Meet the real stars of Dubai's celebrity endorsed restaurants
In bygone times, those in search of the pinnacle of high-end dining would have to make the pilgrimage to Paris, New York or London to enjoy the culinary creations of Michelin-star chefs. Today, however, we live in an age of celebrity and globalisation – two bedfellows that have served the restaurant industry well. Chefs with Michelin stars have morphed into celebrities and their surnames have become brand names that are tagged onto countless restaurants around the world. Dubai is no exception, and is home to a slew of restaurants opened by the most recognisable names in the industry: Ramsay, Rhodes, Rostang, Gagnaire – the list goes on. But, the reality is that these chefs are thousands of miles away from Dubai for most of the year, so how do they ensure the food served here is worthy of their name? To find out, Time Out met some of the chefs charged with the daunting task of flying the flag of their Michelin-starred masters.
What do you think persuaded Chef Michel Rostang to appoint you? I worked in Michelin-star restaurant Le Vieux Logis in France, where I acquired the experience and the passion of the simple food from our ‘terroire’. Michel gives priority to the quality of the product and the passion of the cooking.
How much say does Michel have over the Dubai menu? Michel has to approve the menu, and he has to check the entire list of products I will use during the year and European season. Michel comes every month of the year to try the food and monitor the standard of the brasserie.
Do you think the globalisation of the Rostang name undermines the ‘Rostang experience’? If you dine in Dubai or Paris, of course the experience will be different. While we have limitations – most produce is flown in from France – we [also] utilise local produce, such as hammour. What’s more, you need to take into consideration the tastes of local diners. Nevertheless, the passion and the core principle of cooking remains the same. Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626)
Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire
Chef Oliver Biles Age: 29 Nationality: French CV: Restaurant Le Magister, Auberge du Haut Allier, Restaurant Larivoire and Gaya (France); Pierre Gagnaire (Hong Kong); Mandarin Oriental (Miami)
How closely does the menu at Reflets follow that of other Gagnaire restaurants? Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine is not set in stone – it’s a state of mind, a strong philosophy rather than a recipe book. Each [Pierre Gagnaire] restaurant is unique, but all are controlled by Pierre, without forgetting that Paris is the heart of the organisation, where the techniques and inspirations come from. Of course, no dish is ever the same.
Do you feel that by working under the Gagnaire mantle you’re not sufficiently credited for your work? I haven’t felt like that yet. When we have guests from Paris and they tell me they truly recognise the style of Pierre Gagnaire, this is the best credit I can get. If I ever start feeling differently, it’s time for me to spread my wings.
Is eating at Reflets in Dubai as much of a Gagnaire experience as eating at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris? We are not trying to copy and paste our restaurant from Paris. Each is built upon the expectations of the guests in that region, [and is] controlled by Pierre. Pierre Gagnaire will be in Dubai on October 23-27; he will cook lunch and dinner for Reflets guests and host two cooking classes on Sunday 24 and Tuesday 26. Classes cost Dhs950. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 04 701 1199. InterContinental, Dubai Festival City (04 701 1111)
Chef Paul Lupton Age: 32 Nationality: British CV: City Rhodes and Rhodes 24 (London)
How did you get the position of head chef at Rhodes Mezzanine? I’ve worked for Gary Rhodes since 2002, at City Rhodes in London. It’s been a long journey to get where I am now. The kitchens in London can be relentless, but I found myself rising up the ranks until I held the sous chef position at Rhodes 24. When the Dubai position came up, Gary asked me to visit his office (I thought I was in trouble!) and offered me the job – and here I am three years later.
How different is the menu here compared with Rhodes restaurants back in the UK? Gary has a few signature dishes that have made it to his restaurants, such as the bread-and-butter pudding and the lobster omelette. Sometimes Gary will come over with a recipe from one of his other restaurants and that will be the starting point for a new dish. Sometimes we sit down and come up with completely new dishes, so it’s a real mix of inspiration.
How often does Gary visit? He visits an awful lot, on average seven times a year, and with the opening of Rhodes Twenty10 it has been even more this year. He is very hands-on in the restaurant. When he’s here in Dubai, he is in the kitchen from 7am to midnight. He is still a chef first and foremost.
Do you think the globalisation of the Rhodes brand dilutes the ‘Gary Rhodes experience’? It’s a fair question and quite tough to answer. I guess at the end of the day it either works or it doesn’t. Here at Rhodes Mezzanine, I believe that the amount of work Gary, myself and the whole team put into the restaurant ultimately translates into the ‘Gary Rhodes Experience’. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888)
Verre by Gordon Ramsay
Chef Scott Price Age: 30 Nationality: British CV: Royal Hospital Road, Claridge’s and Petrus (London)
How did you get involved with the Ramsay restaurants? I was enrolled in the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship [offering young chefs the chance to be mentored by Ramsay]. I didn’t really know or expect anything from it, but I was told it’d be good experience if nothing else. I got through to the regional finals in Glasgow. I didn’t expect to win, but I did. I went on to the grand finals… I got down there [to London] and there were 11 judges with 13 Michelin stars between them. I didn’t win, but was asked if I fancied coming to work in London. I ended up at Claridge’s working with [former head chef] Mark Sargeant. I was meant to be there for 18 months and ended up staying for five years.
How closely have you worked with Gordon in the past? Mark used to do a lot of the [cookery] books with Gordon, so on my days off I’d go round to Gordon’s house and help out. From that I got to know him a little better, and when he sees you’re willing to do more you get more responsibility in the kitchen. I [then] helped with the launch of Petrus, and while I was working on the menu with the head chef, this job came up.
You’re flying the flag for Gordon here in Dubai. How does that work? What’s your brief when you come out here? I’ve been working for Gordon for such a long time and I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a lot and with his head chefs. Most of the head chefs in all [Gordon’s] restaurants have come through the same kitchens in which I’ve worked, so we all have the same parameters to work to and the food style is always there. But Gordon doesn’t put you there to be a robot. He knows you’re creative and you want to progress. I’ve been put through my paces so I know what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s acceptable. Gordon’s coming out to Dubai this week and I haven’t seen him for a while, so it’s going to be interesting. I have a lot of things to show him – the chef’s table and the private dining – and hopefully he’ll agree with what’s going on. It’s an opportunity for me to show what I’m capable of. So this is the first time you’ve headed up a kitchen? Yes, it’s a new venture for me and my first position as a head chef, so it’s important that when Gordon comes over he’s happy with what I’m doing. Gordon Ramsay will be at Verre on October 23 to greet guests and meet the winners of Time Out’s Gordon Ramsay competition. Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 212 7551)