Ali Yazdi really loves burgers.
“I remember when I was a child, my mum used to say ‘if you finish your meal, then I will get you a burger',” he says with a laugh. “I always say ‘a burger a day keeps the doctor away’, and so still to this day, I always have a burger every day.”
This love for burgers turned out to be more than just a daily ritual. Yazdi's interest in food spurred him to choose it as a career, training to be a chef at the age of 18, before channelling his experience into his one true passion, with the launch of Slaw in 2021.
“Burgers are my passion and I was seeing that the market here was lacking burgers made with really high-quality ingredients,” he says. “So I promised myself that I would open something of a really high standard that never compromised on quality.
“I have been cooking since I was 15, and at Slaw I really unleashed my dragon.”
Slaw has made a name for itself among Dubai burger lovers, thanks to its chicken sandos, classic burgers and inventive specials.
The burger joint celebrated its one-year anniversary in March at its original Jumeirah 1 location. It kickstarted its second year with the opening of a new restaurant in the city.
The second branch, located on Hessa Street, is only the start of Yazdi’s grand plans for Slaw.
The Emirati, who grew up in Dubai, wants to take the brand global, starting with expansion into India, where it will be the first Emirati burger joint to set up shop in the country.
“It makes me feel proud and it also makes me responsible,” he says. “When we select our clients who want to franchise, we make sure they have the right industry background, the passion and the love for the food. We don’t want to do it for the sake of money-making, we want to do it for the love of the brand.
“For India, for example, we are replacing beef with lamb meat, we are adding a few more vegetarian options, we are switching up the spice to cater to demands in India, so we are really busy working on that at the moment, and we really want to get it right,” he says.
And his plans don’t stop there. Yazdi is also in talks to open franchises in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, as well as more branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but he won’t stop until the brand goes global.
“Dubai has the biggest of everything — the biggest towers, the biggest wheel — but we don’t have the biggest brands that were born here,” he says. “Why shouldn’t someone in the US or the UK take a Dubai brand and open franchises there?”
“That’s one of my biggest dreams. I have promised myself that we will make it that big, that people around the world will see us. We are busy planning our vision,” he says.
So what is it about Slaw that makes it stand out in a busy and competitive market? Yazdi believes it all comes back to his true love of burgers.
“I’m a burger fan at heart, I love burgers. It’s my passion,” he says. “Being a chef, I check every single thing happening in the kitchen myself. I treat all of Slaw’s guests like my family members and I want them to be eating only the best. I tell everyone in the kitchen and serving [staff] to imagine the person across from them is their mum or their sister or their brother. We only want the best [for them].”
For a man who really loves burgers, what’s the one thing he recommends ordering from Slaw’s menu?
“For me, it has to be the Nashville chicken sando — I don’t eat one, I eat two, always with a Coke Zero,” he says. “I still have a burger every day, but I try to have a smaller bun to control my [portion] size too.”