We chat to down-to-earth chef Jason Atherton about his new Dubai restaurant and favourite things to do in the city
Jason Atherton has worked with and been mentored by some of the biggest names in the business – including Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Ferran Adrià. He has multiple Michelin stars to his credit and restaurants in London, Shanghai New York – and now Dubai.
We catch up with Atherton as his local offering, Marina Social, continues to quickly make its mark on Dubai’s food scene. Here, he reveals what diners can expect at this new restaurant, and also some of his favourite things to do in Dubai.
What made you open a restaurant in Dubai, and why now?
I only open restaurants in cities that I love. We used to come to Dubai every year on holidays, and we love the ambience and buzz of Dubai’s restaurants. We hope working here won’t detract from our love of Dubai as a holiday destination! The powers that be loved Pollen Street [in London], so they approached me, we gave it some thought, and figured, why not?
What can diners expect at Marina Social?
We want people to have fun; it’s our job to make sure they have a great time in the few hours they spend here. Back-of-house works very hard to make sure the food is Michelin quality, while front-of-house is relaxed and happy. Even though it’s a serious restaurant, its layout and menu is designed for flexibility. I want this restaurant to belong to Dubai – we create a space, it’s up to the diners to use it as they like. This is our version of haute cuisine, and the food is thought-provoking, without being over the top.
Who have been the most important mentors in your career?
Marco Pierre White was a key influencer - he inspired me to be a chef. He was the first person to make cooking cool in Britain. I spent a lot of time working by Gordon Ramsay’s side. He’s a real juggernaut: I really learnt how to be the complete package, thanks to him. The first chef who gave me a job was Boyd Gilmour, an Irish chef. I got a good grounding the minute I stepped into the kitchen under his mentorship.
What food trends are you most excited about right now?
I’m really happy about the amount of interest we are now seeing in ‘pure’ cuisine. Take Emirati cuisine, for example. People are going deeper into the authentic traditions of food, this is a trend that should last forever.
You have a day off in Dubai – what do you do?
We usually spend a day off relaxing at the beach, and love to shop at Dubai Mall. We also like to look around Deira, the old town and the souks. On a recent day off we went for a private desert safari, complete with camel rides and local food - plus shopping at the Gold and Diamond Park.
The hotels here are very luxurious, so sometimes we like to just hang out at the hotel! And the choice of restaurants here is incredible – I like La Petite Maison, Coya and Jean-Georges Restaurant.
What makes Dubai special for you?
Now that I have the restaurant here, I plan to come back every other month. Every time I come here, I find there’s something new – it’s awe-inspiring. Having lived here in 2000, and seen the city grow the way it has, I think it’s incredible and very inspiring.