Happy birthday Mitsuki - Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

A birthday. It is something you wait for all year, and then in less than 24 hours it is over. As a 7 year old, you sleep for 10 hours, so that leaves 14 hours. Then of course you spend 7 hours at school, so that equals 7 hours to enjoy this special day. That hardly seems fair. For this reason I introduced a birth week for my daughter when she turned 5. Now it is a celebration for one week. To kick things off, we had a pizza making birthday party at Shangri-la Hotel, Abu Dhabi.

Chef Jejen kitting out the young chefs.
There was something that had destiny written all over it, or what the Chinese call 'yuen fen'.When Mitsuki arrived in Abu Dhabi, she had her 6th birthday party at this hotel. It was a chocolate making party under the guidance of Chef Jejen. Last year when she turned 7, we celebrated with a day at Shangri-la, arranged by the incredible Moustafa Elgayar, who has since moved to a Shangri-la in Canada. Therefore, when I brainstormed party ideas, I tried Chef Jejen, and in consultation with Executive Chef Paul Doyle, we were given the go ahead to try this. Try this, because it had not been done before under the guise we wanted.

By 10h30, most of the little guests had arrived and after being kitted out in their chef hats and aprons, Chef Jejen lead everyone to the kitchen area. After following all the safety and health procedures, the kids were shown how the process works. It was hard for them to focus initially, distracted by all the pastry and chocolate delights being prepared for Saturday brunch. Under the watchful eyes of Executive chefs Jejen and Shammy, Chefs Sameera and Sayan guided the group of 12 through he process of making dough, with gasps of Wow! being expressed when they saw the huge mixer that creates the dough.

Beautiful fresh toppings available.
This was one happy soon-to-be 8 year old. 
The funnest part, to use an 8 year old's word, was when we went to the Sofra pizza oven area and kids got to roll the dough and add their toppings. Toppings included mozzarella cheese of course as well as some brie, peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni and BBQ chicken. What a great pleasure it was watching those little fingers, with the free abandon that is childhood, work that dough and add the toppings. A number of girls, proving that they are blessed with the creative spark, created heat shaped pizzas.

While this was going on, I looked at the Sofra Bld staff, working tirelessly to set up brunch, having half an hour earlier cleared away breakfast. It made me realise how as guests we don't appreciate just how hard hotel staff work. We see the smiles, the immaculately pressed uniforms and see only the glamour. It really makes you wonder how the staff  manage to stay smiling and cheerful while working so hard to make suer guests experience 3 or 4 hours of delight.

Try telling this group that only one child is allowed to blow out the candles!

The cake she wanted - destiny.
Anyway, one of the marks of a great hotel, is how it thinks outside of the box. Shangri-la does not have a dedicated kids' party area - unless you can afford to fill the banquet hall lol - but this what Chef Jejen did: He prepared a table in Hoi An which usually opens its kitchen for dinner, and set it up for the kids to have their party. They failed to see the significance of that they were celebrating Mitsuki's birthday in one of this writer's favourite restaurants in the city! How could they though? They were munching away at their pizzas. The wonder years indeed.

As if all of this was not enough, a gorgeous ice cream mousse cake was brought in, and all broke out in singing "Happy birthday". Destiny? A week earlier my daughter said she wished she could have an ice cream cake for her birthday. True. The power of believing and quietly hoping!
Posing for one last photo on Sofra's iconic steps.
Thus ended another birthday party, but the memory will linger and the photos will remind us of a day when a hotel made some kids very happy. It is a much healthier and creative alternative to all the mall parties out there, and for 2 hours, a bunch of 6-9 year olds saw themselves not just as chefs, but as chefs in a beautiful hotel with a heart. Chef Jejen, in his wonderfully warm and caring way, along with a fabulous team, did a sparkling job. Father to father, I am so grateful.

While my daughter celebrated her 8th birthday party, it was Childhood, that time of innocence and joy, that was the biggest celebration, and Shangri-la Abu Dhabi, a place here dreams are made, made it happen.

The low down

Shangri-la Hotel
Abu Dhbai
02 509 8555