British chef, restaurateur and author Gary Rhodes OBE took to the stage at The Big F&B Forum to discuss his views on the Middle East’s F&B landscape and his plans for the future in the region.
The Michelin-starred chef, who operates Rhodes W1 and Rhodes Twenty10 in Dubai claimed that while fine dining is no longer the most fashionable segment of the UAE’s restaurant scene, it still holds a relevant place on the market.
Speaking during a live interview on stage, Rhodes commented: “Everyone thinks fine dining is dead but I disagree; I totally disagree. At this moment it’s just not the most fashionable thing in Dubai.
“Fashions have changed and today we have quite a lot of sharing concepts. I thoroughly enjoy it but do we all have to do it? Do we all have to be exactly the same? For me we don’t. I don’t want to keep going to restaurants where it’s all thrown in the middle of the table – I like to come back to a bit of fancy service and I like to be looked after and with that, learn something.”
Rhodes first opened fine dining restaurant Rhodes Mezzanine in Dubai nine years ago, which was later refurbished to become Rhodes W1 in line with more casual market trends. However, Rhodes admits that he misses the original restaurant.
He said: “I miss the days of Mezzanine, which was far more fine dining; it gave me that difference. You could go to Rhodes Twenty10 and eat some steak and simple food and sharing starters, or you could come to Rhodes Mezzanine and be looked after like royalty – what’s wrong with that?
“We changed because of what’s going on in town and I’ve never done that before in my career, ever. I’ve always stood on what I believe in but I was persuaded; I was told, look ‘the numbers aren’t as great as they were yesterday, let’s close it, let’s refurb and let’s do what everyone else is doing with lighter and easier food’.”
Rhodes revealed to the audience that he is now looking to re-establish Rhodes W1’s upmarket identity by focusing on the ingredients.
“I don’t like copying, so now I’m saying no, we’re going to do what we set out to do in the first place, and that’s offering something toward that fine dining edge. I want the food to speak a lot louder about what the ingredients are, and how we show them off at their best; how we can create that nice balance of simple flavours without overdoing things.”
Gary Rhodes OBE has enjoyed a 35-year culinary career and has a number of Michelin stars under his belt. Well known as an ambassador for British cuisine, Rhodes reintroduced the UK to its gastronomic heritage and uncovered a culinary culture to rival that of any other country in the world.
The second edition of The Big F&B Forum, hosted by Catering News Middle East, took place on 20 September at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, with more than 250 F&B professionals in attendance.
Supporting The Big F&B Forum were some of the industry’s most influential suppliers: Al Rawdah, Official Breakfast Sponsor; Coffee Planet, Exclusive Coffee Sponsor; Banvit, Official Lunch Sponsor; Soft Drinks Sponsor, Waterfalls Brands, Support Sponsor African + Eastern and exhibitors, TSSC, Rational, Ronai, Pulsar Foodstuff Trading, Hotelity, American Garden and Quooker.