The gastronomic programme Interview with the director, Michel Lanners and student, Anja de Scheemaeker of the Luxembourg School of Hotel Management and Tourism (École d'Hôtellerie et de Tourisme du Luxembourg, EHTL), a partner of the project

The EHTL is taking part for the first time in the gastronomic programme of the Luxembourg pavilion at the World Expo, which on this occasion is being held in Dubai (United Arab Emirates). We spoke to Michel Lanners (director) and Anja de Scheemaeker (student) of the EHTL. Read for yourself what they told us about this exciting adventure, the "Schengen Lounge" and the opportunities and challenges they face in Dubai.

A cooperation premiere with a promising future

Michel Lanners, director of the Luxembourg School of Hotel Management and Tourism, shines a light on the EHTL's involvement in the World Expo in Dubai.

The EHTL is participating at the Luxembourg Pavilion at the International World Expo for the first time. How did this exciting collaboration see the light of day?

The general commissioner of the Luxembourg pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, Maggy Nagel, was eager to involve as many Luxembourg stakeholders as possible in the operation of the pavilion. With this in mind, the creation of the gastronomic side of the pavilion naturally led to the EHTL being chosen as a partner. We are capable of fulfilling a number of tasks, such as participating in the design of the catering facilities, developing the menus, forging ties with international contacts and working with local partners (such as Jumeirah Group) to run the pavilion, as well as providing human resources - the chef and students - and documenting our work through the publication of a book which will be available on the official day of opening.

"A World Expo is a place where a country showcases its dynamism, its international vision and the excellence of its know-how. In this regard, I am very proud that the EHTL is playing an important role in the gastronomic side of the pavilion." Michel Lanners

Students, chef Kim Kevin De Dood and director Michel Lanners (l-r)
© EHTL

Who are the students? How were they selected?

They are all students of the EHTL. Moreover, they will be at least 18 years of age when they embark on their journey. Also, they have a satisfactory level of English. Furthermore, they had to be willing to spend 9 to 11 weeks abroad - a major factor in the selection procedure. Their commitment to the project (the approval of their parents) and their academic performance were also taken into account. Three groups of 8, 10 and 13 students were selected, following a call for applications, to work in the pavilion and showcase Luxembourg's catering and hospitality skills.

How are students supervised on site?

During working hours, the students work under the watchful eye of the chef, Kim Kevin De Dood and the pavilion director, Daniel Sahr. During their free time, they are tutored by the teachers and support staff. They are housed in a hotel of the Jumeirah Group and we provide them with a high level of comfort. Also, the students are encouraged to explore the cultural and geographical treasures of Dubai via a broad range of cultural activities. As far as their schooling is concerned, all the necessary provisions have been put in place so that the pupils do not suffer as a result of this opportunity and to ensure that they obtain their school-leaving certificate. 

"The EHTL is a benchmark in terms of expertise and quality in catering and hospitality, and the ideal partner for a gastronomic programme. Therefore, we will do our best to ensure that this project runs smoothly and that we attract positive feedback. I hope that this cooperation will continue in the future and that the school will once again be an integral part of the World Expo Osaka in 2025!" Michel Lanners

The local partners are the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management and RAK Porcelain. For the students, what advantages can they gain from these partnerships? What can they glean from these new relationships?

There are many advantages, but without a doubt the students can mainly benefit from the presence of the partners in Dubai, their understanding of the local environment and the international character of the event. After their studies and under the guise of the partnership, the EHTL students have the possibility to continue their studies at the academy in Dubai. EHTL has had an agreement in place with RAK Porcelain for several years. The company provides all of the porcelain used in the "Schengen Lounge" and during their stay, the students get to visit the production site. 

"The notion of hospitality, which we wish to transmit to the students, is not limited to gastronomy and the culinary arts. It also includes respect for other people, the desire to reach out to others, as well as accepting the diversity of other cultures, the absence of aggression and hostility towards others, the notion of kindness and the desire to help people by creating a pleasant atmosphere and speaking the language of other nations out of courtesy, etc." Michel Lanners

A grand voyage of discovery

After training as a nurse, Anja de Scheemaeker (24 years old) worked for two years in catering. This experience led her to enrol at the EHTL. For the past three years, she has been studying hotel and catering. For her, the Dubai project offers a unique opportunity and it's an added luxury that the school offers this possibility to its students, which includes all on-site arrangements. During the first part of her stay, Anja will work in the kitchen, and then in the restaurant

A sense of joy and excitement? How did you feel when you received the good news?

I was a little unprepared and at the same time really happy. It's the first time that I will travel outside of Europe; I have never been so far from home! Things are completely different there, and it's going to be really interesting. I'll experience a different culture, a different climate and a completely different work environment.

What are your main expectations and biggest challenges?

The conditions are very clear. You have to rise to the challenge for three months. I don't want to let anyone down and I always want to do my best for my teacher, head chef and classmates. For me, Dubai is not a school activity but a professional experience. We are a team and we must support each other.

Nevertheless, I like to work, so I can't wait to get my hands dirty! Also, I'm looking forward to meeting lots of people, from the across the world. From a professional perspective, this experience might open the door to an internship or a job. I hope to make a good impression and after my stay here, people will think positively of me and look forward to working with me in the near future.

What does it mean for you to represent Luxembourg on the international arena?

I was born in Luxembourg and I have done all my schooling in Luxembourg but my roots lay elsewhere. I am very proud to represent Luxembourg, this small country which has built such a large and impressive pavilion that will welcome so many visitors and guests to this place. I want to showcase Luxembourg, its place in the world and what we can achieve.

How involved were you in the preparations?

We were not involved in developing the menus. However, we have sampled the dishes and we were able to give feedback. The chefs can decide to what extent they take our comments into consideration when they revisit their culinary creations.

During the preparatory phase, we received additional English lessons at school as well as an introduction to Arab culture and the customs of the country.

Anja de Scheemaeker
© EHTL

Kim Kevin de Dood, the Michelin-starred chef is your boss. What is it like to work with such a celebrity?

Personally, I don't see him as a star. He was my teacher at EHTL. I enjoy working with him as much as with anyone else. He is my boss and I follow his instructions. Moreover, we get along really well and therefore I enjoy working for him as part of a team.

What experiences do you expect to have in Dubai that you can't have in Luxembourg?

That's easy to answer! In Luxembourg, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to work at a World Expo. In Dubai, I can further develop my professional skills alongside experts from the gastronomic sector. It is a stimulating and multicultural environment. We have the opportunity to visit other pavilions and savour other cultural activities in the region.

After Dubai, what comes next?

I will finish my last year of studies, then I will do an internship. After that, I would like to travel around the world as a seasonal worker. I have acquired a taste for this type of work following my internship in Corsica and my upcoming journey to Dubai.

Would you like to find out more about the menu?

Check the EHTL website to discover the recipes developed by the Michelin-starred chef Kim Kevin De Dood and his team. The book, which sheds a light on EHTL's work in Dubai and contains the detailed menus ('Kniddelen', trout à la meunière and the chef's lamb special, for example) of the "Schengen Lounge", will be available online from 1 October. Scan the QR code and download the publication.