UAE chefs on the Michelin Guide Dubai: 'It will set higher standards for the city'

A digital Michelin Guide is launching in the emirate this summer

Dubai is to become the 36th destination rated by the Michelin Guide this June. PA
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The Michelin Guide is officially set to launch in Dubai in June, it was announced at the Museum of the Future on Tuesday after years of speculation.

A veritable melting pot of nationalities, cultures and cuisines, Dubai already boasts outposts of award-winning international restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs.

This diversity, says Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, worked in the city's favour and put it on Michelin's radar.

“We will be showcasing the best of Dubai's gastronomy, to reflect not just the luxury and opulence it is famed for, but also the wide diversity of cuisines that the location and history provide,” Poullennec says.

Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides, announces the launch of the Michelin Guide Dubai on March 29.  Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Reaction to the Michelin Guide coming to Dubai

Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm is a firm favourite among the UAE's chefs and diners (see more restaurant predictions below). The restaurant's chef Gregoire Berger tells The National: "The Michelin Guide coming to town is the collective achievement of pushing standards and boundaries in the region, and something many of us have been working on for some years [by] raising the bar, driving sustainability and seasonality, and developing our craft and personality.

"The arrival of Michelin will ultimately set higher standards for the city, bringing with it many global talents and finally giving Dubai the position it deserves on the global culinary scene. It’s finally due."

Quote
The Michelin Guide coming to town is the collective achievement of pushing standards and boundaries in the region, and something many of us have been working on for some years
Chef Gregoire Berger, Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm

Howard Ko, executive chef at Ce La Vi Dubai, who has 11 years of Michelin-star culinary experience, says the guide coming to the UAE will be wonderful for the industry. "It will define the UAE as a culinary destination and also support restaurants that are doing amazing work, but that might be [located] out of the way."

Ko, who recently judged the UAE's first Seafood From Scotland's Chef Poissonnier of the Year competition, says it will "encourage restaurants to push boundaries, make people more adventurous and help smaller restaurants strive".

Danilo Valla, head chef of Roberto's, believes this is at once "a historic moment and the correct moment for such an important guide to be here".

In-the-know diners, too, could not be more excited and proud.

"Having lived in Dubai for more than a decade, I've seen the food culture evolve at an almost inconceivable rate in terms of restaurants, as well as residents' interest in dining out," says Nicole "The Hungry Hedon" Barua, a chef and food critic.

"The country can now deservedly boast about having some of the best food and, dare I say it, best hospitality in the world. The Michelin Guide finally coming to the UAE is a validation of what we offer and it will be extremely informative to have a compendium of great restaurants based on internationally tested and acclaimed specifics."

Feeling the heat

Hamachi ceviche with sumac-infused labneh, zaatar oil and fresh zaatar at Solemann Haddad's Moonrise.

It's not all fun and games, though. Food quality and consistency is key to gaining and retaining a Michelin star.

"The pressure that the staff of a Michelin-starred restaurant are under is immense,” British chef Chris Galvin, who helms the award-winning La Chapelle and Windows in London, told The National in 2019.

“To achieve that level of perfection day after day, plate after plate, can take its toll. And to not know whether the person you're serving is or isn't a Michelin inspector, come for one of their routine checks, means the pressure is constant.”

This explains why a handful of chefs — from Marco Pierre White to Sebastien Bras — have expressed a desire to forsake their restaurant’s stellar status.

Of course, this figure pales in comparison with the number of restaurants that occupy a place of pride in the Michelin Guide, and those that yearn to earn the coveted stars, including as of this year, the ones in Dubai.

"The Michelin Guide is the ultimate validation for a restaurant and the chef who leads it, and validation is important to me," admits Dubai-born chef Solemann Haddad, 26, founder of Moonrise.

"This is especially so because I have faced a lot of critique for my age. Being young in this industry, I find you have to work 10 times harder and shout 10 times harder to make as much noise as the average chef. For my restaurant to have a Michelin star would be frankly fabulous.

"From an objective, no-emotions perspective, too, awards are important because they are good for my career and for my business."

Worthy Michelin contenders

Ossiano, at Atlantis, The Palm, could be a possible Michelin contender. Photo: Atlantis, The Palm

Presumably, the 16 Dubai restaurants that recently made it to the first Mena’s 50 Best Restaurants list are strong contenders for a Michelin star or two, while The National’s readers put together a selection of their own award-worthy favourites.

To this, Antonis Melas, head chef at Greek restaurant Ammos, adds: “Even though Dubai offers a great variety of excellent choices, I believe there are some that clearly stand out from the rest. The Michelin Guide should most definitely give stars to Nobu, SushiSamba and Ossiano, given their quality exceeds expectations.”

Emirati content creator Reza Kiani, meanwhile, says he would like to see a local restaurant in the Michelin Guide. “Al Khayma heritage restaurant offers possibly the best Emirati food; whenever I eat there, I am always reminded of my childhood. Another restaurant worth at least one star is Al Fanar, where the ambience takes you back to 1960s Dubai.”

Eyes are also on 3 Fils, which took the top spot in the Mena’s 50 Best Restaurants list in February.

"I think it's great to have another platform in the UAE to motivate chefs and restauranteurs to do better, to continually improve and offer their very best to the region and their guests," says Ahmed Saleh, co-founder and chief executive of The Lab Holding, which operates 3 Fils.

"Michelin would also take into consideration all the unique cuisines, not just fine dining locations as Dubai is a very diverse and multicultural destination offering so much to so many."

3 Fils was been named the No 1 restaurant in on the Mena's 50 Best Restaurants list in February. Photo: 3 Fils

Cookbook author Flavel Monteiro, who brought dozens of Michelin-lauded chefs to Expo 2020 Dubai, gives his vote to Social by Heinz Beck ("for consistency"), Roberto's ("for always being switched on") and Mythos ("for unparalleled Greek food"). Among the new crop, Monteiro says he would like to see Peruvian restaurant Clay, which recently opened on Bluewaters Island, on the list.

Peter Ahn, founder of Teible at the Jameel Arts Centre, recommends Hoseki in Bulgari Hotel be included in the DXB Guide. "I want to make a big point: they provide traditional Japanese food without compromising, with ingredients imported directly from Japan."

Valla says he would, of course, love to see Roberto's in the guide, alongside "other amazing restaurants like Zuma, Ossiano, Studio by Tresind, Armani and many more".

Jose Carlos Garcia, chef de cuisine at Zabeel House by Jumeirah, The Greens, says it will be interesting to see Michelin’s approach as it has changed quite a bit over the past few years by moving away from haute cuisine and awarding stars to smaller, less luxurious restaurants.

"It would be great to recognise some of the home-grown restaurants in Dubai such as Gaia. Ossiano and Tresind are two restaurants that I believe would be deserving of a star as they push culinary boundaries."

The names that are top of mind for Anna Zheleznyak, F&B general manager at Crowne Plaza Dubai Marina, are Zuma, LPM, Alici, Maine, SushiSamba, La Cantine du Faubourg and 99 Sushi.

Worthy contenders all; now it remains to be seen whether the anonymous Michelin inspectors concur.

The full selection for the Michelin Guide Dubai will be available at guide.michelin.com

See the full list of regional restaurants that made it to the first Mena’s 50 Best Restaurants list here:

Updated: March 30, 2022, 6:32 AM
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