Updated: Feb 13, 2018
Chef and cookbook author GEORGE BORG is one of the Maltese Islands’ best-known cuisine mavericks.
George’s career in catering and hospitality started some 25 years ago, when he joined the family company that ran a wedding venue and restaurant on the island of Gozo – Malta’s littler sister island. Even when that adventure came to an end, he knew that this line was his true calling, and co-founded a small catering company that, seven years ago, was sold to one of the leading catering groups in Malta.
Then, last January, George joined Abrahams – a company that has branched into food supplies, gourmet events and fine eating, art and exclusive accommodation. As the Executive Chef of Abraham’s Gourmet, George has been entrusted with creating new recipes for the brand, serving patrons in the exclusive art & events suite, and giving private tours of Gozo’s unmatchable cuisine… All this, while penning two best-selling cookbooks: The Gozo Table Vol. I and Vol. II.
When was Abrahams established and how has it evolved since it first opened?
Abrahams started out as a tiny grocer in 1984, with the owner, Abraham Said, introducing coffee culture to the island in just a few years. Today, the company has grown exponentially and, in my branch, which is Abraham’s Gourmet, we are working towards lowering our carbon footprint by focusing on promoting local raw materials, hence encouraging a zero kilometer supply chain. We are also studying local materials that could be turned into jams or flavoured salts, as well as honey sourced from fennel, eucalyptus and sulla clover fields.
What has been the defining moment in your career so far?
I try to make every day an achievement; I believe that’s incredibly important when building a lasting career for yourself. Having said that, I still get excited when I’m asked to showcase Gozitan and Maltese food abroad, be it at embassies, festivals or restaurants. Food has opened the door for me to be an ambassador for Malta and, with each new experience, my passion for food grows. Looking back, being awarded the titles of Gozo’s Worker of the Year and Chef of the Year wasn’t too bad, either.
What do you think makes Gozo such a special place to visit?
Gozo is incredible and while I’ve had many offers to move abroad – and I’ve given them some serious consideration – the truth is that I’ve never wanted to leave. Its authenticity comes from its people, who are competitive yet united. See, we may disagree, but we will always unite to help each other out. Plus, Gozo’s size makes for the ideal lifestyle: you leave work and head straight to the beach, you know where your local produce comes from, and even what its owner fed it. This is vital for me, as it means that I can always give an authentic product and experience to my patrons. As for why you should visit Gozo: it’s gorgeous, it’s got old-world charm, and it’s real.
What's your favourite place in Gozo?
I love walking from the Ta’ Cenc Cliffs to Xlendi. It’s such a quiet stretch with beautiful swathes of open fields that come to life to the sound of the sea and seagulls, and the smell of the Mediterranean Sea. Also, while I don’t often go to Malta, I love Marsaxlokk in the south. It’s my place of choice to visit when I want a fun day out with the family. If you do go there, check out the bustling open-air fish market on a Sunday!
What's the best way to while away an afternoon in Gozo?
Whatever you’re into, Gozo has something for you – and it’s completely different to Malta! Gozo allows you to go diving and visit the oldest, freestanding temples in the world all in the same afternoon. Agritourism and experiences with private chefs are also available, and they’re getting better and more refined by the year. From countryside to church-spotting, and food to meeting locals, there are loads of things to do and you should always try to find the most authentic experience possible. My advice is to walk into a butcher’s shop, or meet a farmer or a baker… That is how you get a true taste of Gozitan culture, history and values.
What artisanal Maltese foods should people try when they're in Gozo?
A lot of things in Gozo can be considered artisanal, even the vegetables and fruit. The trick is to always go to small shops that look and feel family-run. Having said that, you can’t come to Malta or Gozo and not try our traditional bread… You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in the world. We also have kunserva [tomato paste, often spread on bread and topped with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil] and pastizzi [diamond-shaped cheese or pea cakes; Malta’s most-famous fast-food option]. Then, for something more substantial, I’d recommend the lampuki [dorado fish] pie or the ġbejniet [tiny cheeselets made from sheep’s cheese] pie. My motto is that, wherever I go, I try as many things as I possibly can!
What's your favourite traditional Maltese dish?
Okay, so this is not exactly traditional, but it does combine traditional Maltese food. Grab yourself some fresh ġbejniet (the ones made from sheep’s cheese not goat’s cheese!) and drizzle them with honey, freshly-ground coffee and fresh thyme. It’s a dessert dish that I made for the first time when a VIP called in unexpectedly, and it’s been a signature dish for me ever since!
Published TEMPLE Magazine 2017/18
Copyright: Temple Concierge Ltd