Why Marea’s chef believes Dubai is the right fit for the Michelin-starred restaurant

Michael White talks about the DIFC restaurant

Why Marea’s chef believes Dubai is the right fit for the Michelin-starred restaurant
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He’s cooked for everyone from Bill Gates to several US presidents and now, along with his business partner Ahmass Fakahany, American chef Michael White owns 16 restaurants around the world – including the Michelin-starred Marea in New York City.

Marea, meaning “tide” in Italian, opened its doors in Dubai’s DIFC earlier this year with the aim of “redefining the seascape of high-end Italian cuisine serving regional foods of Italy”. Bold claims, but so far it seems to have lived up to the hype.

Opening a new restaurant in Dubai isn’t easy, and over the past few years the dining scene has become ultra-competitive with the city now boasting some of the best international and homegrown brands in the world. Dubai is even exporting brands now, with restaurants such as DIFC’s GAIA, from chef Izu Ani, setting up overseas. And DIFC is rapidly becoming a go-to spot for exciting new bars, restaurants and clubs.

Considered one of the best Italian restaurants in Manhattan and holding not one, but two Michelin stars, why was Dubai chosen for Marea’s second home?

“It was very much a natural move for us to open here. Dubai has everything we need for the type of cooking that I do. Emirates flies multiple times a day from Italy and getting the freshest Italian products isn’t a problem – it really is amazing and we’re very fortunate.

“DIFC is really where I wanted to be. It’s no mistake that we’re here. One the greatest things about Dubai is that everyone feels welcome and I feel good here,” he elaborates.

And having set up in Dubai, where does he love to eat while he’s over here?

“Where do you want to start?,” he laughs. “Al Ustad for their kebabs, definitely 3 Fils (which won Best Asian at the Time Out Dubai Restaurants Awards 2019) and I also love Al Falamanki – I’ve probably been there about 15 times already.”

With a menu packed full of homemade pasta, risottos, fresh seafood and more, what does the chef himself recommend those dining at Marea must try?

“The hallmark of Italian cooking is its simplicity – less is more. When we’re making dishes, I look to see what we can take out. It’s all about the texture and flavour,” explains White. “The menu is so vast and accessible. I suggest you share everything. Trying to pick my favourite dish is like trying to pick my favourite song from the Ramones – it’s impossible,” he laughs.

Hailing from Beloit, a small city in Wisconsin, what drew him to Italian cuisine in particular?

“I got into Italian cooking because that was the only ethnic restaurant in my town. If we were going out to eat it was always Italian so I grew up loving Italian food and become captivated by Italian cooking,” he adds.

“Everything in my life is about food. Whatever I do, I’m all or nothing, and being just 29 years old and receiving my first Michelin star was a huge accomplishment.”

And there are no guesses for what’s on the menu when whipping up a meal at home for friends and family.

“If I’m not cooking pasta at home, people are going to be ticked off,” he laughs. “I use to live in Emilia-Romagna, I’m married to someone from Emilia-Romagna – it’s known as the ‘bread basket’ of Italy so everything is pasta, pasta, pasta. I really love having it as simple as possible – with just a bit of olive oil and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.”

Michelin-starred carbs? You had us at spaghetti.
Open Sun-Thu noon-4pm, 7pm-1am, Fri-Sat noon-4pm, 7pm-3am. Gate Village 7, DIFC (04 583 6366).

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