What attracted you to be a guest Australian chef at the Dubai Food Festival?
Dubai is such an epicentre, it’s the centre of the world and for us Aussies, it’s a great opportunity to promote what we do in Melbourne over in the Middle East, so when people are thinking about future travel, they have had a taste of what we do and come back to Melbourne for more.
What dish, delicacy or foodie experience did you most look forward to in Dubai – and how was it?
I’ve been in and out of Dubai the last 10 years, two to three times a year, in fact. I love going there. Some ‘go-to’ places for me include Ravi’s, the local Pakistani restaurant in Satwa, it’s where all the workers go and I loved the experience, the simple tables, the food comes when it’s ready, you can see it, it’s fast and quick, but delicious food.
What influence has Emirati spices and cuisine had in your own style of cooking?
I think more than anything, the interest has been more than spices, it’s been going to visit the date market. My perception was there was only really one type of date, I never realised there were so many, and when going to experience the market, the dates I tasted were all quite different and complex in flavour. Meeting the stall holders and then talking about what they sold, there was real passion there. This experience overall has certainly influenced some of my dishes, including the dessert I prepared for the gala dinner during the Dubai Food Festival, peach baklava.
What produce did you choose to highlight in your masterclass recipes and why?
One of my dishes was kataifi prawns, the recipe is from my recent cookbook. The kataifi pastry is something synonymous in the Middle East, however rather than using it in a dessert we used it in a savoury dish here.
What was the best meal you ate in Dubai and where was it served?
The best meal I’ve had in Dubai was at Bu Qtair in Jumeirah Road. I loved the fact it’s been there for so many years, it feels like it’s ingrained in the culture of Dubai. There’s only a few dishes on the menu, it’s affordable and simple and I think it embodies what I feel Middle Eastern food is all about.
Name your favourite place to enjoy a refreshing beverage in Dubai.
At.mosphere at Burj Khalifa – it provides a huge wow factor and you can see all over Dubai.
What is a must-do foodie experience for visitors to the city?
You’ve got to go to Bu Qtair in Jumeirah Road; you also need to tick off the list going to the Burj Khalifa, even if just for a drink. Definitely visit the date market, it’s really eye-opening and you’ll learn so much, and if you’ve got time, the fish market.
What will be on your must-do-list for your next visit to Dubai?
I like going to a place to discover some new and exciting things, meeting the people that recommend their local secrets and favourite places. I never like having a set plan, it’s all about new experiences for me when I’m travelling. If I’m in another city – I want to know all about the best food places!