Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton and Dubai's culinary scene
One of Britain’s most successful celebrity chefs – a label he doesn’t approve of- Jason Atherton is no stranger to the Dubai dining scene. As home to his successful venture, Marina Social, and the place he met and fell in love with his future wife, Dubai is closely linked to his personal and professional lives.
His take on the city’s ever-changing gastronomy scene….
The first time I came to Dubai was in 1999 to help launch Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant [Verre, his first in Dubai], and even though there has always been amazing food here, for example Lebanese, Pakistani or Indian, Western fine-dining cuisine was not well represented. So, Gordon’s restaurant was quite a statement, as he was the first one of such status to open a restaurant in Dubai. But as the buildings grew bigger and bigger, the food scene started changing and now Dubai is very similar to London in terms of gastronomic diversity. It’s very international.
There are many great places here - venues that have been here for a while such as Al Mahara in Burj Al Arab and Ruya in Grosvenor House.
I don’t think that I’m going to open a new restaurant in the near future. Marina Social needs lots of attention and as I spend only around 25 days in Dubai a year in total, I just want to put all my effort into making it better and better.
Why Dubai is close to his heart…
Dubai is particularly important to me – it’s where I met and fell in love with my [now] wife, so I love coming back here both for work and pleasure. Last October I came here with my daughters. After four days of work we checked into the Burj Al Arab for a small vacation, relaxing on the rear terrace; the kids were playing and having fun there. We all went to [Al Mahara] and had a great time.
Where he gets his inspiration…
Being true to yourself is one of the conditions to becoming a good chef. I love cooking and I love the consistency of my job. The more time I spend in the kitchen, the better chef I become. Cooking is something that you have to do every day to achieve the best results in your profession.
My parents used to have a B&B in a seaside resort in England, so my sister and I grew up there helping them serve guests. These were the first lessons I got in hospitality and my mother cooked, so she was the first person who introduced me to cooking. After that I was lucky to work with many outstanding chefs; each of them influenced my further development and who I am now.
[Success for me] has always been about being able to gather my family around the table. So, I’m very lucky and I consider myself very successful not because I’m famous. The joint interest of gastronomy is something I build my family life around.
What’s cooking at home?
Despite the opinion that chefs make foie gras or other delicacies for breakfast, in reality we lead a normal life. Sometimes I cook, sometimes it’s my wife and obviously whenever she is making a dinner, I would always say that it’s yummy, because you know “happy wife – easy life” as they say.
I love making Sunday roast – a typical British dish to gather a family at one table. Sometimes I cook with the kids – we make some pasta together; my youngest daughter, she is five years old and loves food – both cooking and eating. She always finishes food on her plate and then asks her older sister if she can try the food left on hers. She also loves trying new things, and we think she might become a good chef in the future and take over the family business.
The best Fish and Chips in Dubai…
After conferring with his sous chef from Marina Social, the verdict is in - Bob’s Fish&Chips in JBR.