William Girard

Time Out meets a Frenchman who doesn't like cheese and asks him about his food philosophy and his favourite restaurants in Dubai.


Chef de cuisine, Al Mahara

How long have you been in Dubai?
Five months.

Did you experience any culture shock when coming here?
I did with the weather. I used to work in Thailand, and the weather was very hot, but you could work in the street. I’m not used to being in the desert. But I have an open mind, and for five months it’s been OK.

What was the hardest thing to get used to?
In Paris, it’s easier to get the product. At lunch, if you run out of fish, you call your supplier and by that afternoon, he can get you more. Here, you have to order two to three times per week. Sometimes you can get very fresh product, and sometimes when you order you can’t. You don’t always know what kind of quality you’re going to get.

You cook a lot with fish. How is it different to cooking with meat?
I started cooking with fish in Paris. I find that fish has more original flavour. You can cook fish very easily, and yet there are many different ways you can prepare it.

What was the last thing you ate?
The last thing I ate? Fish from France. I cooked it whole with a salty crust.

What’s your cooking philosophy?
If you have fresh produce, it is very easy to cook. If you have bad produce, it is not easy. For me, it’s about good produce and simple food.

What’s your favourite food?
I like classic and modern French food. When I go back home, I like more seasoned food, and sometimes some avant-garde cuisine, because that is something I don’t see often enough.

Are there any particular foods you don’t like?
I don’t like cheese, even though I am French.

It can be very heavy.

How do you incorporate the local culture into your cooking?
I use some local products and I do two or three things à la carte, like tagine, because I think the people like to see French food with some Arabic touches.

Where do you like to eat out?
Le Classique. It’s very nice food. Also at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant – it is very important to see what competition you have when you’re cooking.

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