James Knight-Pacheco is chef de cuisine of Sense on the Edge, a fine dining restaurant located on the mountain side within the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort in Oman. He tells Janet Harmer of his delight at the outlet being named the Best Restaurant in the 2012 Middle East Hotel Awards
Can you describe the style and setting of the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort?
The resort has 79 pool villas and is located within a spectacular setting on Oman's Musandam Peninsula, with a private marina and sandy beach on one side and dramatic mountains on the other. The restaurant I look after is 293m above sea level with breathtaking views over the bay, while within the resort itself there are three food and beverage outlets.
What makes it so special?
Zighy Bay is a hideaway where guests come to relax and get away from their busy lives. We are here to make sure that the guests arrive happy and leave even happier.
What does your job entail?
I look after the menus, the design of the food, oversee quality control, train the staff - both in the kitchen and front-of-house, and spend time talking to the guests to gain feedback, which is vital in order to push ourselves forward. I work with seven chefs of different nationalities, including Filipinos, Pakistanis and Indians.
When did you arrive in Oman?
I arrived on 2 March, after getting the job through a respected agent.
Can you describe your style of cooking at Sense on the Edge?
We serve modern European food with Middle Eastern influences. Dishes include Wagyu beef with carrot and sumac, scallops with almonds and pine nuts with pomegranate, and banana and Zighy date parfait. We have a fantastic organic vegetable garden here, so I work the menu mostly around the ingredients grown at the resort, such as aubergines, beetroot, tomatoes, baby carrots, spinach, lemongrass, ginger, dill, basil and parsley. But we do have to import around 60% of our produce - our main suppliers are based in Dubai.
Tell us about the recent award won by the restaurant
We were totally surprised and shell shocked to hear that we were named the best restaurant in the Middle East Hotel Awards, which was held at the Hotel Show in Dubai. Considering that there are so many incredible restaurants in the Middle East, and for me personally - I only joined the team recently - it was a huge achievement. The hotel also won awards at the same event for best suite and best sustainable initiative.
How did your earlier career prepare you for working overseas?
Well, working, for instance, at Le Manoir, where there are many different nationalities, you have to be able to adapt to work alongside one another in order to gel as a team. That really helped me when it came to working in what is a very multicultural kitchen here in Oman.
What are the key challenges of working in Oman?
I have had to learn about different types of produce I'd not come across before, such as what to me are unusual fish like barracuda, helwa and sharri. Also, being in an Arabic country, I have to consider the strict religious dietary requirements. All the meat has to be halal and we don't use any pork products or alcohol in our cooking.
What do you like most about working in Oman?
Waking up when it is sunny every day isn't too bad and the people are very welcoming.
Where else in the world would you like to work?
Oman has really opened my eyes to the many fantastic opportunities overseas for British chefs, so possibly Asia might be my next move, but for now the Middle East is where I will be based.
CV: JAMES KNIGHT-PACHECO
Chef de cuisine, Sense on the Edge, Six Senses Zighy Bay, Oman
â- 2011-2012 Head chef, Assemblage restaurant, London
â- 2010-2011 Development chef, Southernhay House, Exeter, Devon
â- 2010 Chef-tutor, Ashburton Cookery School, Ashburton, Devon
â- 2008-2009 Demi chef de partie, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
â- 2008 Runner-up in Series Two of BBC2's The Restaurantâ- 2007 Chef de partie, the Square, London
â- 2006-2007 Chef de partie, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's London
â- 2006 Chef de partie, the Crab at Chieveley, Newbury, Berkshire