Q&A with Chef Khala of La Mer restaurant in Doha
When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
When I finished high school I wanted to become a surgeon because I find the human body fascinating. However, after doing some research I came across Culinary Management - I always loved food and different flavors, cultures so I decided to go for it and give it a try.
Do your family share your interest in food?
I have a big family and my grandmother has always lived with us and she brings a lot of passion for cooking into the family. She cooks food the way she learned it from her mother and its very simple, but has tons of flavor!
What was the first dish you remember cooking?
From what I remember it was lasagna. I invited my friends over and followed a recipe from my school cook book.
Where did you train?
I did most of my training in Toronto. There are some great chefs like Chef Susur Lee, who is a world renowned chef, from Canada. I learned my basic skills there. I did some training in France, Spain, Chicago and Rome - working with great Michelin level chefs. My travels gave me a different perspective about cuisine and how personal cooking can be.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about cooking?
I would say to keep it simple! Use different flavors, textures, and present it in different ways. Be honest to the food itself and don’t compromise on its integrity. I worked with molecular cuisine and I do incorporate ideas and skills that will enhance my cooking, but not to take over what’s in the plate. Also seasoning in stages is a must, never season fully in the end! Season and taste as you go.
What is the most basic mistake people do when they’re cooking at home?
I wouldn’t say this is a mistake, but most home cooks need to think out of the box a little. You will be surprised with what you can do and also surprise your family and guests. Be more experimental and have fun with it rather than just another family meal.
When you go to restaurants, what do you judge them on?
I used to be very judgmental and looked into every detail. I learned to take it easy and enjoy my time and know that nowhere is perfect. Of course, I judge most on the food and if it’s done right!.
What is your favorite cuisine and go-to snack?
My favorite cuisine is Thai, as it hits all the senses - it’s like fireworks in your mouth. Salty, sweet, spicy, sour and lots of textures. I love it.
What do you think of the Doha food scene?
Doha’s culinary scene is up-and-coming. Great chefs are looking into having their restaurants in Doha and chefs like Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsey and Nobu are already here so it feels good to be in Doha while its growing and be part of the it.
What are your plans for La Mer?
La Mer has a great name in the city and has been one of the top restaurants for many years in Doha so the pressure is on! My plan is to introduce cuisine that is memorable and for the guest to have a dining experience
What do you think of food bloggers and people taking photos of food?
I have no issue with it as long as it’s not disturbing other guests experience. I don’t recommend pictures with a flash because it can be disturbing, but at the end of the day in order to have a good blog, a picture is always helpful and affective.
Is it true that chefs tend to eat badly when they’re off duty?
That’s a tough one! I guess it all depends on the person, but speaking for myself and most chefs it’s a yes! Most places that I have worked at, we all go for drinks after work and order greasy food for some reason. Who doesn’t like pizza, a burger and fries after a long day's work?
What is your biggest ambition?
I would say to dine in every three Michelin restaurant in the world! I have done three so far so many more to experience!
Who is your favorite chef?
Chef Curtis Duffy. I met him while I was doing my time in Alinea restaurant in Chicago where he was the Chef de Cuisine. He now owns Grace restaurant which earned three Michelin stars early this year. I was amazed by his thought process about food, his skills and work ethic.
INFO: To make a reservation at La Mer, The Ritz-Carlton Doha, www.ritzcarltondoha.com