United Arab Emirates

‘A different breed:’ Dubai chefs share thoughts on new Michelin stars

The prestigious Michelin Guide entered Dubai’s culinary scene with a ceremony recognizing 11 of the city’s best restaurants with the sought-after stars on Tuesday.

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Al Arabiya English caught up with the chefs behind some of Dubai’s newly-minted Michelin-starred eateries.

Il Ristorante – Niko Romito

Il Ristorante – Niko Romito at the Bulgari Hotel, was one of two restaurants in Dubai to achieve two Michelin stars (along with Stay by Yannick Alleno).

It is the brainchild of the Abruzzo, Italy-born Romito who developed the menu and personally trained the chefs at the Dubai eatery.

The celebrated restauranteur boasts an impressive record that includes three Michelin stars for his restaurant Reale in Abruzzo.

Resident Chef Giacomo Amicucci is a student of Romito’s, and worked with him at Reale.

In 2017, Amicucci relocated to Dubai where he has presided over Il Ristorante ever since.

“To receive two Michelin stars is an overwhelming emotion,” Amicucci said. “…the presence of the Michelin Guide in Dubai will bring a healthy competition among Chefs and a great cultural enrichment.

“It will be a standard defining stimulus in a city, where the excellence of hospitality is already a primary value.”

Chef Romito added: “It’s a profound emotion.” said Chef Niko Romito. “This acknowledgement is a very important award for me as well as for Chef Giacomo Amicucci and the great team behind me in this adventure.”

11 Woodfire

11 Woodfire is located in a distinctive villa on Jumeirah Beach Road. As the name suggests, the establishment focuses on using a variety of different wood types to cook a range of steaks, fish, and charred vegetables.

It was conceived by Chef Akmal Anuar, who previously made waves in the city with his last venture, an Asian eatery named 3fils.

His start in the business came at a very young age, when he lent a helping hand at his parents’ food stall in his home country, Singapore.

At 16, he began working in a French restaurant called Les Amis, learning the ways of fine cuisine.

He eventually became the head chef at the Michelin-starred Iggy’s in Singapore, before moving to Dubai in 2013 to work for various restaurants.

“Getting the Michelin star, everything flashes back. All my life since 1999 when I first heard this word ‘Michelin,’ and now I’m on stage wearing that jacket. It’s crazy,” he told Al Arabiya English.

“I have always dreamt about it. I always had this feeling like wow, chefs having Michelin stars, they are a different breed. They have a different kind of mindset. Psychotic, almost, like psychopaths in the culinary world.

“People who demand perfection, people who demand high quality, long hours, very demanding kind of thing.”

Chef Akmal offered a glimpse into the mindset that drove him to attain the quality required to achieve the prestigious Michelin star.

“I believe in making everything the highest standard that you can,” he explained. “So when you talk about high standards, there’s no measurement. It’s up to the individual how high your standards can be.”

Ossiano

Ossiano, the underwater restaurant at the Atlantis Hotel on The Palm island, was also awarded one star.

Grégoire Berger, who hails from Versailles in France, is the chef behind the acclaimed seafood restaurant.

His culinary career began at 16 with an apprenticeship at La Closerie de Kerdrain in Auray.

He spent years training under Michelin-starred chefs around the world including Paul Bocuse, Roger Verge, and the late Gaston Lenotre, as well as Frederic Robert at la Grande Cascade Paris.

In 2014 he made the move to Dubai, inspired by his wife’s Arabic heritage, and took the reins at Ossiano.

“We have been waiting for this for such a long time. It’s a great achievement and testament to the team’s relentless hard work,” he said.

Danijela Tesic, Head Sommelier added: “I’ve fought so hard in life to get to this point right now and to win an award of this magnitude as a woman in this industry is just mind-blowing.”

Hakkasan

Atlantis’ Cantonese eatery Hakkasan also picked up one star on Tuesday.

It is helmed by Executive Chef Andy Toh, who hails from Penang in Malaysia.

Toh says he was inspired by his mother’s home cooking, but his true passion for the culinary arts was ignited when he traveled to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand at the age of 18, working for a number of establishments including cooking onboard Star Cruises.

Toh said: “It’s truly exciting to win a Michelin star for Hakkasan Dubai,” he said. “…this is testament to the support of both Atlantis and and Tao Group Hospitality in continuing to drive the brand forward, securing the best talent and the freshest produce to ensure we make our mark.”

The full list of Dubai’s new Michelin starred restaurants is as follows:

Two-star restaurants

  • Il Ristorante – Niko Romito
  • Stay by Yannick Alleno

One-star restaurants

  • Al Muntaha
  • 11 Woodfire
  • Armani Ristorante
  • Hakkasan
  • Hoseki
  • Ossiano
  • Tasca by Jose Avillez
  • Torno Subito
  • Tresind Studio

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