Six Acclaimed Chefs Present a Silk Route-Inspired 12-Hands Dinner at MGM x RR1HK Culinary Masters Macau 2024: Day 2 Highlights
Never a dull moment at Culinary Masters as the second day was spent attuning into Macau and its cultural heartbeat, culminating with an extravagant dinner.
BY Robb Report Hong Kong  |  July 1, 2024
7 Minute Read

Culinary Masters 2024 at MGM COTAI

This story is part of a series of features covering MGM x RR1HK Culinary Masters Macau 2024, hosted at MGM COTAI in Macau on 28–30 June 2024. 

MGM x RR1HK Culinary Masters Macau 2024­­ continued on the second day with cultural, artistic, and culinary adventures as a veritable smorgasbord of curated activities offered something for everyone who wanted to partake in unique experiences and forge unforgettable memories.

Saturday kicked off with a Culinary Master himself, chef Yang Dengquan of Five Foot Road at MGM COTAI, hosting a cooking class for mapo tofu to showcase the intricacies of Sichuan cuisine. Diving into its deep-rooted ingredients meant to nourish, heal, and ignite the senses, it was a look at Asian cuisine at its finest. The intimidating spice racks boasted burning red and amber chillies and jars housing exotic ingredients that can trigger the tastebuds, but as Yang proved, everything had a sense of balance, and a robust aroma profile and taste when done in correct portions and proportions.

The event segued into a refreshing Chinese tea tasting session. Nimble hands showcased the fine art of an ancient tea ceremony, perfected over time, while presenting the curated dried leaves and magical alchemy that happens over boiling water. Guests were enlightened on the characteristics of Da Hong Pao from Fujian with a pure taste and golden colour, and the delicacy of a 23-year-old pu’er tea from Yunnan that connoisseurs love for its rich, sweet taste of aged camphor and red-date aroma. 

Chef Garima Arora, of Gaa in Bangkok, and her crew led a cooking class on gobi paratha— cauliflower flatbread—a staple in North Indian cuisine. A comfort food for a billion, it looked complicated to make but through Arora’s instruction, many made it well at first attempt. Deep-fried cauliflower with a splash of lime, chopped coriander leaf, a dash of ginger, and ghee (refined butter) brings alive the humble cauliflower, while the thick batter for the paratha (flatbread)was a test of willpower and biceps, as the rolls of battered flour, with egg white, cumin powder, black salt, and even a dash of whipping cream and unsalted butter, was a sumptuous exercise in great taste. The cheerful chef was so much fun to work with, many stayed after the class ended to keep chatting.   

For wine lovers, Vino Condiviso was running all day at another wing of MGM COTAI as a steady stream of guests flowed in and out. A wine lover’s paradise, a large hall was filled with booths featuring the finest vintages from Italian vineyards, on display and for sale. Many a guest who met with participating vendors got a whiff of the best of Italy. Too many fine wines stood out to list, but we give a tip of the hat to Vigne Olcru, which caters almost exclusively to Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Sino Vantagewines brought so many of their flights that we were spoilt for choice, and Vietiwines had its own share of fans who sniffed, swirled, and sampled its reds.

Speaking of Italian, simultaneously, in another mezzanine floor of MGM COTAI at Grill 58, chef Marco Galtarossa had a full house of over a dozen guests in his kitchen as the Italian native and his crew pulled out all the stops for a fresh pasta-making class just before lunch. With barely a handful of ingredients—flour, egg yolk, semolina flour, durum wheat, a splash of extra virgin olive oil, and a dash of sea salt—proved that the simplest dish, made well, was simply delicious. 

For those new to the region, a Macau tour was organised to take guests around the scenic spots and historical buildings, sights, and sounds. Others tried the art tour within MGM COTAI, which included a private tour of a Ren Zhe exhibition, a look at the vintage art along the hotel corridors, and concluded at M’Art, the property’s own ever-changing gallery. The Ren Zhe tour stood out for many as it proved MGM COTAI’s commitment to showcasing great art under the aegis of its expansive property by inviting the famed Chinese artist to display his regal, fierce warrior figures. Sketches, sculptures, paintings, and clothes designed by Ren were on display and sale.

Late afternoon, a warm gathering in a private corner of Aji was just the need of the hour, as the finest Italian brew was served by the fine folks at Illy. A coffee academic led a talk to school the gathering of coffee lovers on the aroma profiles of refined coffee. Many learnt of the various different notes that a hot cup of java can have, including jasmine, citrus, hazelnut, toasted bread, caramel, chocolate, and spices. The smell test that was passed around left many enlightened on the sensations of Illy. 

The ever-popular behind-the-scenes tour of MGM COTAI’s vast kitchens was an exercise that left many a guest stunned. For a hotel and resort that caters to thousands of guests every hour of every day, the kitchen operation is one of epic scale and meticulous preparation. The resident chefs invited a handful of guests behind closed and guarded doors, into spaces normally not permitted for public viewing. The staging was phenomenal, and the volume too—you’ve never seen so much fresh produce, utensils, and serviettes kept in such orderly fashion, dispensed with practised precision.

In the thick of Macau’s summer heat, many guests took to their suites before emerging to the grand ballroom of MGM COTAI, dressed to the nines for the evening’s gala dinner. The black-tie invitation was the hottest ticket in town, and the dazzling and the distinguished arrived en masse for the culinary event of the year: the 12-hands gala dinner that was the highlight of the three-day affair.  

To fulfil the central theme of MGM x RR1HK Culinary Masters Macau 2024, “Savor 700 Years of Silk Road Flavors: A Gastronomic Odyssey,” the journey began with two-Michelin-star-studded chef Garima Arora who, true to form, started the first course with a bang: a DIY bhel. A novel twist on an often vegetarian starter, Arora added a twist with tuna, somsa chilli, and khakhra cracker. Keeping with the theme, sommelier Yulia Ezhikova paired the dish with a wine that had a Silk Road connection: the 2022 Silver Heights Bloom sparkling wine from Ningxia.

For the next course, accomplished two-Michelin-starred chef Chudaree “Tam” Debhakam took the stage to introduce her blue lobster, with southern curry bisque, a lobster dumpling, and braised bamboo. The curry had quite the kick, but Ezhikova’s corresponding wine, the 2007 Winter Poem huangiiu yellow wine from Shaoxing, assuaged the senses.

Chef Sara Aqel, a Michelin Bib Gourmand honouree, proved she’s well on her way to star status with her doubla cappelletti, a favourite of the night as it featured duck and leek with Aleppo pepper jus, duck and soy jus, basil oil, and a crispy chip. What looked like a garden salad had such surprising bites of flavour and richness, it went superbly with the 2019 Bibi Graetz Testamatta from Tuscany.

Chef Marco Galtarossa continued with a colourful risotto featuring green pea, marinated scallop, and lemon verbena that was perfectly paired with a 2014 Malvira Roero Arneis Renesio from Piedmont.

When the main course arrived in the guise of dessert, many were taken aback. It looked like a chocolate opera cake, but was, in fact, beef rib, with snow konjac, chanterelle mushrooms, and ginger. Chef Yang Dengquan definitely served the unexpected, and the penultimate course was complemented by a 2018 Tedeschi Amarone della Valpolicella Marne 180 from the Veneto region.  

Last, but certainly not least, Macau’s very own chef Florita Morais Alves served Season, a light yet rich dessert in a coconut shell with alua, camalenga, poached figs in coffee, and orange granita capped with a rice cracker—a clever understanding that after five calorific courses, the palate needed something gentle. The dessert wine was from Italy, a 2021 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé from Sicily, a heady concoction that capped the night and glorious day.

The after-party with an open bar, live music, and open dance floor saw many guest unwind, but mostly conversation steered towards reminiscing over their favourite course of the night and cementing the memories that the flavours of the 12-hands gala dinner impressed on the taste buds.

Tune in for more exciting events of MGM x RR1HK Culinary Masters Macau 2024­­ tomorrow.