Dubai restaurant owner and Michelin favourite Pierre Gagnaire talks about the crunch, passion and stealing the QE2
So your restaurant, Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire, has been open eight months. Has it lived up to your expectations? We were hit by the economic crisis, but overall we are happy with what we’ve achieved in a very short period of time. Our guests are happy and the investors are happy with the product we’ve created, so it’s a positive start. What’s it like when you visit your kitchen in Dubai? Do the staff get nervous? No, it’s like a buzz. When I’m away, we always communicate – we have mail, internet and the phone – but the best way is to be with the staff, face to face, and then I can try and see what we can do to give the best quality to our customers.
Have you had a chance to see the city since you’ve been here? No, I don’t have time. I prefer to stay here, in the kitchen. My love is in the kitchen.
What is it about food that makes you so passionate? I’m interested in creating the food, that’s my passion. I’m not really passionate about the food itself; it’s just food. It’s the centre, but not the thing itself.
So do you view food as an art form, then? Food can make you feel emotions, just as a beautiful movie or music can. In my restaurants, I’ve seen guests crying while eating our food. Food in a way has a bridge with art. It’s not just there to satisfy a physiological need; it feeds an emotion.
You know, when Michel Roux was in town, I asked him the same question, and he said that at no stage was cooking an art. [Laughs] Well, there are artists, and there are craftsmen, and there are a lot of bridges between the two. I consider myself an artist, but I need the craft; it’s what brings me down to earth and keeps me grounded. At the same time, if there isn’t that sparkle of art and creativity, I would find what I do boring. I need that spark to keep my work exciting.
So there are a number of big name French chefs who will be opening restaurants in Dubai soon: Michel Roux, Alain Ducasse, Jean-George Vongerichten. Is that threatening? Our ambition is to be a great institution in Dubai. [Laughs] Maybe we will take the boat of Michel’s and send it back to France; Send the QE2 back to France. But seriously, we already work in different cities where those chefs are present as well and, at the end of the day, it is not for them or for us to decide, it’s for the customers to decide which restaurant they want to patronise.