Chefs Chris and Jeff Galvin have found success the old-fashioned way – through sheer talent and hard work.
The British brothers, who opened Demoiselle by Galvin in Dubai’s City Walk this past week, have built a small, family-run restaurant empire with a focus on high-quality French cuisine.
The Galvins grew up in Essex, surrounded by woods and fields.“Our mother taught us about hard work and good manners. Our grandmother taught us about the love of ingredients, generosity and that you can share love through food,” says Chris.
Twelve years Jeff’s senior, Chris started his journey as a pot washer in a small neighbourhood eatery owned by restaurateur Antony Worrall Thompson. Jeff later followed in his brother’s footsteps, washing pots in the same restaurant.“Our grandmother had nine children so she had to work extremely hard,” admits Jeff.
“When you visited her house, there was always great food. My mum was also hard working. I remember her having three jobs to ensure we had what we needed.”
Perhaps it is that early exposure to hard work that led the pair to where they are now – chefs with 10 restaurants in the United Kingdom – two of which have won Michelin stars, with another to open in Dubai (a second City Walk restaurant, Galvin Dubai, will open later this year). Both men had notable solo culinary careers before joining forces in 2005 to launch Galvin Restaurants.
Chris has worked with chefs Paul Gayler and Terence Conran and in Michelin-starred restaurants such as La Maison Troisgros, L’Escargot and Orrery.
He’s also the chef who came up with the now-famous Wolseley breakfast, after being tapped by Jeremy King and Chris Corbin to open the Wolseley Cafe and Restaurant in London in 2003.
Jeff has worked with chefs Marco Pierre White and Philip Britten while honing his skills in Michelin-starred restaurants such as The Oak Room and Chez Nico at 90 Park Lane.
Like his brother, Jeff also cooked in L’Escargot and Orrery. Despite being successful in their own right and often crossing paths, the brothers never felt like it was a competition. Jeff credits the 12-year-age gap for that.
“It’s more like a father-son relationship,” he says. “Chris and I have famously never had a cross word.”
“I was more of a father to Jeff for most of our lives, but when we were both working in restaurants, it became much more brotherly,” adds Chris.
“And since forming our restaurant company, we have a new dynamic being both brothers and business partners.”
The pair have another brother, David, who is also involved in the business sourcing fruits, vegetables and flowers. Chris’s wife and one of his sons are involved, too, giving it a complete family touch.
“We try to touch each site each day either physically or by phone,” admits Chris. “Traditionally, Jeff and I will split our time between sites so that there is always one of us with a presence.”
They intend to let that hospitable, family-run spirit shine atDemoiselle by Galvin in Dubai. “I think Demoiselle will create a following ... it is an ideal meeting point for resting tired feet when shopping,” says Chris. The brothers opened their flagship Demoiselle in Harrods department store in London in 2012. The chic bistro is known for light lunches, afternoon tea and gourmet desserts.
Dubai’s branch is a 210-seat cafe sprawled across two levels, complete with a terrace overlooking City Walk. Signature dishes include lobster fish cakes, steak tartare and apple tarte tatin.
At the top of the stairs is the “salon de thé”, a modern parlour to host the brothers’ renowned afternoon tea. Guests can also pick up breads, cakes and pastries, all handmade on site.
“We like our restaurants to be welcoming, relaxed and friendly,” says Jeff.
“Demoiselle offers warmth and hospitality, good value and a great product.”
While the plan is for the Dubai location to be a trendy, casual cafe, their second outlet in the emirate will be a slightly more refined affair.
“We have waited a long time to launch [here] and we’re thrilled to be doing this now,” says Chris.
“We have quite a lot going on to ensure quality. We are fortunate enough to have some amazing people running [the restaurants here]; people who are like family to us and have been with us for many years.”