x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Rhodes' rules

Food guru The chef Gary Rhodes speaks about his food, his fears, his feuds and his plans for the future.

"It'll be fantastic if Dubai becomes more and more a foodie town," the chef Gary Rhodes says.

When Gary Rhodes opened Rhodes Mezzanine, he aimed to challenge Gordon Ramsay for Dubai's culinary crown. One year on, a slew of big-name chefs have opened restaurants in the city, which makes Gary's goal even tougher to achieve.

It is a bit like that. I love being busy. If I'm not busy I'll go home and I'll moan to Jenny (his wife), "I'm going out of business..." I get quite fanatical about it. Some days I'll get scared if it's too busy. It's weird. I get frightening moments. I'll say to Jen, "I don't think I can do this; I've taken on too much here. I can't cope with it; I don't feel in control." Then I'll sleep and wake up with a whole new light, with a more positive approach to it all.

It's so true. I'm quite fanatical when I'm opening a restaurant, about making sure it's up and running the way I want it to be. And then I can start to develop the menu. From a kitchen point of view, we develop foods that are - intricate is the wrong word - but a little more involved. I want to chat with my chefs about some new dishes for the menu, but I might hold them back until the new year. They're simple, but they need a fair bit of work.

I think I'm very fair, and I treat everybody with absolute respect. No matter how I feel about something, I never speak to people in a derogatory manner.

I'm thrilled with it. I made a little mistake because I tried to turn it all French with one little menu change. Suddenly people were saying, "Where is that jam roly-poly that I brought my friend here for?"

Yes, and some of the dishes were getting a little bit too arty. But in the new year I'm going to make sure it has a lot more of the British tone about it. But with finesse. I think the jam roly-poly should be something we can never take off the menu. It becomes something that everybody loves now and again.

I am enjoying that because I think it creates a bigger advert for what Dubai is about. It'll be fantastic if Dubai becomes more and more a foodie town. It'll be a place that you've got to come and, not only to enjoy the fantastic weather and see the stunning buildings, but to treat as a little gourmet tour as well. And hopefully Michelin will come knocking on the door - it'll bring more and more chefs over here.

Rubbish - absolute rubbish. I fell out with (Ramsay's former boss) Marco Pierre White a long time ago, over restaurants and bits and pieces, and I rarely see the guy, but if anything it's a nod now and nothing else. I have no conversation with him. And that's no disrespect to Marco, I do believe he was the greatest British chef of all time - in his day. And people like Gordon learnt from him. But the reason I'll stick by him (Gordon) is that I hate reading bad articles about him. You know, this celeb in the States making £50-60 million (Dh317-381 million) - so what? What if he is? Good luck to the guy. When I first started doing TV, I think he thought I was some celebrity chef who just wanted to show his face on TV. But I've proved that my priority is with the restaurants and TV is a bonus. I don't want to lose my reputation in the industry. I'll never be in the same bracket as Marco and Gordon - perhaps there's another edge that they have. But I've got two Michelin star restaurants in the UK and I'm very, very proud of that.

I think it will take at least another year before we really make some noise in terms of British cuisine taken to a different level, with a different approach to it. Next year, I'm doing a steak and kidney homemade faggot (traditional British meatball), puréeing the meat so it's as smooth as you can imagine in a boudin mixand very gently poached. And that'll be with caramelised onions with the sweetness of fresh tomato in it. It'll be a melting, silky experience with strands of oxtail that just dissolve in the mouth. That for me is the true art of cooking.

Well, I've got to stick to what our theme is, what it's meant to be. And I got a little carried away putting little lines of this and that on the plate. And I was starting to cook like every other chef - I don't want to cook like every other chef. How many times do we go somewhere now when you get a spoonful of purée and it's smudged all the way through the plate? How are you enjoying that flavour and how is it complementing everything else? No. That sort of thing is out the window and I won't allow it on the plates here. If there's going to be a parsnip purée it's going to be there for a purpose.

Well, everybody's loaded over here! No, I don't mean that. I think in the UK that's certainly the first move because it has hit people hard. We've just changed the concept of our Brasserie at Rhodes W1. And now we're in the process of dropping all the prices.

Well, I'm happy working with the Grosvenor House, and if they ask me for more with this company then I'll be thrilled to do that. I'd like to grow with this, but at the same time if someone else comes knocking I'll always take a look. I would never take on anything that I felt was in competition to what we've got here. This was the first, and I've got too much respect to do that. So, Abu Dhabi - anyone interested (laughs)? Who knows?