How does the Dubai food and restaurant scene compare to the UK?
Dubai is a small, neat and very F&B saturated city- what I love the most is that I can eat the most authentic foods from various countries, right here in Dubai, due to the unique cosmopolitan make up of Dubai. London is always considered been most happening, but Dubai is more progressive. I am very much married to Dubai with Omnia, but London will always be my home.
How do you come up with new concepts for your restaurants?
I derive from what I believe is missing on the marketplace and let’s be honest, everything new has been done, so I stick to good, honest , healthy, locally sourced, clean way of delicious eating. I cook food that is good for you, that energises you and affords you a great quality of life. My concepts always have a face, a heart and soul- that is what I stay in Dubai!
What’s the hardest thing to crack when getting established in Dubai’s restaurant scene?
When a new place opens, the usual suspects are all invited to dine and promote the place on complimentary basis, so there is a buzz in first two to three months- that goes after the initial excitement, as during that time many more new arrivals have entered the scene, so the hardest thing is to keep your customers focus and return business. To create loyalty.
What’s been the most impactful change you’ve seen in restaurants in Dubai?
The food standard is much higher, even in the last two years I have been here. I see it first hand as an annual judge of the Time Out Dubai Young Chef of the Year, where the new talent of chefs is just what this amazing city deserves- pretty good and talented.
Much of your menus offer a twist on traditional Emirati cuisine - has it been a challenge promoting this as a non-Emirati?
I have been very much embraced by the Emiratis in Dubai. I am very grateful for that loyal return business, I guess they do appreciate Omnia as very well-loved Emirati born brand, promoting Emirati organic and locally grown produce. In fact Omnia in such a short space of time has become a much loved brand all over the Gulf region with offers of opening in places like KSA and Kuwait, so we are very excited and exploring options.
What are your plans for 2016 and beyond?
Having opened five places in the last 18 months in Dubai alone, my aim is to assure consistency, to strengthen return business and stay open and keep doing business. As we all know, in addition to many new openings there are plenty of closures. Just in the last six months, the market place has become hard for restaurants and we are seeing a lot of casualties, so staying afloat and delivering the most delicious, healthy and organic food in Dubai is what we will be doing.
What’s your favourite dish to cook for guests at home?
My gluten free, sugar free, vegan tiramisu.
What would your last meal be?
My mother’s stuffed vine leaves and my grandmother’s walnut baklava.