Cook who’s talking

Angela Hartnett, visiting chef at Verre, chats to Time Out

Interview

So you were Verre’s first executive chef. In fact, you launched the restaurant. What was that like?
Ultimately it was fantastic. Well, at first it was horrific, because it was just after 9/11 and it was dark going to the Middle East. There was no market because no one was travelling. But I’d say after three to six months we saw the benefits.

What changed?
Dubai changed. More was built, more opened up. And people started travelling more. They didn’t just look at the Middle East and worry about travelling there.

That was eight years ago. When was the last time you were here?
About five years ago.

Wow. You know, it’s pretty different here now. Any plans during your visit?

I’ll be in town for such a short time, 48 hours really, so my main concentration will be on Verre. Although it would be nice to see a couple of the restaurants. I have some friends who work in Dubai now, so
I think I’ll see them.

It seems like Gordon’s kitchens are a bit of a macho environment. Was it more difficult rising through the ranks as a woman?
I don’t feel it was any harder as a woman. If anything, it made my life easier, as Gordon didn’t go for the females as much as the guys.

Would you say the gender divide has changed in the industry since you started?
Since I’ve started there are more women in the kitchens and more female managers, yeah. People just realise that you can earn a decent living, and the hours are more acceptable. But ultimately, women have babies and men run the workplace. You can’t get away from that – it’s a fact of nature. By default, any industry you go to, whether it’s a TV studio or a kitchen, you’ll always find more blokes. It’s a way of the world, but for some reason the media tends to focus on kitchens.

So is working for Gordon as scary as it looks on TV?
It think it gives you standards and discipline. We run tight ships. We have standards, and you want to get the accolades. I like the way the kitchens are run.

Angela Hartnett oversees two of Gordon Ramsay’s award-winning restaurants in London, Murano and York & Albany. She will be cooking alongside Verre’s executive chef, Matt Pickop, on November 9-10, as well as teaching a masterclass on November 10 from 10am-1pm. Call the Hilton Dubai Creek on 04 227 7550 for reservations.

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