Hot seat: Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Famous French chef talks exclusively to <em>Daisy Carrington</em> about his plans for a restaurant in Donald Trump’s future hotel on Palm Jumeirah.

Hot seat, The Knowledge

So, what brings you to Dubai?
I got a phone call from Donald Trump about his building on the Palm. We went to visit it together. I had never been to Dubai before. It was a wonderful trip. I was impressed with the service. You can get anything anytime.

Are you bringing a version of Jean-Georges, your New York restaurant, to Dubai, or some other brand?
Jean-Georges probably, though it’s still early, so we’re not sure.

Does that mean it’s too early to ask you about your plans for the décor and menus?
It’s too early. We have a couple of years before the Trump Hotel opens [in 2011]. However, I’m not the kind of chef who says ‘eat it or leave it’ when people eat my food. I want to create something that people here will be craving.

Is it true that there will be only 50 diners?
Yes. It’s pretty small. The restaurant is on the 75th floor. We want to offer something where people can enjoy the beautiful culture and interesting food.

I heard a rumour that you might actually open more than one restaurant over here. Is that true?
Why not? There are a lot of opportunities. We could open a Spice Market [Jean-Georges’ tribute to Southeast Asian street food]. There could be a niche for it. After all, Buddha Bar [which originated in Paris] is tremendous in Dubai. I will probably have dinner with Gordon Ramsay, or call him, because he’s been [in Dubai] a long time. We want to make sure we’re doing the right thing.

Gordon Ramsay is planning to buy a house on The Palm.
I heard that. When I came over he was on the plane.

Do you have any designs?
No, but you never know. The Palm is very impressive.

Trump’s hotel is set to be the most expensive in Dubai. Does that mean you’ll be offering the most expensive meal?
In New York I offer three separate courses and one dessert course for US$148. It’s probably the least expensive New York Times’ four star restaurant. I want to make sure people have a good time without spending a lot of money.

Casual? Things tend to be pretty glitzy around here.
I met with Donald Trump a couple of weeks ago, and it was, as you say, glitzy. Everything was, ‘The best of… ’and ‘The most expensive of… ’ People love beautiful things, and to spend money, but you need to eat three times a day, and people tend to budget more, even at a high-end restaurant.

Who do you see as your biggest competition out here?
I’m not sure; it’s too new. But the competition can’t be more than in New York, where there are 90,000 restaurants and the level of eating is getting higher. Anybody that has good food and good service is competition,.

You know Pierre Gagnaire is over here. Any thoughts on him?
He’s really an amazing chef. Any chef of that calibre, they’re putting themselves out there for the entire world.

You’re one of several Michelin starred chefs making their way over here. Tell me, should the others be scared?
No one should be scared. It’s like in New York. Every year a new hot chef comes into town and brings something different. But it’s a friendly atmosphere. I’m just hoping to bring something new. I want to bring what I do at home over here, and meet new friends and new people. That’s my goal.

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