Eat DXB: Seven chefs, one meal, plenty of conversation

Attend a pop-up dinner on June 16 or various food talks on June 17 at Tom & Serg in Al Quoz

Eat Dxb will take place at Tom & Serg in Al Quoz on June 16 and 17
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If learning and chatting about Dubai's culinary scene with fellow foodies, even as you eat a meal prepared by seven of the city's most popular chefs, appeals to your tastes, head to Tom & Serg in Al Quoz on June 16 and 17. The cafe will host the first two events being conducted by Eat DXB, a non-profit movement helmed by restaurateur Tom Arnel, the man behind the Bull & Roo hospitality firm that operates Tom & Serg, The Sum of Us and Common Grounds.

Arnel is also one of the chefs putting together the Eat the City menu being served on Sunday. Joining him in the kitchen are Nick Alvis and Scott Price, the culinary duo behind Folly, The Lion and Verve; Australian-Lebanese chef Greg Malouf who helmed the now-closed Cle and Zahira; former Zuma and current Play chef Reif Othman; Syrian chef Mohammed Orfali; and Ruya's Liz Stevenson. The seven cover more than a dozen cuisines and cooking styles among them. It's safe to say, then, that guests are in for a veritable treat.

"For the pop-up dinner, the brief the chefs gave themselves was to put Dubai on a plate," says Arnel. "Using their shared knowledge and know-how, they are working to create a menu of the city right now, one which combines the different influences, not just the local influences, of all the people who are here." Exactly what they'll serve is as yet unknown, as the chefs put their heads together and work with local suppliers to come up with a range of dishes that fit the bill.

The chefs will be aided that evening by students from the International Centre for Culinary Arts, in a bid to train the talent of tomorrow. “Open conversations, collaborations and [teaching] strengthen all levels of the food and beverage ecosystem. Shared knowledge is a building block,” adds Arnel.

Some of the chefs putting together the meal at Eat Dxb
Some of the chefs putting together the meal at Eat Dxb

It's not just budding cooks who can benefit from this know-how, either. On June 17, Tom & Serg will host Eat Talks, part two of the Eat DXB series, with a panel of speakers who wield tremendous influence over the city's foodscape. First up is Arva Ahmed, founder of Frying Pan Adventures, which has been conducting walking and eating tours of the UAE for a little more than five years. Ahmed will share observations and anecdotes about the importance of stories in reconnecting with foods, communities and neighbourhoods, many of which are taken for granted and often forgotten over time.

Next up is a panel discussion on starting a food business and operating “restaurants with a purpose” in Dubai, straight from the mouths of three experienced entrepreneurs: Stasha Toncev who owns Balkan cuisine eatery 21 Grams; Luma Makhlouf of Maiz Tacos; and Mo Abedin of Sticky Rice.

We believe that the food and restaurant scene in Dubai is world-class and, in some cases, deserves to be showcased.

Logistics and capital aside, the chat will also include the personal touch that any restaurateur will agree is key to success. Toncev, for example, says: “In hospitality, staff are often trained to put up a sort of shield, only speaking as much as is necessary. But at 21 Grams, we want you to engage with the servers, all of whom are from the Balkans, and can tell you some fascinating stories and histories of the dishes on your plate. For me, conversation adds such a nice touch to a meal. It’s a soulful experience in a very fast-paced city.”

A second panel discussion, Mind to Menu, will explore creativity and innovation within the Dubai food scene. Fittingly, this has Inked's Hadrien Villedieu and Lowe's Jesse Blake and Kate Christou as its hosts. Inked is a fitted-out kitchen and restaurant space that hosts one-off meals that range from experiential to outlandish. Some experiences it has offered in the past include dinner in pitch darkness, a meal inspired by Andy Warhol's artworks, an event to support the #CookforSyria movement and an evening where everything from the food and cutlery to the tables and venue were either in black or white.

Meanwhile, Lowe is Dubai’s newest independent eatery, which has quickly earned likes for its fuss-free, often home-grown food, pet-friendly terrace, and the fact that it serves kombucha on tap.

A Black & White dinner at Inked
A Black & White dinner at Inked

The two cuisines in focus at Eat Talks are ramen, the humble Japanese noodles that have spawned a cult following all over the world; and Middle Eastern, in conversation with chef Malouf, who is known as the godfather of the region's cuisine. Eat Talks will also host Spoken Word: Food for Thought, a talk by Emirati poet Salem Al Attas.

“We believe that the food and restaurant scene in Dubai is world-class and, in some cases, deserves to be showcased. Eat Dxb is on a mission to strengthen, support and celebrate what’s happening at the moment, as well as building a stronger food community for the future, through collaboration and communication,” concludes Arnel.

Tickets are available from Tom & Serg, and are Dh225 for the Eat the City menu on June 16, and Dh185 for Eat Talks on June 17, with all profits going to Dubai Cares