Amouage held a preview of its new ‘Odyssey Collection: Escape’ inspired by fragrances in nature that evoke unique emotions of bliss, which will be launched in January 2023. The uniqueness of the perfumes were last week demonstrated at a fine-dining session for select invitees at Al Baleed Resort Salalah with a four-course menu infused with aromas akin to four new perfumes
The heady, marine odours emanating from the Arabian Sea yonder seemed to fight for supremacy… But the magical whiffs of Amouage’s latest Odyssey Collection:Escape, that surrounded a batch of al fresco diners at Al Baleed Resort Salalah (as part of the Al Baleed Food Festival by Anantara) was on an altogether different level.
It came forth in cascading bursts, each with its own unique kick and a story behind each conception. Every fragrance presented had a distinct identity, though there seemed to be an invisible chord binding the collection – one that was mystical yet earthy, out of the world yet inspired by it, subtle yet intense!And the invitees could actually ‘taste’ the nuances of Escape in what was described as a ‘grand culinary experience’
Renaud Salmon, Amouage chief experience officer, heralded the evening dinner with his frank sharing of the various concepts and considerations that went into the creation of the perfumes for Escape. He attributed his success in creating a new experience to the immense creative freedom that he enjoyed at Amouage.
“We are here to create the exceptional and that’s why we continue to uncover innovative routes to perfume creation, all explored through the unique lens of our ancient fragrance heritage,” he said, adding, “It’s a great honour to be able to take this thousand year old foundation and reimagine it in a way that resonates with discerning clients around the world.”
Salmon introduced each of the four perfumes of the new collection to be launched in January 2023 – Lineage, Search, Guidance and Purpose – as the courses of the evening’s dinner progressed, each course inspired by one of the new perfumes.
Amouage Lineage was inspired by the mineral winds of Masirah with top notes of ginger, sichuan pepper, schinus molle, and saffron, heart notes of frankincense, fenugreek and myrrh and base notes blended with frankincense resinoid, myrrh resinoid, vetiver, patchouli, benzoin and labdanum. The culinary experience to match this included ‘gillardeau oyster’ with apple, ginger and fenugreek; watermelon kefir with malossol caviar and seagrapes; and shredded crab meat with fermented green asparagus and sea breath.
Amouage Search was infused with citruses within burning woods with top notes of lemon, lime and mandarin, heart notes of Hojari frankincense, black pepper and elemi, and base note of cade, vetiver and guaiacwood. The culinary equivalent comprised ‘king crab meat’ with pumpkin and gingerbread; hamachi infused with tigermilk, mandarine and menengic oil, and frozen kumquat with sea urchin.
Amouage Guidance reflected the ‘delicate strength of femininity’ with top notes of pear, incense and hazelnut, heart notes of saffron, rose, sambac, jamine and osmanthus, and base notes of cistus, sandalwood, akigalawood, ambergris and vanilla. The culinary experience comprised ‘sandalwood smoked pigeon breast’ with fermented pear and hazlenut, and wagyu tenderloin with Jerusalem artichoke and herb cream.
Amouage Purpose was said to be ‘a shamanic awakening’ bringing forth a feeling of peace and contentment. The top notes were bergamot, pink pepper, frankincense and pimento berry while the heart notes were rose, sand vetiver, sandalwood and papyrus, and the base notes were saffron, suede, mystikal and akigalawood. The culinary experience involved a dessert comprising ‘frozen bergamot’ with pandan, Earl Grey, blueberry and pink pepper.
Painstakingly crafted by Thomas Buhner, one of Germany’s top chefs, the dinner was not just a feast for the senses but also a fitting tribute to the new experience created for the Odyssey Collection: Escape. And as Buhner puts it, “The grand dinner was inspired by faraway lands of Oman, the majestic aroma of frankincense and the notions of finding oneself.”
Buhner, who trained to cook at the Schweizer Haus in Paderborn and then worked at the Dusseldorf Hilton under Gunter Scherrer, the Landhaus Scherrer in Hamburg, has gained three Michelin stars over a two decade-long career. His first star came his way in 1996 at the La Table Restaurant in Dortmund in 1991, followed by a second one in 1998. He was also awarded the Gault Millau ‘Rising Star of the Year’ award, and in 2011, he was awarded a third Michelin star, and has ever since been a worldwide celebrity in the culinary world.
Oman has much potential in the culinary world
Known for his ‘Three dimensional aromatic cuisine’ wherein he focuses on three key elements in the kitchen – Natural flavour (he believes there is no authentic flavour as intense as that of the original product), Preparation (characterised by a penchant for low-temperature cooking) and Extensive Range (which represents the wide variety on his menu, composed like a symphony), Chef Thomas Buhner believes that there is much potential in Oman to explore new ingredients for fine dining cuisine. In an exclusive tete-a-tete, he shares some insights about his career and the fine dining scene worldwide:
What challenges did you face while curating the menu for this grand dinner?
The most challenging part of curating this dinner was sitting in my office and thinking about the ingredients and the fragrances and how one could combine them in a dish. I did not have a test kitchen to experiment and try it out before going to another country (like Oman) to prepare these dishes. For example, the smell of lemon in Germany is quite different from the smell of lemon on Oman. You also know nothing about the quality of fish or other ingredients. So the last four days here were quite challenging as I tested ingredients and created the menu, especially using frankincense. It was amazing for me.
You have been a guest chef in other countries over the years – what took you so long to visit this part of the world?
Wrong, wrong wrong! I have been to Dubai 5-6 times in the past. I have seriously spoken with Anantara Jabal Akhdar to open a restaurant there, but it didn’t materialise. It could be a milestone for Oman to have a German Michelin star chef come to Oman – it would be great for Oman’s tourism. So, I could’ve been here five years before. But now, I hope to come back again to explore more opportunities.
What is your opinion about Oman?
I have seen many countries and I think Oman is a wonderful country with great potential for tourism. There is much you can do here, especially in the culinary scene, there are many opportunities waiting to be explored. The problem is, when you say Amsterdam or Paris or Tokyo, you have a picture in your mind, but if you say Oman or Muscat, you have to create your own picture – so there is need for more awareness about this beautiful country.
Over the years, has there been a change or evolution in the preferences of fine diners worldwide?
Around 10-15 years ago, if you took a French turbot and added a big spoon of caviar, people would say ‘Wow!’ Nowadays, you can take a potato and make it special and it would be much more ‘wow’. It’s harder to make a cucumber salad, and everyone will say ‘this is the best cucumber salad we’ve had’, instead of using caviar or truffle mushroom, even if you cover it with gold.
The current trend in five star hotels and resorts is to use local produce. Doe it often put you in a tight spot while preparing all-time classics?
It makes sense to use local produce when you have it, but at the end of the day, you need to give your guests what is best. International guests have high expectations and that’s why five star hotels have Italian kitchens, French kitchens so that they can give their guests what they like.
Do you equate fine dining with Arabian cuisine which calls for robust portions and spreads?
If you go to some countries like Lebanon, Morocco, they do have a fine dining scene there. Of course, one can explore different ways of making Arabian cuisine fine dining with larger portions; but split over four courses, it can be quite a lot of food.
Have you had any weird demands from any of your private dinner clients to prepare something unusual?
Mostly, people expect something from the Michelin star experience. But sometimes, one has to explore products that are available locally – like frankincense is local and unique. But, I can, indeed, prepare anything that crawls on the earth, flies in the air or swims in the sea.
You got your first and second Michelin star in 1996 and 1998 – why did it take so long to get the third in 2011?
Because its not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and in between I changed restaurants. When you change the restaurant you work for, it takes about 5 years to reach a point of recognition and you do need adequate support. Three Michelin stars means you are one among around 130 in the world, unlike 200 prime ministers of countries. You have more Formula 1 drivers and much more people visiting the moon.