made with Valrhona chocolate throughout, the display of Valrhona chocolate by José Pizarro with non-edible chocolate – this year was all about the love of chocolate!
In a statement, Guillaume Lafaix, IMEA business unit manager, said: “For the second edition of MENA’s World 50 Best, our commitment to building a community of chefs, promoting sustainability and responsible gastronomy, and upholding our B Corp values remains steadfast. After Sirha 2023, we are proud to introduce our new ombré chocolate origin, Hukambi 53% from Brazil, which will be the highlight of 2023. We would like to extend our gratitude to all of our partners, including Conrad Etihad Towers Abu Dhabi, Hilton Yas Island Abu Dhabi, the Hilton Group, World 50 Best, Kaviari, Norohy, SOSA, and Adamance, for making this edition a chocolate extravaganza. Congratulations to Karim Bourgi on winning the MENA World 50 Best Pastry Award, following in the footsteps of Sahar Parham Al Awadhi.”
Artisan pastry chef Karim Bourgi, founder of Kayu Bakehouse, was awarded the MENA’s Best Pastry Chef Award, sponsored by Valrhona. The award aims to recognize and reward talent and excellence in the field of desserts and pastry. Born in Senegal to Lebanese parents, Karim Bourgi graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 2000 and trained at some of the finest establishments in France. A member of Les Toques Blanches du Monde, the International Cheese Guild, and brand ambassador for Elle & Vire, Valrhona, Carpigiani Italia and RATIONAL, Bourgi continues to pile up the awards for his outstanding work.
Commenting on his win, Bourgi stated: “I am moved and grateful for winning this coveted title. It would be arrogant to say that I deserve it for all the hard work and long years I’ve invested in my craft but what I will say is that I will keep giving my all to the industry with unwavering love and passion.”
Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai, UAE, was named the Best Restaurant in Middle East & North Africa 2023. Syrian chef Mohammad Orfali has turned his passion for food into a family affair by launching Orfali Bros with his siblings Wassim and Omar. The trendy bistro in Dubai serves reimagined Levantine dishes that constantly push the boundaries. Orfali Bros serves contemporary dishes with a hint of the traditional. The menu is unique, so you won’t find classic items like tiramisu, chocolate fondant, brownies or croissants on it.
Second place went to Dubai’s Indian Michelin-starred Trèsind Studio, while third place was awarded to Fusions by Tala (the Gulf Hotel) from Manama, Bahrain. Born in Bahrain, Tala Bashmi is making a name for herself as one of the rising stars of the culinary world. An MBC Top Chef finalist and winner of MENA’s Best Female Chef award 2022 is on a quest to not only modernize Arabic cuisine but also create a culinary journey like no other in her restaurant, Fusions by Tala.
The award ceremony also honored prominent chefs and figures in the culinary industry who have transformed the dining scene. The region’s Best Female Chef 2023 went to Salam Dakkak. The Icon Award was given to Anissa Helou, a Lebanese writer who is educating the world about Middle Eastern cuisine and cultures.
Alongside the awards ceremony were other events showcasing the best products and gastronomy of the United Arab Emirates, including a Valrhona chocolate artwork designed by José Pizarro. Originally from a Cáceres, Extremadura, Pizarro is regarded as the Godfather of Spanish cooking in the UK. His mantra of simplicity, together with his charm, enthusiasm and passion for Spanish food, has led to José appearing on many TV programs.