Chef Mateen Sigdel from Chang’s Golden Dragon, Dubai, knows how to foster teamwork among his kitchen staff. He also cooks up a storm!
By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | June 13, 2023
Hire wisely. Establish effective communication. Clarify roles. Outline expectations. Don’t micromanage. Encourage feedback. Reward excellent teamwork. Workers should be paid a fair wage for their services and not be subject to a culture of fear or violence in the workplace.
These are not tips from the Head of HR or a CEO of a multi-national but Chef Mateen Sigdel’s advice on how he fosters teamwork and collaboration among his kitchen staff. Hailing from Nepal, Chef Mateen Sigdel woks his magic at Chang’s Golden Dragon in Dubai. A good man manager, Chef Sigdel also knows how to have you eat from the palm of his hand!
Nestled deep inside IMG Worlds of Adventure, Chang’s Golden Dragon is one of the many restaurants on this vast property that offers visitors a day of peace and fun.
Opening Doorz to Chang’s Golden Dragon and Chef Mateen’s magic with his signature dish, Dynamite Siracha Prawns and Asian Chicken Moneybags.
What motivated you to become a chef?
I love cooking. As far as I can remember, I recall spending a lot of time in the kitchen at home in my childhood. This led me to a love for cooking. Soon, I was allowed to try my hand at cooking and later I started experimenting with new recipes. I still experiment with new recipes and when they turn out delicious, it makes me happy. I also enjoy inviting people home and serving them food cooked by me. So yes, I was always motivated to be a part of the kitchen!
Where did you receive your culinary training, and how did it shape your career?
I did my culinary training at Hotel Dwarika in Nepal. After being trained there I worked in different hotels where I sharpened my skills. Getting compliments from those who dine is a real motivator for me and the staff. It helps us work harder at our craft. After all, cooking is not only about the ingredients that go into the dish; it is also about how one cooks—the love for cooking and the joy of participating in that exercise. It all blends and helps in a dish being relished by guests.
How would you describe your cooking style or philosophy?
My cooking philosophy is creating more as I can. I like trying out new dishes and experimenting with new ingredients. I take a recipe and create magic. Adding different spices, and sauces to the meal can help one cook an unforgettable dish.
What principles guide your approach to creating dishes?
Hygiene is the most important factor for me before, during, and after preparing any dish. I like to see my space neat, not only the cooking area but the entire kitchen.
What do you believe sets apart exceptional chefs from others?
The chef should have an encyclopedic knowledge of food, ingredients available, seasonality of those ingredients, methods of cooking that are most appropriate for those ingredients, and how to compensate through solid cooking for any character flaws that might exist in those ingredients.
For Chang’s Golden Dragon, what is your signature dish?
Dynamite Siracha Prawns! One must try this dish. There is also Asian Chicken Money Bags that one must try. This is a traditional Thai dish which comes under the Asian cuisine. This dish comes in two flavours—chicken and prawns. This is a very attractive dish, it has a unique shape, is crisp to perfection and the taste is mouth-watering. For me, no dish can replace Asian Chicken Money bags as a starter.
How do you approach menu planning and development?
Step 1: Take Stock. Check your pantry and fridge for staples you have on hand and like as well as items that need to be used.
Step 2: Map Your Meals.
Step 3: Focus on Fresh.
Step 4: Pack in Protein.
Step 5: Love Your Leftovers.
How do you ensure a balance between variety and coherence on your menus?
One has to check on the spread of dishes and ingredients used along with the spread of price points and profitability. One also has to monitor the seasonality within the dishes. Healthier options and the ratio of dishes within each section have also to be looked into. This is how I ensure a balance between variety and consistency.
What are your thoughts on ethical sourcing of workforce in the culinary industry?
Ethical sourcing is critical to ensuring that workers globally are protected from unhygienic, unacceptable, unsafe, or exploitative working conditions. That is to say, workers should be paid a fair wage for their services and not be subject to a culture of fear or violence in the workplace.
How do you foster teamwork and collaboration among your kitchen staff?
Hire wisely. Establish effective communication. Clarify roles. Outline expectations. Don’t micromanage. Encourage feedback. Reward excellent teamwork. Encourage social events.
What leadership strategies do you employ to manage a kitchen effectively?
Be Realistic About Hours. Once you hire great staff, good scheduling practices can play a big part in employee retention. Consider giving different shifts. Cross-train employees. Set goals and expectations. On-the-job training. Let them make mistakes. Give feedback.
What do you think are the current or emerging trends in the culinary world?
There is an increased interest in healthier foods and the rise of plant-based diets.
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