What attracted you to be a guest Australian chef at the Dubai Food Festival?
Dubai is a beast of a city, it’s a city of riches, where exotic silks and spices contrast with space-age buildings and there are still links to Dubai’s Bedouin past. I love that you can dine at local favourites such as Ravi’s restaurant and Calicut Paragon, then finish your evening with a drink at The Jetty Lounge, One&Only Royal Mirage. I find travelling, experiencing other cultures and new tastes, new techniques, incredibly inspiring. Dubai has always proven exciting. I like searching Dubai for unique cooking techniques that I can bring back to our kitchens. I loved being involved in the Dubai Food Festival and exploring what unique produce and cooking techniques Dubai has to offer.
What dish, delicacy or foodie experience did you most look forward to in Dubai – and how was it?
I find it fascinating that you can take a few layers away from Dubai’s dining scene and uncover amazing restaurants with Pakistani, Indian, Palestinian and Middle Eastern influences, for me, this is the real Dubai.
What influence has Emirati spices and cuisine had in your own style of cooking?
I like to keep in mind Dubai’s cultural history and local restaurants to inspire my recipes such as Bu Qtair Cafeteria, Ravi’s Restaurant and Zaroob.
What produce did you choose to highlight in your masterclass recipes and why?
Marron, tarragon and coral – this dish showcases the best of Australian produce. Also, I made a warm chocolate orange mousse which was a fan highlight in MasterChef Season 7.
What was the best meal you ate in Dubai and where was it served?
Zaroob – a cross between Palestinian street food and fast food. Dinner after 10pm has never been better. Open all day and night, every day. I loved this place, who wouldn’t when you can spend less than $50 for two people? Breakfast is highly recommended – eggs cooked in bread with fresh tomato salads, an array of dips, and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. We also had a great time at Catch Restaurant in the Fairmont Hotel at Sheikh Zayed Road.
Name your favourite place to enjoy a refreshing beverage in Dubai.
The Jetty Lounge – one of the best places for a relaxed drink on the sand. A frozen margarita goes down well, or if you’re after something simpler try an Estrella, one of my favourite beers.
What is a must-do foodie experience for visitors to the city?
Dinner at Ravi’s restaurant in Satwa – the restaurant is only ten minutes in a cab from all the major hotels. Communal tables are shared with mostly men of Pakistani origin. With 1970s bathroom tiles on the walls, it has unbelievable curries, rice dishes and fresh flatbreads. Cutlery is given to Westerners, but it’s much more fun doing what everyone else is doing and using your fingers (right hand only) to dip the bread into the lentils and butter chicken.
What will be on your must-do-list for your next visit to Dubai?
Next time I want to get back to Calicut Paragon restaurant – as authentic Keralan Indian food as you can get. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s off the beaten track, only locals go here.
Shannon Bennett | Max Porechkin