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We’ve spoken to some of the biggest names in the culinary scene in Kuala Lumpur to find out about their fondest Christmas memories, and what they’ll be whipping up in the kitchen this year.

The answers below have been edited for clarity.

1
Nathalie Arbefeuille, founder of Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

What has been the most memorable Christmas feast that you’ve had so far?
As far as I can remember, Christmas is all about excitement and magic, giving presents, the abundance of wonderful seasonal Christmas dishes, and of course, having all of our relatives reunited.

Christmas is also a time for families to get together to enjoy a feast at the same table. I have a brother who married to a woman who also happens to be my husband’s sister. We all share a very strong bond, and Christmas is the time we get together to celebrate this magical time of year.

Being French, our culture is established deeply in our Christmas dining, and we follow the same ritual every year no matter where we are known as the “culture of the table”. So, while eating and drinking, we will spend hours sharing ideas, laughing, sometimes even arguing… and most certainly expressing and sharing our love for each other.

If you could pick just one, what dish is an absolute must for Christmas dinner?

There are so many “musts” for a Christmas Eve dinner, but I would say that foie gras is one of the most important. My favourite way is to prepare a nice foie gras terrine served with some warm, homemade buttered and truffled brioches. I also like to pair it with a dry fruit chutney to bring a little bit of sweetness on the degustation. These are the traditional dishes that my grandmother and mother would cook when we were growing up, so those flavours had a lot of impact, and I find myself always trying to recreate these flavours in my creations.

This year’s Christmas Eve Dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio will present a modernised version of the turkey with white yellow wine and morels, which is a dish that I’ve always enjoyed  for Christmas. As for dessert, we will be offering the traditional Bûche de Noël (Yule log cake) with a modern twist that has a hint of chestnut, and of course, some delicate chocolate.
What’s the ultimate takeaway experience that you hope diners will have after indulging in this year’s Christmas menu at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio?
It would have to be the experience of my culture combined with French cuisine. French cooking is an art and a passion that is meant to be shared. Eating is like an invitation to travel and an invitation to rediscover the best that life has to offer through “good taste and good company”, which is especially magical on Christmas Eve.
For me, the best reward of all is to able to recreate the magic of a family experiencing French Christmas cuisine in my restaurant, and to make every moment spent together during this special time of year as memorable and joyful as possible.

2
Luigi Stinga, Chef de Cuisine at Mandarin Grill, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur

What has been the most memorable Christmas feast that you’ve had so far?

It was 12 years ago during a huge gathering that involved around 40 to 50 family members. Italian tradition places a lot of value on togetherness, and it’s  important to have the entire family get together to cook traditional dishes during any celebration. At times, it feels like a cooking competition where the judges are the elders in our family. Personally, my grandmother is always the best cook.

Now that I’m in a foreign land, reminiscing those days back at home brings back so many joyful and vivid memories. I can recall the fragrant scents wafting from the kitchen, the beautiful colours of the dishes, and most importantly, the happiness we all felt and shared.

If you could pick just one, what dish is an absolute must for Christmas dinner?

In our family tradition, this is usually struffoli which is  a typical Napoleon dessert made with flour, milk and orange zest. The dough is shaped into small balls and deep fried, dipped in honey and topped with sugar sprinkles and orange segments. This dish has the most amazing aroma, and my mother usually prepares it for the entire family. It is undoubtedly the scent of Christmas in our household.

What’s the ultimate takeaway experience that you hope diners will have after indulging in this year’s Christmas menu at Mandarin Grill?

I would like to offer an authentic Italian Christmas experience to my customers. In Italy, food plays a vital role in connecting all the family members and fostering stronger connections with the people that matter in our lives, even more so during the Christmas season. I hope to be able to convey this message through my food, to perhaps help families put aside their differences so that they can focus on spending quality time together with their loved ones.

For Italians, Christmas means to enjoy, to have fun and to party while digging into an amazing array of food! So, for this year’s menu at Mandarin Grill, we want our guests to indulge in the Italian Christmas experience in its entirety while also conveying this underlying message — and that is my special ingredient for Christmas!

3
Tyson Gee, Executive Chef at ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery

What has been the most memorable Christmas feast that you’ve had so far? 
The most memorable Christmas feast that I’ve ever had was back in Melbourne with my former team of chefs. At the time, we were all spending Christmas away from our families. To reminisce how we would spend our Christmas’ in our home country, we decided to each prepare a dish and bring our own bottle of wine .

If you could pick just one, what dish is an absolute must for Christmas dinner?

Personally, it would have to be roasted turkey with all the trimmings as it’s the quintessential Christmas dish! To do without turkey just wouldn’t feel quite like Christmas.

What’s the ultimate takeaway experience that you hope diners will have after indulging in this year’s Christmas menu at ATAS Modern Malaysian Eatery?
To enjoy a fantastic Christmas feast with their loved ones.

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