Chef Marco Torasso, Complex Culinary Director, Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa believes he is a trendsetter rather than just a follower, as he told Catering News ME
You have more than 20 years’ experience working at a variety of top-class hotels; how does working at Grosvenor House Dubai and Le Royal Meridien differ?
What differentiates Grosvenor House and Le Royal Meridien from other hotelsis that the operations are very customer focused. We take pride in listening to customer feedback and also in quickly turning around new food concepts, according to market needs. The team never rests on their laurels and constantly continues to evolve, while staying humble.
How have you made your mark on the hotel’s F&B offering?
This year we’ve focused on opening three brand-new restaurants in Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa: Geales, Zengo and Le Deck and at Grosvenor House we’ve recently opened Rhodes W1 alongside celebrity chef Gary Rhodes OBE. In my role I’m directly involved in creating the restaurants’ concepts, kitchen layout, supplier implementation, menu engineering, etc., so my input, along with that of the management team, is reflected in every aspect of the culinary offering.Looking at the customer loyalty, comments and restaurant awards, I can say that as a team, we are doing a good job.
What is your signature dish and why?
Being Italian and having worked in France, Spain, the UK and the Middle East, my cooking style is very much influenced by the Mediterranean, with a lot of attention on the ingredients and their seasonality.At the moment I’m really enjoying using white truffles from Alba to cook risotto with porcini mushrooms and Gragnano spaghetti in a light carbonara sauce, with a generous shaving of truffle.
What would you describe as your riskiest menu decision?
There are a few examples that I can use that fortunately have paid back, such as creating the Siddhartha menu with a very streamlined focus, more orientated to lounge diners rather than restaurant diners.The structure and the Mediterranean/Asian dishes proposed had a huge impact on our F&B operation and have been used by other competitor restaurants as benchmarks.
In addition to this, changing the food concept from classic toProvençale over at Kitchen 45has also been a very successful move. It’s helped to give the restaurant its own identity with a noticeable increase of the diners, repeating guests and revenue.
We recently opened the pool bar Le Deck with the different concept, using a livelier and fun approach, catering for young trendy groups of people, with a free-flow sharing food concept. So far this has been very well received by the costumers and has completely changed the demographic mix and average check of the outlet.
How do you keep the menus fresh and in line with new trends?
I believe healthy competition is a key factor that really inspires me every day.
I grew up with a strong competitive mentality and I strongly believe that second place is the first of the losers – that’s why my target is to always stay on top of the market. Here atGrosvenor House and Le Royal Meriden, this mentality is a way of life that helps us to be a trendsetter rather than just a follower.
I’m very focused on the worldwide culinary scene, along with the Dubai one that is currently moving much faster than the rest of the world.I ensure that I keep close to my colleagues and costumers that are well travelled to understand their specific needs, and I am always on the look out to see what can be improved or rejuvenated.
At the moment, as a team, we are working closely to implement a new line of sustainable and healthy ingredients to be an integral part of all our menus.
How do you ensure that the quality of food whilst managing400 members of staff across 28 bars and restaurants?
As a hands-on chef, I’m very much into the day-to-day operations and I like to be involved in every aspect of the kitchen, from choosing the suppliers and receiving produceas well as actual service. I’m also lucky enough to havea very strong and skilled executive culinary team that supervises on my behalf all the aspects of the food production, taking the right decisions on what matters.
What is unique about the F&B experience at Grosvenor & Le Meridien?
I believeour unique offering stems from a synergy between the restaurants andour partners, such as our fantastic team of celebrity chefsincluding Gary Rhodes OBE, Richard Sandoval, VineetBathia, AkmalAnuar and different brands, such as Geales, Buddha-Bar and Embassy Dubai.These partnerships have enabled us to roll out world-class international branded concepts that have set the benchmark within the industry that we operate. We all work hard to achieve the common goals of keeping a very strong identity in terms of food offering, restaurant design and guest experience.
Can you tell us about any new projects in the pipeline for 2015?
We have a whole host of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2015. To start with, our all day dining offering in Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spawill undergo a major refurbishment.The key points will be the implementation of ethnic live stations, to create more theatre and interaction between chefs and customers, giving them the freedom to create their own dining experience with a number of a lastminute preparations.
Grosvenor offers traditional British food, Indian cuisine, Mediterranean and Turkish, so what’s next and why?
I strongly believe that modern Arabic, along with Italian cuisine, could be a very good addition to our already extensive culinary portfolio, to be able to meet our guests’ expectations and create a concept that is trendy and sustainable, and one that willstand the test of time,in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
What have been the most impressive F&B trends of late?
Lately we have been through a wide variety of different trends and cooking style that go out of fashion as quickly as they arrive. From what I can see, especially in the UAE, is that customers are much more food educated and far more savvy these days. There is an increasing focus on health, and the food that is good and bad for you.
Customers are alsomuch more conscious ofenvironmental issues and also value for money; a dining experience on its own is no longer enough.Saying that, I believe that the strongest trend at the moment is the casual dining experience;the focus is on food to share, along with a trendy loungeenvironment, bar, and DJ on hand to create the right atmosphere.I can understand why this is the case – good food and attentive service in a lively setting will be always the winning formula for me.
What is on your agenda for 2015?
2015 will be the year to consolidate Zengo. As our new contemporary Asian restaurant and lounge atLe Royal Meridienit continues to grow and becomes a culinary hub in the heart of the bustling Dubai Marina.