From massive burgers to juicy briskets, American cuisine is big on flavours and even bigger on portions. We chat with Chef Gregory Cordice, head chef at Perry & Blackwelder’s and Chef Orelle C. Young, chef de cuisine and pitmaster at The Blacksmith Smokehouse for hot-off-the-grill insights on favourites from the 50 states.
What would you say is the ultimate American dish and how have you incorporated it into your menu?
Cordice: For me, the ultimate American dish is the burger – it’s a timeless classic that’s incredibly flexible and really easy to work with. You can add any combination of ingredients from the sea or farm to a beef patty and the resulting dish would still be called a burger and remain appealing. Here at Perry & Blackwelder’s, we serve up the popular American patty dish with a variety of combinations and ingredients including the classic lettuce, tomato, cheese and pickle toppings.
Young: Beef, beef and more beef. Our menu offers a variety of beefy cuts, with the most iconic being the 14-hour smoked brisket. We opted to serve the brisket in a hulking sandwich form so our guests can encounter a savoury, meaty, hands-on experience.
In terms of demand, what would you say diners expect the most from American restaurants in the UAE?
Cordice: I think UAE diners expect more than just a visually stunning product in which the flavor and taste must be equally remarkable; they expect the entire experience including décor, atmosphere and entertainment to also reflect the venue’s authenticity. Large portions are normally a given in American restaurants, which P&B caters to. Our supersize menu includes a giant 700-gram prime beef patty burger and a metre-long hot dog.
Young: Unfortunately, across Europe and Eurasia, many have defined America casual dining as hamburgers, which is often synonymous with French fries. At The Blacksmith Smokehouse, we aim to introduce the American tradition of large, boldly seasoned carved meats. Our USDA beef ribeye and short rib are large, in charge, and crafted with the smokiest love possible.
Tell us more about your F&B journey and how you’ve eventually arrived in Dubai?
Cordice: I started my culinary journey at a small college back home in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Eastern Caribbean. I later moved to the US and spent eight years in Nashville, Tennessee working with the Marriott Hotel. Following an eight-year stint in the UK working with numerous luxury hotels, I moved to South Africa, where I part-owned a steakhouse named The Ranch. I relocated to Dubai four years ago and have been loving the hustle and bustle of this rock and rollin’ city.
Young: Cooking soul food and barbecuing started at a very young age for me. Both of my parents were from “The South” – from back in the 1940s and 1950s. The culture of that environment thrived on big families sticking together and making a meal many a times out of nothing. Many years later my parents brought their charm, resilience, and resourcefulness to New York City to raise a family.
It wasn’t until 2007 that I joined the opening team at Hill Country Barbecue Market in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. In 2017, I was contacted by Wyndham and The First Group to help launch one of the first authentic American Smokehouses in Dubai.
What’s in store for diners and what trends will you be following in the coming months?
Cordice: Anyone who eats the food we create here at P&B will know that we focus on taste and flavour before appearance – yes, sometimes the dishes I create taste more appealing than their plates look! That said, we’re very focused on the core elements of world of barbecuing right now – the flame, char, spices and rubs and also an element of “man versus food” – so the upcoming menu will reflect these aspects entirely with a strong emphasis on proper BBQ items and big portions.
Veganism is on the rise across the UAE – while people may have initially thought it was just another trend, it’s become a lifestyle choice now. Although we’re big on our meat dishes, we have a vegan P&B burger that’s a must-try, even if you aren’t vegan. Yes, it’s that good.
Another shift in the F&B
industry has been the growing attention operators are paying to sustainable
practices. In 2018, we banned the use of single-use plastic across our FOH
operations, also identifying local suppliers as much as possible in order to
reduce our carbon footprint and use fresh ethically sourced produce. Speaking
of fresh produce, I even grow my own chilies.
Young: American barbecue is still relatively new to the UAE region – we refuse to put ourselves in any position other than becoming the trendsetters in raising the bar across all meaty hospitality. Our recipe for success consists of good food, good drinks, good music, and genuine southern hospitality – pit to plate. We invite anyone and everyone to become a part of our journey as we continue to craft a century of American tradition that’s tied to the desire to create and experiment with new and unorthodox cuts of meat in our smoker and on our grill.
Smoked meats like rabbit, kangaroo and camel are just some of the rare meats guests can expect to experience in the coming months. Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come. We’ve also added the Veggie Stack to our menu as we see growing diversity in eating preferences among groups and we want our meat-eating fans to be able to bring down all their friends for a hearty time at The Blacksmith Smokehouse – even if some of them don’t eat meat.