Bringing the American barbecue tradition to diners in Dubai, head chef and pitmaster at the Blacksmith Smokehouse, Orelle Young tells Mahak Mannan why every restaurant in the city can be a competition for them.
After spending over a decade mastering the art of a perfect barbecue in the US and UK, Chef Young joined Wyndhyam Dubai Marina to open the first American Smokehouse in Dubai and he believes that there is no limit to competition in Dubai.
“Every operating restaurant in the city can be a competition for us. At any given point of time people have different moods, appetites, and bank balances. People write about food all around the world until they are blue in the face but they always come back and bring a friend with them to a place where they receive great hospitality,” he says.
“As long as Blacksmith puts our guest experience first there is no competition, just other restaurants around us working hard to keep diners happy.”
Drawing his experiences from the American holidays, Chef Young explains how family gatherings and special occasions helped him create the menu for Blacksmith.
“I am here to give Dubai some boldly seasoned eats that are humbly crafted by a century of American barbecue traditions,” he says.
“Some of the best food comes out to the table for Labour Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Americans will find any reason to pull out a grill or a smoker.
“The menu I have created for Blacksmith brings those occasions together. Soul food means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, for me it was the meals I ate after church with my family every Sunday, the food served at large church festivals and conventions and packed plates at annual family reunions in Memphis and Florida.”
The menu at Blacksmith is a mashup of Chef Young’s favourite ribs, smoked meat, trimmings and desserts.
“I’m very proud of the unconventional and off the wall smoked items we have on the menu like the smoked apricot duck breast and grilled octopus,” he says.
“Brisket, short ribs and chicken tend to always get their time to shine due to the familiarity with the masses. But the smaller the meat, the bigger the amount of creativity and precision required, you may also see rattlesnake on the menu sooner than you think. There will be several new regular specials popping up throughout the year either weekly or monthly.”
However, opening a smokehouse in Dubai comes with its own set of challenges which includes setting up a smoker inside the kitchen, according to Chef Young.
“A smoker is a very powerful machine that is normally operated outdoors, which is why if you plan to operate one indoors you face several challenges. The top three faced thus far have been getting a gas-line approved and installed for the smoker, getting clean into the pit room and getting the smoke or heat out of the pit room,” he explains.
“In terms of supplies, we are breakdancing between American and Australian based suppliers at the moment. South Africa also has some increasingly competitive products in the UAE market.
“But one thing that has been a challenge to source so far is Ancho chili powder which is pretty elusive here, so now I dry roast and grind my own. Everything has an alternative, you do the best with what you got,” Chef Young adds.
Speaking about chefs starting out in the region, Chef Young says it is imperative for them to choose quality over quantity.
“Control your menu size. It is better to change up a smaller menu frequently than trying to please everyone and their mother with a gigantic menu,” he explains.
“This also promotes pushing fresher, more flavourful and more consistent eats out to your loyal guests. Use a specials category to your advantage as well, your next hit dish could be on that chalkboard. Feel out the response and don’t be afraid to give out free samples.”