A famous British chef, visiting Dubai for the food festival, warns his contemporaries about the danger of "spinning too many plates in the air".
Too many cooks may be a recipe for trouble
DUBAI // Celebrity chefs who add Dubai to their international list of restaurant locations are in danger of "spinning too many plates in the air", one of their number has warned. Brian Turner, a British chef taking part in the Jumeirah Festival of Taste, said quality could suffer if talent was spread too thinly. A number of famous chefs have been putting their names to restaurants in the city. They include: Gordon Ramsay, whose restaurant Verre is one of 21 he runs around the world; Gary Rhodes, whose locations also include Grenada and Ireland; and Jamie Oliver, whose other restaurants are in Britain, Holland and Australia.
Giorgio Locatelli and Pierre Gagnaire now have a presence in Dubai, while branches of the London-based restaurants The Ivy and Le Caprice are also opening here. Mr Turner, 62, who has appeared on British television shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Saturday Kitchen, said: "There is a great danger [in Dubai] for so-called celebrity chefs. Everything that glitters is not gold. It is a crowded market and they are no longer unique.
"I have seen some good places and some which have room for improvement. The great danger in life is running before you can walk. If you have not got the basic foundations in place, it will fail. "In the old days it used to be about American chefs coming to Europe and ticking it off on their lists. If you are not careful, that is what will happen here. "People are trying to spin too many plates in the air and it is something I would be worried about if I were to come here."
Mr Turner refused to name names but said that when chefs were putting their reputation on the line it was important standards were maintained. He would be tempted to set up base in Dubai, he said, only if he had a "site and a hotel crew willing to invest money. It depends if you can trust someone to make it work when you are not there. You have to make sure your reputation is being stuck to." With the maelstrom currently engulfing the financial world, Mr Turner said the time had come for a credit-crunch lunch. Chefs would have to adapt their menus to suit the pockets of diners.
Gary Rhodes, who runs Mezzanine in the Grosvenor House Hotel, has already concocted "more affordable" set menus in his Michelin-starred restaurants in Britain. Mr Turner said he believes the answer is to seek cheaper ingredients. "It is no good serving the best food in the world at the cheapest price if you are out of business in three weeks. But that does not mean you cannot put affordable food on the menu. The solution is to be able to give value for money while making sure you are not overcharging.
"You can use more value-for-money products. For example, instead of having fillet of beef you would look at brisket of beef, which is a fifth of the price." Mr Turner will be hosting a series of events as part of the food festival, along with six other chefs, including Michel Roux, James Martin and Jean-Christophe Novelli. He will first take part at an open buffet in Al Qasr hotel on Sunday, then cook aboard a yacht for 15 guests on Monday and host a table for dinner in the Madinat Jumeirah in the evening.
At the end of the festival, seven chefs will cook signature dishes at a buffet in Bab al Shams desert resort. Mr Turner, who was awarded a CBE by the Queen for services to the catering industry, said his menu would include roast chicken breast with chestnut stuffing and horseradish, scallop and hake pudding and spiced fillet of veal, followed by raspberry and white chocolate trifle. Tickets for events are available from www.festivaloftaste.com or by calling 04 301 7781.
email@example.com For a full look at the rise of celebrity chefs in Dubai see tomorrow's Arts and Life Section in The National