The UAE’s prestigious Gargash Group has appointed industry veteran Luigi Vespero as Group Director of Food & Beverage. Overseeing the group’s gastronomic outlets including Hotel Cartagena, Weslodge Business Bay & City Walk, Farzi Dubai, AMG Kaffeehaus and The Artisan, Vespero will be responsible for implementing the outlets operations, vertical development through to expansion and new concept launches. Having spent his 20-year culinary career cooking in the world’s finest kitchens and leading restaurant operations for global hospitality names such as Waldorf Astoria, the award-winning chef and operations expert will bring his considerable experience to the table.
Luigi comes to the Gargash Group fresh from a role as F&B/Culinary Director at benchmark Dubai hotel, Waldorf Astoria DIFC where he drove his teams to deliver elevated dining experiences at Bull & Bear restaurant, St. Trop rooftop lounge and the iconic Waldorf Astoria Peacock Alley. Having moved out of his chef whites and into more directorial roles as his career progressed, Luigi has expanded his 360 understanding of Dubai’s F&B industry and sharpened his skills when it comes to steering a successful multi-outlet culinary operation.
Unsurprisingly for a chef of his calibre, Luigi has won an impressive array of awards over the years. These include ‘Chef of the Year’ at the BBC Good Food Middle East Awards 2018, ‘French Specialty Chef’ at the Pro Chef Middle East Awards 2017, ‘Most Commended for Chef of the Year’ at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2018 and Esquire Middle East’s ‘Top 100 Most Influential People’ in 2018.
Luigi says, “The moment I put on an apron, I knew that being in the kitchen was my natural habitat. Even today, I still get a sense of belonging and my passion for this industry runs through my veins which I love to pass on to the chefs and food professionals I mentor. I have learned from the best chefs in the world that nothing should ever be taken for granted, you have to work extremely hard to gain the success you dream of but also that nothing is unachievable, you just need to go out there and grab it. I firmly believe we never stop learning and I cannot wait to expand my experience and drive new success for the Gargash Group.”
For as long as Luigi can remember, he wanted to be a chef – inspired by his Nonna or grandmother who taught him food can be both simple and delicious. Aiming to take those tastes, smells and textures and turn them into a long-lasting career, he first stepped into a professional kitchen at the age of 14 and just knew it was his calling. His breakthrough career moment came as Senior Chef de Partie at Gordon Ramsay Holdings where he soaked up the Michelin-star skills of some of the world’s greatest chefs.
From London’s most famous dining institution – The Wolseley to a decade delivering a menu of modern French cuisine at the Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle, Luigi’s abilities help restaurants achieve acclaim wherever he goes. He was also involved in Britain’s Best Dish: The Chefs where he beat 60 other participants to win Britain’s ‘Best Main Course’ and acted as a consultant on the Galvin brothers successful cookbook, Galvin: a Cookbook de Luxe.
In 2018, Luigi made the pivotal move to the Middle East, to take a role as Head Chef at the Rib Room in Dubai’s iconic Jumeirah Emirates Towers. This role took him to Jumeirah Restaurant Group, where in addition to his Cluster Head Chef responsibilities, Luigi was in charge of creating, developing and executing the group’s new homegrown concepts at Al Wasl Square, JBR the Beach and Bluewaters.
His other roles, as F&B Division of Meraas as Executive Chef – where he was reunited with the Galvin brothers to launch two new restaurants, and overseeing multiple award-winning F&B concepts including Galvin Bistro & Bar, Lima and Toro & Ko, have seen him develop culinary teams, cultivate key stakeholder relationships and implement operational controls to drive revenue and save on cost.
Making the move from F&B/Culinary Director at Waldorf Astoria DIFC to Culinary Director of F&B at Gargash Group allows Luigi to do what he loves most – work with some of the world’s most talented teams and expand his ever-growing ability to drive financial and critical success.