Seasoned Traveller


Photo - AFP

As a child Christian Pageot was more likely to be found playing outside than helping his mother in their kitchen in France, a keen desire to explore the world led him to become a chef in some of the top hotels in five continents.

Upon finishing high school, Chef Christian and some of his friends who shared his passion for travel, decided to look for careers that had international opportunities. They thought that working in hotels would be ideal. Christian, however, wasn't interested in hotel management, so despite not having a strong interest in cooking, he decided to study to be a chef at the hotel school in Dijon, Burgundy, which would still allow him to work in hotels far from his homeland.

"At first my interest wasn't in cooking, but I was hungry to travel. Studying to be a chef would be a good opportunity to go abroad. It had nothing to do with my grandmother or anything. I just wanted to travel," he admits with a smile.

His dreams of adventure were soon realised, and over the years Chef Christian has worked in over a dozen different countries, and visited many more. From his first hotel job on the French island of Tahiti in the South Pacific, to the Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal, Canada, the Acapulco Princess Hotel in Mexico, jobs at various hotels in Australia, Egypt, Cyprus, Sudan, the Barbados, Russia, the UAE, until his arrival in Oman five years ago to join the Radisson Blu, Chef Christian has been able to explore his passion for travel and in so doing, develop a passion for food, too.

"As I travelled, going from hotels, from country to country, I started to be interested in the job. When I was in Montreal, working at the Four Seasons, I worked with many talented chefs. It piqued my interest," he explained. Thanks to his love of travelling, Chef Christian's knowledge of international cuisine is diverse, and he is just as comfortable making Mexican and Lebanese dishes as he is classical French cuisine. He is also good at focusing his menus on local products, so here in Muscat, for example, he uses a lot of fresh fish and seafood. "I like to cook everything. I've learned a lot of different ways of cooking and most of the time I try to mix it, fusion cooking. That worked for a while, but now I think people like to go back to classic cooking. They want to have more food on their plates. It is how we present it that makes a difference," he said.

At the Radisson Blu, he tries to keep everything as fresh as possible, and through the mild, winter months he even grows some ingredients in the gardens near the pool. Basil, lemongrass, spring onion, chillies and rocket lettuce line the walkways along with the flowers and shrubs. In the past he has even planted pumpkins.

"It good to have fresh products, you know? Depending on how much we have, we can make special dishes. Once at Al Tajin the special soup was pumpkin. So we can have different things," said Chef Christian. His worldly experience means he has also learned to be flexible about his menus, and he makes sure they reflect the local tastes. In Oman he has to offer a lot of Lebanese dishes like humous, fatoush and tabouli and Indian specialties like chicken tikka and biryani.

"In most Arab countries they go for the humous and baba ghanoush. It's a must, you know? At Olivos we were 90 per cent Mediterranean but people were asking for chicken tikka and biryani, so we changed it." Having lived in so many countries, with all types of people, Chef Christian is also very good at adapting to different cultures. "I've learned languages and definitely I've learned different cultures. I've learned how to deal with others. In any country I know how to deal with people, and how to respect others," he said. From his experience, Germans are very organised and do everything exactly by the book, Canadians are pretty straight-forward and you have to adapt them rather than expecting them to adapt to you, Arabs are more laid-back.

"You learn what to say, what not to say, how to approach them, how to deal with them according to where they're from. That's what you learn from travelling," he added.  Not only is Chef Christian adventurous when it comes to working around the world and cooking a variety of cuisines, he also takes this sense of adventure with him when he goes out to eat. He doesn't have regular favourite restaurants; instead he always tries something new.

"I don't focus on one place. I go once and then go somewhere else. I'm not a regular customer. I like to look around and get inspired. As a chef you have to do that. You need some new ideas sometimes," he said.

After almost 50 years of working in kitchens all around the world, Chef Christian says Oman will be his final stop before retirement. But even if he puts his chef's jacket aside, there's no doubt the adventurous chef will keep travelling and exploring interesting cuisines in far-flung countries.

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