Penelope Walsh catches up with the Dubai-raised model, chef, online TV star and presenter at last week’s Time Out Dubai Young Chef of the Year 2013.
Did you enjoy presenting Time Out Young Chef of the Year?
Yes, it was a great event. There was a really good atmosphere, the chefs were buzzing. I managed to get round to every table at least twice to talk to readers. These guys were top notch food critics, they were really getting into it. People sitting next to each other had completely different views, but everyone touched on something important.
Thoughts on the menus?
I really enjoyed seeing the Asian approach chef Timur Fazilov from Zuma took to the festive menu. He also had the most interaction with his tables. I had a feeling that Christopher Graham from Atlantis The Palm, who won the competition, was going to be at the top. His dishes seemed the most cohesive and he put a lot of thought into the presentation.
Looking forward to next year?
For sure. I think it is just going to get better and better each year. I’ve still got a few years in me, if I open my own place in the next year, I might compete as a young chef myself!
You’re gluten and lactose intolerant. Is that a challenge as a chef?
Not particularly. I’ve learnt to adapt and experiment with different ingredients. I never compromise on taste, and I’ve found ways to make dishes that I believe are just as good without those ingredients.
You’re a model and a chef, which came first?
Well, I’m not sure [laughs]. I have been cooking since I can remember, since I could reach the stove. I did my first commercial when I was about eight years old. I stopped modelling for a while, but
I didn’t stop cooking.
Do the two careers conflict?
I have a healthy approach to food, I’m very active and I stay in shape. Nutrition is a hobby of mine. As a chef, this helps me to prepare food that is healthy and delicious. So, being a model and a chef complement each other. And I’m addicted to ice-cream and chocolate, so I have to make it work somehow! I have created my own recipe for healthy ice-cream.
How did you come up with the name This Dude Knows Food for your website?
I wanted a platform to share my food online and my sister and I were bouncing names off each other and came up with it. I don’t really like a serious approach to food and the name matched my style of food and what I was trying to do; make food approachable, young, fun and fresh.
Tell us about your new online cooking shows
They are uploaded every two weeks, and every show is under three minutes. I share my inspiration for healthy food on the go, giving new ideas and shortcuts. You can watch it and download the recipes to your phone, or watch it to guide you while making the dish.