We met Chef Patron Alain Grech, who explains to us how, together with his partner Noemi and dedicated staff, he has managed to lead the restaurant to numerous awards in a short period of time.
Alain’s early memories, training and work experiences.
Alain’s earliest food memory was helping his grandmother prepare steak and kidney pies at her house at the tender age of just four years. Another important incident happened when Alain was ten years old when his uncle took his family to eat at the Phoenicia Hotel to celebrate the sale of his car.
Alain remembers very clearly being blown away by the silver service being offered at the Hotel and is another factor which instilled his love for the culinary world.
Till that point, Alain was mainly helping his father’s car mechanics business – until he was offered a summer job when he was fifteen, preparing burgers and chips at a luna park – his first ‘outside catering’ experience.
Alain had some other working stints, namely at the Beer Festival and at the Great Meals Take Away in Bugibba. At this point, Alain had only one option to enhance his cooking CV – enrolling at ITS at the age of sixteen. Alain started working at the Dolmen Hotel, where, among others, he was involved in the À la carte Amazonia restaurant.
The next few years were very hectic for Alain – he finalised his four-year “Advanced Diploma in Culinary Arts” at the ITS. As part of their studies, students must spend a year working in a restaurant or hotel abroad. Alain chose to work in the UK at a 2-AA Rosette rated boutique hotel and at a country house hotel. To date he still rates this experience as one of the best in his career, having learned a lot about food preparation and presentation, work ethos in a restaurant, and more.
At age 23, Alain was back in Malta and got his first appointment as Head Chef at the now-closed West End restaurant in Msida. He then spent six years, also as Head Chef, at the Venus Restaurant in Bugibba, together with a spell as Sous Chef at Café del Mar.
Following this period of intense work, Alain decided to take a breather and travelled to Asia for five months with his partner Noemi Dohanyos. Alain describes this as an eye-opening experience as he got the opportunity to cook traditional native food on the Nepal mountains, in India and other exotic locations.
On his return to Malta, Alain had a few short-term jobs and in 2017 he stumbled on the opportunity to open The Chef’s Table, the restaurant he runs till today and was nominated for numerous awards last year by his patrons.
Alain says he immediately felt comfortable with his decision as he was already very familiar with the restaurant’s location in Pioneer Road, Bugibba.
Together with his partner, he worked on a fine dining menu, drew up a business plan for his restaurant and the rest, as they say, is history. He is grateful for the support his parents have given him along the years which enabled him to achieve his lifelong dream. Apart from his cousin Sandra who runs a restaurant in Mgarr ix-Xini, Gozo, he remains the only family member to be involved in the catering industry in Malta.
The opening of his restaurant “The Chef’s Table” is the highlight of Alain’s career and the culmination of long years of hard work and studying. The fact that the restaurant was in a position to win several awards in a relatively short period of time is something which gives Alain great satisfaction.
Signature Dishes and Restaurant Mottos
Alain declares he does not have any signature dish, however if he had to mention his preferred food choice, it would be Fillet of Beef prepared with foie gras, marinated in the latter’s juices and truffle sauce.
Alain’s favourite dish forms part of The Chef’s Table menu specials and is a hit with the restaurant’s client base.
The restaurant’s mottos remain “Food Cooked with Love” and “Service with a Smile”. Alain and all his staff work hard to embrace these core values and offer warm hospitality besides a memorable dining experience to locals and tourists alike.
The team at The Chef’s Table go the extra mile to make their guests feel at home at their restaurant. They do this by speaking to the guests and getting to know their personal preferences, offering a complimentary drink at the end of the meal, and much more.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the restaurant was nominated for several awards, including “Best Newcomer Award”, “Top Food” and “Top Service”. Alain declares that the next project in his to-do list is to enhance the restaurant’s ambiance. In fact he has already started working on giving a more rustic look and feel to the stone walls.
The ultimate aim is to extend an inside area within the restaurant exclusively for private dining.
Alain remains cautious about the future plans – whilst admitting that his long-term ambition would be to expand the Chef’s Table brand name, he wants to stay with his feet firmly on the ground and take one step at a time.
On a personal note, he will be getting married to his long-time partner in November. The wedding will take place in Noemi’s native country Hungary.
Alain names Englishman Marco Pierre White as the chef he admires the most. White has been dubbed the first celebrity chef, and the enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene. He is also the youngest chef ever to have been awarded three Michelin stars and has trained other celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsey.
Alain admires White’s revolutionary work and credits him as having laid the foundation for several modern day’s cuisines. Given the opportunity, Alain would choose to dine with Anthony Bourdain. Bordain, who died in June 2018, was an American celebrity chef, author, and travel documentarian who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition.
Current Restaurant Trends
Alain feels that one of the most important factors that modern-day restaurants need to cater to are food intolerances.
The chefs at Alain’s restaurant go to great lengths to keep a clean working environment and to eliminate any risk of food cross-contamination.
The staff are also regularly trained about food allergens and to develop best practice procedures for making the restaurant’s food offerings safe for customers with allergies.
Advice to Aspiring Youngsters
Alain’s advice to young people who want to take the plunge in the Hospitality industry is to evaluate any available options thoroughly and carefully.
Go abroad at any opportunity as the experience will inevitably expand your mindset.
Finally, avoid picking up bad habits along the way as they will need a long time to be eliminated from your work ethos.