There’s not much that the culinary scene in Dubai is missing. Well, perhaps a little official recognition.
And that could be just around the corner.
Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guide, has said it was “only a matter of time” before they started to cover Dubai, and the city’s top chefs believe it could be just what Dubai’s dining scene needs right now.
The feeling is that an independent and strictly-regulated grading system would give some serious credibility to the best and most worthy restaurants in the city. The announcement as to which restaurants have received stars – and how many – would be the best advert possible, not just for those outlets, but for the Dubai’s dining scene, both locally and internationally.
Chef Mansour Memarian, Director of F&B for Palazzo Versace Dubai, was working as chef de cuisine at Jagdhof Glashütte in Germany when the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. He went on to open Pavilion restaurant in Innsbruck, Austria, and that too was soon acknowledged with a star. He believes Michelin’s coverage in Dubai would help foster healthy competition in the hospitality industry and give restaurants something to aspire to.
“The dining scene in Dubai has always been growing in quality and a fair number of Michelin-starred restaurants would create a stable growth of this industry, instead of faster growth but a false one,” Memarian said.
“We see restaurants in Dubai shutting down after just a couple of months or owners bringing in food consultants to save the business, when they really need to look behind the fancy dining rooms or expensive menus and things that don’t sway guests anymore – ultimately people want to pay for quality, presentation and, most importantly, consistency.”
Jeff Galvin, who along with his brother Chris, own restaurants in Dubai as well as Michelin-starred venues in the UK, agrees that it would be “a great way for the public to accurately highlight consistently-good restaurants”.
Dubai already has many great outlets by renowned restaurateurs, but there’s no such thing as a Michelin-starred chef – restaurants receive stars not chefs. This an important distinction. The likes of Memarian, the Galvin brothers, Yannick Alléno, Vineet Bhatia, Jason Atherton and many others who have restaurants in Dubai, have led restaurants elsewhere to stars, so the base and talent already exists. Dubai is ready.
Galvin agrees, and adds, “lots of global prestige and awareness comes with the guide and it would attract other chefs who have led restaurants to Michelin stars to comes and cook in Dubai.”
The coverage that the annual guide receives is global and hugely boosts a newly included city’s reputation. When the guide started covering Tokyo in 2007, it changed the way outsiders perceived the city’s food scene and now Japan’s capital has 314 stars spread across 234 restaurants – more than any other city – and is considered by many to be the world’s food capital.
It’s unlikely Dubai would get that many stars in a first guide, but the attention it would bring the city would be significant. “It does definitely help with business as it is the highest and hardest award to achieve,” Galvin points out.
A Michelin guide of Dubai could also attract highly-driven chefs looking to make a name for themselves to the city.
It’s worth remembering that Michelin has, in the past, awarded a star to Hong Kong’s Tim Ho Wan on the strength of the restaurant’s steamed buns, even though it’s a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” outlet. Likewise, a street stall in Singapore has been awarded a star, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two of the little independent places over here get recognised.
“Guides like Michelin, or other renowned ones like Gault Millau, deserve massive credit for the growth of this industry worldwide,” Memarian said. “They have their detractors, but they create a healthy competition and this is what pushes this industry further.”