Francois Porte interview

Time Out talks to Dubai's outstanding chef award-winner

Interview

The winner of Time Out’s inaugural Outstanding Contribution Restaurant Award started his career with jobs in kitchens near his home town in the Pyrenees, before opening his own restaurant in Sussex in the UK. In 1983, he was appointed executive chef at Dubai Country Club. From there, he moved to Emirates Golf Club, where for more than two decades he tended La Classique. Later this year he is due to retire, making this honour very appropriate.

You’ve won our first Outstanding Contribution award. How did you do it?

I arrived here 27 years ago. I’d never heard of Dubai before. I came here as the chef for the Dubai Country Club – it was only really known as the country club in those days. There was nothing else. My contribution has been to teach all the young people who have arrived in Dubai over the years. If this is why I won this award, then I’m very happy for that!

What do you hope for Dubai’s restaurant scene in the future?
Oh, I have very high hopes, very high. In Dubai you have all different nationalities, and you can eat all different cuisines – it’s fantastic. When you look at the numbers turning up at the Restaurant Awards, and the fact that there are 8 or 10 newcomer restaurants on the shortlist – I have never seen so many new places open in one year before. Now there’s a fantastic choice of restaurants in Dubai. Definitely.

Do you feel there is more work for you to do?
No – I’ve been in the kitchen for 51 years. I started in 1959 as a young man. I’m 68 now. I think I’m entitled to hang up my apron and spend a bit of time with my friends all over the world. I’ve met a lot of chefs. Young people come here and then go to new places and now it’s time for me to catch up with them and relax.

What’s your favourite Dubai restaurant?
I like quite a few in Dubai. Le Petit Maison is a beautiful place to eat. Reflets is a lovely place with a great French chef. The French are taking over! Yes, definitely! I love them.

Congratulations again.
Thank you. I didn’t realise I was going to win! I couldn’t get out of my chair!

Catch François quick at Le Classique, Emirates Golf Club (04 380 2222)

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