Have you ever wondered how an all-inclusive kitchen looks like? Well, we certainly did. We are big fans of all-inclusive holidays and ultimately all-inclusive hotels.
During our recent trip to Sharm El-Sheikh, we had the unique opportunity to join a kitchen tour of the kitchen facilities of our Hotel Magic World Sharm. We are sharing with you our impressions and experience below.
We have been going on all-inclusive holidays in Turkey, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cyprus and now Egypt since 2011. One of the things we have always wondered is how and where is all this food cooked.
From a tourist/ guest perspective, we always see the final product at the buffet or in the restaurant but rarely get the chance to see what goes behind the scene.
I studied Hospitality Management and worked in the hospitality sector for a few years. Whilst I have been exposed to professional a la carte kitchens before, I have never been inside the kitchen of an all-inclusive hotel.
It was a nice surprise to see that Hotel Magic World Sharm offers weekly kitchen tours to their guests. As soon as we saw this, we knew we had to join the tour.
Before the Kitchen Tour
The tour was at 4pm – after lunch was served and before the dinner preparations had started.
We met at the Guest Relations office and were given a brief overview of what the kitchen tour entails. We were told that before we enter the kitchen, we had to put hair nets on as well as overshoes.
It was a bit awkward to walk in flip flops and overshoes but we understand why this was required and the health and safety reasons behind this.
The kitchen is at the same level as the main restaurant, making it easier to move food around. We were told that 60 staff members work in the professional kitchen, preparing food for over 1000 hotel guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and any other meals served in-between.
As we entered the kitchen, we were greeted by the Sous Chef who took us around and explained in more details about the different sections of the kitchen, how and where food is prepared and stored.
We were introduced to the fully fitted kitchen and more information was provided about the hotel kitchen layout as we were shown around.
There was a short introduction on basic kitchen hygiene rules such as:
Hand washing – staff members are required to wash hands every 20 minutes with soap and then use disinfectant. The sinks were interesting, you turn the water on with your leg to ensure you don’t touch the tap with your hands.
Colour coding of chopping boards and knives – the boards and the knives were colour-coded depending on what they should be used for. For example, red is for raw meat, yellow is for cooked meats, white is for dairy products, green is for salads and fruits.
Food storage – it’s important to keep food safe from harmful bacteria, chemicals, and objects falling into the food in order to prevent cross-contamination. Different sections had their own food storage area and all foods were covered with cling film.
This is where the red meats such as beef and lamb are stored and processed. Beef was always available for lunch and dinner, so we weren’t surprised to see different cuts of beef stored here.
Meats are all stored in the fridge in big trays – some marinated, some cubed, others diced or ready for the steak to be prepared and put on your plate. You can see Paul’s happy face on seeing all those meat cuts 🙂
Next to the meat section was the poultry section, predominantly filled with different cuts of chicken e.g. breasts, drumsticks, thighs. A few times for dinner we were served duck and turkey and we did see some big turkeys in the fridge ready to become dinner for hungry guests.
Again, all these were stored in large trays with their respective marinate and were covered in cling film.
Away from the meat and poultry area was the fish section. Here we saw tuna, basa, calamari and other fish and seafood ready to be cooked for dinner.
There was a big machine that is used to cut the large fish into smaller pieces. I always thought this was done by hand by the chef.
During dinner, we often saw the chef filleting the fish and preparing this on the spot but was good to see that behind the scene some of this work is being automated.
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There were a few areas where vegetables are handled. We saw some super large sinks where the vegetables are washed.
In fact, they wash the vegetables 3 times – in water to take the dirt off, then with a food safe detergent/capsules and then again in water.
In the preparation area, we saw this big vegetable peeler machine as well. If you were wondering how many people it takes to peel all those potatoes, you will be pleased to know this can be automated and doesn’t need to be done by hand.
Dessert/ Pastry Section
We finally arrived to heaven. This is where the magic happens and where we stood the longest (by choice, of course).
During our holiday, we thought some of the desserts are bought from a pastry shop. They looked so good, so uniform … so perfect.
To our surprise, all desserts were made in-house and we even saw some of the cake-making in action. The Pastry Chef was really passionate and proud about his section.
He took us around and showed us the amazing creations made by the team – chocolate shards, decorations, mini cakes, tarts, mousses and many more.
What was really nice and thoughtful was a small plate of traditional desserts which was waiting for us to sample.
Not sure if we were meant to try just one but they were all so delicious, that we had a fair share of those desserts. Paul particularly enjoyed them 🙂
After this, we went to the bread section. At home, Paul is the baker, so this was an area of interest. We saw the big mixer where the bread dough is mixed and this huge machine where bread and pasta are made to the desired thickness.
We didn’t miss to compliment the chefs on the delicious bread that was served every day, the bread section at the hotel was really diverse.
My favourite were some crunchy long flatbreads with different flavours and toppings – cheese, cumin, pepper. Perfect for dips and for snacking.
Of course, we also saw the main cooking area where soups, sauces, stews were made and where the big friars were.
The cooks were making a vegetable cream soup and showed us the huge blender they use to achieve the smoothness and creaminess of the soup.
I must say, the kitchen did look cleaner and tidier than expected. Obviously the staff members knew that hotel guests will be visiting the kitchen but still, given the busy lunch and dinner service, we were impressed.
Food Safety and Standards
Just before the kitchen tour, we had a lunch at the hotel’s beach restaurant. As this is an open space restaurant, the food’s temperature could be influenced by the outside weather.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the chef was measuring the temperature of the cake in the dessert section, to make sure it is still good to eat and served at the right temperature.
During the tour, we also learnt about the temperatures food should be served at. We were told that hot food should be served no colder than 63°C.
Every day before breakfast, lunch and dinner service, someone apparently checks that all hot food is at the right temperature.
Cold food should be served between 0°C and 8°C and if it’s even 0.1°C above the upper limit, the food is not good to be eaten and shouldn’t be served.
This also explained what I observed at the beach restaurant when I saw the chef taking the temperature readings of the cake.
The tour finished at the Guest Relations office where we were told about all the H&S checks that are carried out each month.
An external company comes unexpected and takes food samples, temperature measures and even random samples from the hands of kitchen staff to check when they last washed their hands.
The board with certificates proves the high level of health and safety standards across the hotel.
The kitchen tour was a real highlight of our stay at hotel Magic World Sharm. We have always wondered what a kitchen looks like at an all-inclusive hotel and now we can say we have been to one.
We found out more about the different sections of the kitchen, how food is prepared, the hygiene level that all staff members need to follow, at what temperature the food is served and much more.
If you ever asked yourself about all-inclusive and how do they do it, this article should have answered your questions.
Needless to say that after this visit, we felt even more confident in the food hygiene and standards at the hotel but also appreciated even more the hard work of the kitchen staff.
It was also nice that the following days all chefs were greeting us and talking to us as they remembered our faces from the kitchen tour.
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