The Rhodes Mezzanine chef talks to Time Out about culture shocks, food and the north of England.
How long have you been in Dubai?
Just over a year now.
Did you experience any culture shock when you first arrived?
Yeah, it’s very different to being in London, where I’ve been for the past seven years. I went back a couple of weeks ago, and it just seems so small in comparison to Dubai.
What was the hardest thing to get used to?
The way pork is handled out here, that was a big one for me, because we have to have a separate pork room, and keep everything completely separate from it. Also, the way that supplies are shipped – that was a big thing to try to get my head around. In England, you call up a supplier after service at the end of the night, and at six in the morning, it shows up at your front door. Here, when you order something it won’t turn up until three days later, and it requires a lot of organisation.
What do you use locally?
We use local veg.
Really? Veg is grown out here?
Yeah, it’s grown in greenhouses around here.
What was the last thing you ate?
I had a croissant and coffee on my way to work this morning.
That’s it? It’s 5pm!
It’s the life of a chef. We eat when we can.
What made you want to become a chef?
It’s been in my family. My mum used to be a waitress on the weekends to help out at the local restaurant. I remember being in the kitchen with the chef when I was 11 or 12, and he’d say, ‘Hey, mop the floor for me,’ and he’d give me a couple of quid. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s amazing, I’m mopping the floor for the chef and he’s just given me some money’.
What’s your food philosophy?
I just try to keep things simple and straight forward. I don’t like all these swipes on the plate, and all these thousands of ingredients in one dish. Just let the produce speak for itself. I come from the north of England, and I’m very passionate about the food we have around there: Lancashire cheese and yoghurt; in the Lake District we have air-dried ham. I’m quite passionate about my north of England.
What dining trends do you most embrace?
In fine dining, there’s a lot of going back to basics. People are stepping away from filleted steak and fois gras, and going back to using more offal and shoulders of beef, and they’re using a lot more skill in preparing dishes.
Any trends you abhor?
I hate the phrase molecular gastronomy. I think even people that work [in that field] are trying to distance themselves from that term. I mean, what they’re doing is using new techniques and stuff like that. It’s just the phrase, I don’t like it.
Where have you been to eat in Dubai?
I’ve been to a few places here. I’ve been to Noble House. I took my sous chef there for his birthday. I like going to the Lime Tree Café a lot. They have good cakes and nice sandwiches. I’ve been to Verre a couple of times, checking out the competition.
What is Rhodes Mezzanine doing to try to beat Noble House and Verre for Time Out’s ‘Best Restaurant’ award?
I’ve only been here one year, and I don’t expect too much too early on. It’s about consistency, and proving ourselves. We’re not here to come in, win awards, and then go away again. We’re here for the long term, so it’s about building ourselves up, building a name for ourselves and being known for cooking good food. Any awards that follow are just nice to have. Hopefully, that will come with time.
Rhodes Mezzanine, Grosvenor House West Marina Beach Dubai (04 399 8888). Open Fri-Wed 7.30pm-12 midnight, Thu 7.30pm-1am. All major credit cards accepted.