Some of the industry’s top chefs, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders outlined their thoughts on what to expect from Dubai’s ever-evolving culinary industry
To mark the end of the ninth edition of Dubai Food Festival (DFF), some of the city’s leading industry figures – from entrepreneurs and proprietors to award-winning chefs and senior level hospitality executives – weighed in on trends they think will dominate Dubai’s gastronomic scene during the next 12 months and beyond.
A few key themes were repeated – more sustainability and reduced food waste – as well as some bold predictions for Dubai’s homegrown brands making more of a splash on the world stage; and a tilt towards more curated experiences.
Akmal Anuar, Chef-Proprietor, White Rice
“The pandemic has brought a ‘new normal’ to Dubai’s food and beverage scene. More home-grown brands have sprung up and the bar is being raised to provide the most amazing guest experience possible. With consumers being more informed, they are drawn toward only the best places and with a large number of restaurants opening, finding the right niche is the only answer to this survival of the fittest. At the same time, responsibility toward the planet, sustainability and being low waste is important. All my restaurants now use compostable takeaway ware and we believe in using every part of our fresh produce to achieve as little waste as possible. Small steps count but this eventually adds up. I would like to see Dubai restaurants raise the bar even higher in gastronomy where chefs are also owners driven by their philosophy and adding variety and diversity to restaurants in this city.
Heinz Beck, Chef-Proprietor, Social by Heinz Beck
“The gastronomy world has changed a lot during the past years and our needs are transforming with it. Nowadays, in addition to the management of the restaurant in all its aspects; we, as chefs, must focus on training new generations of professionals and raising awareness about new topics, such as sustainability and health in the kitchen. I strongly believe that food is a vehicle of prevention; if we eat responsibly, with the right attention, it becomes a decisive factor in the quality of life and in many other aspects of it.”
Reif Othman, Founder & Owner, Hotaru Holdings
“I see four key dining trends emerging at the moment in Dubai. The rise of beach clubs with in-house restaurants bringing coastal dining to the fore, and more food hall type concepts. In terms of cuisine categories, I am often approached to consult on pizza concepts, and contemporary Chinese. With the latter, there’s definitely a market gap here. Looking ahead with the Michelin Guide’s arrival and its fervent focus on food, we will see a return to fine dining and tasting menu concepts, as well as smaller, independent chef-led establishments. The broader Asian cuisine category will always be popular, however over the next year Korean restaurants in particular will start taking their share of the dining landscape.”
Emma Banks, Vice President, F&B Strategy & Development, Hilton, EMEA
Emma Banks, Vice President, F&B Strategy & Development, Hilton, EMEA stated that sustainability is top of mind for today’s guests and is becoming increasingly important; and that she believes that sustainable dining will be a key talking point this year, which she hopes will advance the conversation about the ways people can work towards reducing food waste and sourcing more local produce to cut the sector’s carbon footprint.
Samer S. Hamadeh, Founder of Aegis Hospitality
Samer S. Hamadeh, Founder of Aegis Hospitality explained that this is going to be the year that Dubai-made brands go global, where the culture of importing is slowly being replaced by the culture of creating. He further went on to state that Dubai restauranteurs were among the toughest on the planet during the pandemic, where while other cities were shutting down, the F&B industry in Dubai doubled down on developing new concepts in Dubai; and thus he sees that coming into fruition over the next year, with some amazing new homegrown brands coming into existence. He also sees delivery-only brands coming out of the dark (kitchens) after realizing that customers want ‘experiences’ and not only convenience, hence, he expects to see more food hall-style concepts that combine delivery with dine-in; and finally, he anticipates a lot more sustainability-led design/execution.
Naim Maadad, Founder of Gates Hospitality
Naim Maadad, Founder of Gates Hospitality explained that in recent months, they witnessed some of the best local talents combine forces to create culinary masterpieces and now, more than ever, they were seeing a rise in supper clubs, homegrown brands and regional success stories; which is breading a new generation of entrepreneurs and chefs who saw opportunities born out of the pandemic and capitalised on the same. He went on to state that creativity, quality, innovation, style, design and authenticity of the dining scene in Dubai has really become second to none and is leading from the front creating ample opportunities and putting the city on the global gastronomy map.
Samantha Wood, founder of restaurant review website FooDiva.net and curator of dining experiences
Samantha Wood, founder of restaurant review website FooDiva.net and curator of dining experiences explained that Dubai restaurant scene has finally matured with homegrown, independent and chef-led restaurants overriding imported concepts – all thanks to the pandemic’s support local movement. She went on to state that one-off, exclusive dining experiences, pop-ups and at-home supper clubs were hugely popular, speaking to the pent-up demand for socialising and experiential dining. She also elaborated on how value for money had become a crucial factor when selecting where to dine out; and that looking ahead, the arrival of various international restaurant guides and lists will put the pressure on three aspects – an elevated food experience with the rise of tasting menus and more creative cooking, delivering more consistency and out-of-the-box F&B activations.
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