Chef de cuisine at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel on heroes, home cooking and having fun in the kitchen
Fancy becoming a Time Out food critic for an evening? Then join us for a night of festive fine dining and help us in search for the city’s hottest young chef. You will be served a four-course festive meal cooked in front of a live audience – all you have to do is eat, drink and judge.
We caught up with contestant, Matthew James to find out more about his foodie style.
How long have you lived in Dubai? Two years and two weeks, to be precise. What made you want to come out here? Honestly, I just wanted to work somewhere different. I’ve worked in France, Australia, all around the UK and Europe, and Dubai is just somewhere I felt like I needed to go to broaden my mind a little bit.
How long have you been a chef? I’ve been a chef since I was 14.
What inspired you to become a chef? It was just something I’d always wanted to do. What’s your favourite dish to cook? I like all the classical dishes – French classical, English classical, like Coq au vin and beef wellington. The very plain and basic dishes.
What about your favourite dishes to eat? Probably risotto – it’s an easy one to make at home. Something you can do in a couple of minutes.
You were a finalist last year, what did you learn from the competition? I think I’ve learnt to take more mise en place this year. I’ve also learnt to simplify things because I think I went too far last year. There were too many components on one of my dishes, and that was something the judges brought up.
What made you decide to try and compete again? To try and win the Dubai Young Chef of the Year title this time!
What’s the best part about being in the competition? It’s a good day out. I also enjoy the fact that I get to bring the younger chefs with me as it’s a good experience for them. I also enjoy the adrenaline on the day.
Tell us more about your menu? I’ve tried to keep it simple, and make it as traditional and Christmassy as I can. There’s a basic Christmas pudding, with just a little twist. And I’ve gone very historic on the starter, soup and main course. I’ve put a lot of research into the menu. The tanned fish is from the fifteenth century and I brought that up to date and gave it a little twist.
Who’s your culinary hero? The Roux brothers; Albert and Michel Roux – they’re the godfathers of cooking. Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White both came from their kitchens. I’ve also worked in their kitchens before. It’s very classical and traditional, something I really like.
How would you describe your temperament in the kitchen? I’d say I’m very laid back. I don’t shout a lot and I’m very friendly with all my staff. That’s the best way to be.
What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? There’s so much going on in Dubai and we have so many functions. Just the other day we had eight functions, totalling nearly 3,000 people.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Dubai? Rivington Grill is probably one of my favourite places to eat out.
Have you got a favourite place to eat for under Dhs100? Panoor in Sharjah. I discovered it by chance on a night out and go back there all the time. It’s down a little dingy side street and can only seat about 15 people.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career? That’s a tricky one. I haven’t really got one to be honest, but working with the Roux brothers is definitely up there.
See Matthew’s menu here and get your tickets for the Time Out Dubai Young Chef of the Year here.