DUBAI // Jamie Oliver, the British chef, is to open two restaurants in a new residential development and design the kitchens for the homeowners. Oliver is to bring his Jamie's Italian franchise to Dubai, along with a barbecue-style restaurant. A cookery concept called Recipes, incorporating his cooking classes, is also in the works. The restaurants are scheduled to open in 2011 in the luxury Jumeirah Golf Estates' Water neighbourhood. The Recipes shop will allow people to buy ingredients, cookery DVDs and recipes, as well as offer cookery lessons.
There are already branches of Jamie's Italian in Oxford and Bath in England. Oliver, the face of British supermarket Sainsbury's, said his new cooking school would promote healthy, affordable eating. He has used his celebrity status in the UK to front several healthy eating initiatives, including a school dinners programme, and was made an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2003. He was originally approached last year to open a branch of his concept restaurant Fifteen in Dubai.
The restaurants, in London and Cornwall in the UK, Melbourne, in Australia, and Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, train unemployed young people to become chefs. But with such low unemployment in Dubai, Oliver felt it was the wrong project for the city. Instead, he is focusing on affordable luxury and healthy eating. "Luxury to me is knowledge and just because you have money, doesn't mean you have knowledge or good health," he said.
"Health and diet are key things for me and it's amazing how much that translates to the Middle East. This project is about good living. "It's what I call food poverty. It doesn't mean you're poor, it means you eat takeaways and fast food." He added that he wanted his restaurants to be different to those of Michelin-starred chefs such as Gordon Ramsay who have already made their mark on the Dubai scene.
He said his venues would be "the opposite of Michelin stars" and be very different from those currently in Dubai: more "simple, relaxed and not pretentious". Oliver, on his first trip to the UAE since he was approached last year, said he was loving the experience. "This place has so much to offer. I'm really excited to be working in Dubai. What an amazing place to open my first international Jamie's Italian. In the UK, people love high-quality, affordable and authentic Italian food and I know it will be the same in Dubai."
Oliver added that designing the kitchens for the homeowners was a "once in a lifetime opportunity". He was told by Jumeirah Golf Estates developers, Leisurecorp, that there would be no budget limit. "I've never before been told there is no budget and just to be creative," he said. "It's been an amazing project to be involved in." Oliver is even taking charge of the planting of herb gardens for residents to use.
The development will also include a Vijay Singh-designed golf course and the Chris Evert tennis centre. From next year, Jumeirah Golf Estates will host the Dubai World Championship, and will become the home of the European Tour's international headquarters. Jamie's Italian will open in the clubhouse for the championship next year, before moving to its permanent location in 2011. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org