Marina Social Head Chef Will Stanyer tells us about his role at the lively Intercontinental Dubai Marina-based venue and culinary journey to the emirate.
Tell us a bit more about your career journey.
I guess I was a late starter in many ways, beginning my career at the age of 22 in my hometown of Brighton, UK. I spent around five years there cooking at some of the best restaurants in town and worked my way up to the position of head chef at Graze restaurant, Hove (now known as ‘Market’).
I made the decision to move to London when I was 27, working for Gordon Ramsay, which led to me heading up two of his kitchens, York & Albany and London House over a period of five years.
After London, I travelled across Scandinavia, staging in some of the best restaurants across the region, including Stud!o, Copenhagen (one Michelin star), Gastrologik, Stockholm (two Michelin stars), Maaemo, and Osle (three Michelin stars), before jumping on a plane to Dubai to take on my role at Marina Social.
How have you landed at Marina Social and what attracted you to the venue?
It was all kind of out of the blue – I never really considered that one day I might live and work in Dubai, but when I got back from Scandinavia, I got in touch with the Social Company, initially for a position in the Philippines, but that was never quite the right fit and I was offered the position in Dubai.
It was a risk for sure, a huge gamble, but the restaurant appealed immediately. It’s a perfect fit for me – as it has really enabled me to build on the food I already loved to cook, but here I can really push myself creatively. Jason puts a lot of trust into what I’m doing here, so that in itself is rewarding and it’s great to be able to cook my own food in such an amazing restaurant.
How have you faced the latest pandemic challenge?
Needless to say, the hardest part was being away from the kitchen and the team. We put so much into what we do, to have that taken away overnight is extremely difficult – two days off and I’m missing the kitchen already, so almost three months was a challenge to say the least.
However, some time off to pause and to reflect is never a bad thing and I genuinely believe we’re the best we have ever been coming out of this. Workwise, of course, we have had to adapt and make some changes. I’m very proud of how the whole team has dealt with it and it’s very rewarding to see the restaurant so busy during these uncertain times.
What are you looking forward to the most as we emerge from these circumstances?
I think just the overall sense of ‘normality’ returning – it’s been really hard to watch so many people suffer in such uncertain times recently and it has required an extraordinary effort from everyone involved in the restaurant to see us relaunch successfully. I’m a big believer in the idea that you get out of this industry what you put in, so I’m looking forward to people being able to reap the benefits of all their hard work
A bit of fun, what’s your favourite dish to eat, and cook?
My favourite dish to eat probably has to be a good curry. My Junior Sous Chef makes an incredible butter chicken, that has to be right up there for me. Out of work, I love making tacos – it’s such an incredibly simple and humble way to cook, but it’s always an absolute flavour bomb, super chilled, a little bit messy, but always fun.
Anything you’d like to tell diners about the “new normal”?
I guess to show some appreciation to them for instilling their faith and trust in us to return to the restaurant and to show us their support; it was very rewarding to see so many happy diners leaving the restaurant after all the effort that went into making it happen.
With so many new changes in place, we were all walking into the unknown and a great deal of humility on behalf of our guests as well as our staff has been instrumental to our success; I think the importance of this should never be overlooked.