5 Minutes with the Chef: Ibrahim Naeem, Chef de Partie at Hulhule’ Island Hotel (HIH)
For our latest 5 Minutes with the Chef segment, we speak to Chef Ibrahim Naeem, known as Boo Boo to his friends. Naeem is currently chef de partie at Hulhule’ Island Hotel, where he has worked for the past 14 years. The culinary team at HIH is renowned throughout the country, and was recently named ‘Most Outstanding Culinary Organisation’ at the 2015 Food and Hospitality Asia Maldives Culinary Challenge.
When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
My dad was actually a chef, and he always warned me that cooking was extremely difficult. He warned me not to do it! So of course, as a teenager, I took it as a challenge! I thought, “I’ll show you I can, Dad!”
Where did you train to become a chef?
Here at HIH. I’ve been here for 14 years – my whole career! I started in the kitchen as a trainee, and I’ve been so fortunate to have been given so many opportunities. I’ve been sent on cross-training across the region – to Singapore, India and Malaysia – where I’ve worked in some top kitchens and learnt so much.
What is it that excites you about being a chef?
Being a chef is tough, but it’s also extremely fun. You get to innovate, to create something new. Anyone can cook a curry, but here we get to refine it, to make the dish unique. And I like the way we do things here, we don’t just cook the same things every day and then leave. We’re always learning. For example, a guest might want something cooked a little differently so we have to understand their needs and respond in the right way.
What’s your favourite kind of food to cook?
I love cooking Arabian food. It has similarities to Maldivian food, and I love Arabic flavours.
If you could eat at any restaurant in the world, where would you choose?
I think I’d choose one of the Marina Bay Sands restaurants – there are so many to choose from!
If you could cook for anyone – who would it be and what would you cook for them?
Well, I’ve already cooked for Maldivian Presidents and received very good feedback – so that was a real highlight in my career. But, if I had to choose someone else, I think I’d choose the footballer Messi. I’d keep it simple with a nice, lean steak.
What’s the best part of cooking at HIH?
We’re lucky to have great management here. I enjoy the work, it’s creative. I love taking part in culinary competitions, too. Over the years, the team of chefs here has won many awards – including Best Culinary Establishment. I’ve even had the honour of being named Best Chef, so you can’t ask for more!
Chef Naeem’s favourite recipe: Rare yellowfin tuna wrapped in cabbage leaf
40gms yellowfin tuna loin
10gms cabbage leaf
2 spring roll corns
10gms baby greens
5ml extra virgin olive oil
5ml lime juice
Salt and pepper to tasteMethod:
- Season yellowfin tuna with salt, pepper, lime juice and horseradish.
- Sear in a hot pan for 2 minutes on all the sides.
- Keep in chiller for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Remove from chiller and wrap with survey cabbage.
- Cut into 1 centimetre slices, arrange and serve with passion fruit sauce.
For the passion fruit sauce:Ingredients:
6ml passion fruit
30ml orange juice
15gms unsalted butter
5ml fresh cream Method:
- Heat the passion fruit then add orange juice and water
- Reduce to 50%, caramelize the sugar and mix with the passion fruit mixture and cook on low temperature for another 2 minutes
- Lastly, add butter and cream, and strain