Chef Gary Rhodes speaks with Mahak Mannan about the new additions on the RhodesTwenty 10 menu, the Middle East market and the challenges it comes with in an exclusive interview.
Variety is the spice of life, according to TV personality, restaurateur, entrepreneur and chef, Gary Rhodes and it is something he tries to uphold in all of his venues, be it with the menu, new experiences or the ambience. The celebrity chef took the reins at RhodesTwenty 10, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa last month to launch the new dishes and we caught up with him on what’s cooking in his kitchen.
“I feel that eating out in other restaurants can often create fresh thoughts on flavours and a new approach to food,” Rhodes says.
“I wanted to take many previous dishes and give them a fresh life and finish, so the flavours are recognised in a different form and hold a new edge to the taste. Take the curried butter chicken and rice fritters, they sound simple but actually involve a lot of work. Firstly, the complete butter chicken curry is made, even to the point of us making our own curry powder and seasonings. We then also make a mildly curried risotto, which once cold is shaped into balls and filled with small nuggets of the butter chicken, before being bread crumbed. These are now an Indian version of the Italian arancini.”
The new additions include the Rhodes Twenty10 burger, the famous chicken kiev for those who love a British favourite and the tender braised red wine beef. For the vegetarian diners, chef Gary Rhodes curated a wild mushroom risotto and seafood enthusiasts can try the popular pan-fried salmon and crispy lemon sole.
“The Rhodes Twenty 10 menu is predominantly a grill-based menu, featuring meats both from the USA and Australia, as well as other parts of the world,” Rhodes explains.
“It also offers a variety of alternative dishes to the grills, to appeal to a wider and greater audience. We were one of the, if not the first European restaurant to feature sharing plate dishes as our starters, which are still part of the concept today.”
Making changes on the menu regularly is an important factor, not just to evolve the venue and guest experience but also to keep up with seasonal changes, the British chef says.
“It’s been said of course that variety is the spice of life, it’s those feelings and thoughts that this restaurant holds, always wanting to add new and different flavours for our guests to experience,” he says.
“There’s no set dates for changing the menu, but it’s more a question of popularity as time moves on, if there are a number of items no longer selling, then a menu change is needed. However, we also try and stay close to seasonal change, particularly during the summer months, with all of the rich flavoursome fruits, red berries and green vegetables that become on offer at that time of the year,” Rhodes says.
It is important to keep the menu evolving, but not just for sake of change. I must 100% believe in what we feature and not be over-influenced by other operations within this industry,” he adds.
However, while playing with the menu is necessary, it is equally important to keep the loyal guests happy by balancing old dishes and new introductions on any menu “We hold many long term loyal guests in Rhodes Twenty 10. With this in mind, for the first time since we’ve been open, which is eight years, the starter section has been divided into two categories,” Rhodes explains.
“The first is a selection of new dishes being introduced, with the second section, titled Rhodes Twenty 10 Classics, featuring dishes which have been with us for the entire eight years and continue to be favourites. This keeps many long standing guest happy.”
THE MIDDLE EAST MARKET
No stranger to Dubai, Rhodes has been active the region for over 15 years now and believes that a growing market comes with its own set of positives and challenges which also includes getting the right talent on the culinary team.
“The Middle East market, has developed and changed so much in such a short space of time. I first cooked in Dubai over 15 years ago and now with Rhodes W1 at Grosvenor House operating for 10 years and Rhodes Twenty 10 for eight years, it has provided me with more than enough time to see the change, not only in terms of concepts and food on offer, but with guests too. It’s now far more competitive, which in many ways is a good thing, but can also affect consistency in qualities,” he explains.
“Dubai holds different eaters from different countries. There are many who want to eat simple holiday style dishes, whereas there are also those that want to mix their traditions and eat food from different parts of the world, virtually all of which, are to be found here in Dubai.”
However, the main challenge with operating in this market, given its location, is sourcing the right ingredients, Rhodes says.
“Sourcing products and ingredients from different countries is not easy. Quality food can be sourced, but at a hefty price that can affect your return, not just on profit, but with guests too,” he says.
“Also working with large hotel groups can hold chefs back, as to where they would prefer to source, due to company policy. I would say to all chefs, persevere with your beliefs, we all know it takes time to convince, but with continual guest applause and numbers, whoever you work with and for, will leave the purchasing doors open slightly wider for you to select from,” Rhodes says.
The region is also becoming popular with culinary operators globally due to its massive global audience, “Dubai has become a fashionable city to work in within this industry, it features and covers the culinary fashion trends across the world. Chefs from each corner of the earth now fancy having a restaurant here. Which is a good thing, bearing in mind the international market of possible guests to please,” he says.
“However, it’s a huge negative when it comes to finding the chefs to cook in each of the new operations. So many seem to come and go very quickly now, usually because a new restaurant is offering a higher salary to entice. It also means there are fewer guests to share, particularly during the quiet summer.”
Young chefs should take their time to become an expert in their current position before jumping on to the next big opportunity, according to Rhodes.
“My advice to any young chef venturing into this industry, plus the many already very much part of it would be to build a professional CV that tells future employers and future chefs you wish to work with, that you are somebody who wants to discover, look and learn from your leader, adding new skills and culinary knowledge that you can show off in the future,” he says.
“Try and work with fewer chefs, but draw all you can from the top skilled and from that, your personal concept of foods and styles will have time to develop.”