A Morning @ Tavola – learning about Moritsuke, food styling with Fiona Archibold, and gawking at shiny knives

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Tavola Food Blogger Breakfast
Tavola Food Blogger Breakfast

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this week with either allergies or a bad cold and with all the sneezing and sniffling I felt like my head was going to fall off and explode.

Feeling a bit better today and probably shouldn’t be drinking this glass of white wine in my hand, but hey, being sick is hard work!

So the day after the Fooderati Arabia (FiA) Cake-a-Thon, I meet up with fellow Fooderatis at Tavola on Jumeirah Beach Road as invitees to their Food Bloggers’ Breakfast. A whole weekend of foodie fun – how awesome is that?

Tavola is like a Williams Sonoma or a Sur la Table back in the States. It’s where Scotch and I have gone to buy our Staub cookware, Global knives, and Kitchen Aid mixer. The staff at Tavola have always been helpful and friendly when we had to special order most of our items because they they don’t often have in-stock yellow French ovens nor yellow Kitchen Aid mixers (can you guess my favorite color?). Every time I walk in to the store I feel like a kid in a candy shop!

Tavola Talks about Knife Care and Use
Tavola talks about knife care and usage

After a lovely breakfast of canapés and fresh juices, we were given a demonstration on the different kinds of knives (chef, Santoku, bread, filleting, carving, paring, etc), how to care for them, and how to best sharpen them. We were asked to guess which of the following was the best method to sharpen a knife: sharpening steel, sharpening stone, or a pre-angled knife sharpener like this Zwilling one.

The answer given to us was the sharpening stone but only if used properly as different knives will require a different sharpening angle. Personally, I have all three and have shied away from using the sharpening stone because I don’t know how to use it and find that the steel rod and the pre-angled sharpener to be much easier to use.

My biggest problem with caring for my knives is that I keep dropping them on the floor! Kitchen Klutz, remember? Now how can I solve that problem? Even my large Chinese cleaver has a piece broken off from the many times I have dropped it :(. Luckily I haven’t injured myself or anyone else.

I have a mid-range set of Kitchen-Aid knives that I’d like to slowly replace with higher quality knives so I was coveting each and every Zwilling and Japanese knife that was on display at the demo. I have a love-hate relationship with Global at the moment. Love because their knives are so sharp and awesome. Hate because they are so awesomely sharp that I’m still sporting a bumpy scar on my finger from one year ago from a carving knife accident.

After the knife demo, Tavola’s Retail Manager, Wakami Saab, gave us an overview of “Moritsuke” which is the Japanese art of food plating and arrangement. She plated three dishes to show us the principles.

Moritsuke Presentation by Wakami Saab
Moritsuke Presentation

I’ve always felt that Japanese styling and design – whether interiors, architecture, food, or gadgets – always seem to elicit a soothing and balanced sensation and a nature connotation.

Wakami Saab talked about some of these concepts and how they are used in Japanese food styling such as contrasting shapes, numerology, colors choice, and simulating height and natural movement.

Moritsuke Presentation 2

In this potato salad, a square plate was chosen to contrast with the round tomatoes, the salad was piled upwards to give it height, and parsley was used as a garnish to add color to the dish.

Tomato Potato Salad
Potato Salad

In this marinated roast beef, she showed us how to make the white radish (daikon) garnish. After peeling the radish and cutting it into a round chunk, she set it between two chopsticks. Then she made intersecting cuts into the radish (the chopsticks prevented the knife from cutting all the way to the bottom of the radish) and soaked it in salted water for a few minutes.

Once the radish had softened, it can be opened to look like a flower. I just bought a white radish from Carrefour and can’t wait to try this technique out.

Marinated Beef Roast
Marinated Beef Roast with Daikon Flower

Our last presenter was Fiona Archibold – a succesful food stylist in the UAE. She was extremely friendly and very enthusiastic about her work.

When Fiona appeared with her suede, burnt-yellow tool belt, I think many of us were in awe and it may have been the most highly coveted item at Tavola that morning. I know I wanted one for the simple reason that I love gadgets and I love things to hold said gadgets in.

Food Stylist Fiona Archibold
Food Stylist Fiona Archibold

I was cracking myself up at the thought of my husband’s face if I had come home after Fiona’s presentation sporting a new food styling tool belt.

As she styled and primped a few dishes right before our eyes, she shared with us many of the techniques and tools that she used in her food styling and gave us pointers that we could use in our own homes. She also mentioned that some food stylists believe it to be bad luck to eat the finished styled product.

Besides a roasted quail dish, she also styled a Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Prawns:

Prawn Fettuccine
Fettuccine Alfredo with Prawns

Days before the workshop, Fiona asked us if there were any particular dishes that we found to be difficult in styling and someone had mentioned stews so she showed us how we could style a Beef Bourguignon:

Beef Bourguignon
Beef Bourguignon

I got really excited when Fiona whipped out the blow torch to caramelize some of the beef. There’s just something about fire that just adds a bit of drama and flare to a presentation.

There were Tavola prizes to be given a way and the top prize was a Bamix hand blender which I didn’t win but for once in my life I did win something. My name got picked to receive a copy of  “When Suzanne Cooks” by Suzanne Husseini who was in attendance and was kind enough to sign my book.

“When Suzanne Cooks” contains recipes of “modern flavours of Arabia” and has beautiful full-page photos of all the recipes and looks non-pretentious. I’ve very excited about trying out the recipes alongside my oft neglected UAE recipe project.

Thank you Kari and Tavola for hosting this awesomely educational event!

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  1. I enjoy following your blog! Thanks. 🙂
    Do you know where I can get my knifes professionally sharpening in Dubai? I have been searching high and low and can’t find anywhere! I am very nervous to sharpen my expensive japanese knives on my own and need to find a professional.

  2. i love tavola and i enjoy doing the display specially table and kitchen ware.
    when i am using my bamix mixer i always feel i am a professional chef i can make design of salad, mixing my cup cakes and ice cream. shake with my pina colada.slicing my fish fillet with sauces.really amazing in just second very cool..

  3. Nice account of the morning. I know what you mean about the knives. And yes, putting it into context, Tavola is to the Middle East what those brands are to the US.

    So Sandy, I have discovered that we have yet another thing in common- yellow! I too have a yellow Kitchen Aid mixer… to the chagrin of hubby who wanted a neutral tone. I am also into yellow pots and actually painted my kitchen in Jamaica a bright yellow.

  4. I am awful at remembering to sharpen my knives. As I result, I can barely cut butter with mine. In my defense, it's supposed to be Husband's job but it's looking like I better brush up on my skills.