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Home > The Country > The Michelin Guide in Dubai: An Interview with Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides

What started out as a little red guidebook that served to encourage travellers to take to the road, to now being a prestigious force to reckon with in the gastronomy realm. This June, the Michelin Guide will unveil its first selection in Dubai

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In partnership with the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), the Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 was announced at the Museum of the Future, Dubai, earlier this year in the presence of Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides and Issam AbdulRahim Kazim, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

Dubai, as we know, is a melting pot of nationalities; thus, arising a vibrant amalgamation of diverse cultures, styles and dining influences, mingling with the emirate’s own traditions. From authentic Emirati and Middle Eastern cuisines to classic and contemporary international options; from grand fine-dining settings to casual street eateries; and from local culinary masterminds to global talented chefs – Dubai’s dining scene boasts it all.

With a presence in 35 destinations, and Dubai being the 36th, the Michelin Guide Dubai will offer a new tried, tested and approved perspective into the impressive and exceptional multifaceted nature of Dubai’s culinary sphere.

The Michelin Guide of a city, region or country is created following regular visits from the guide’s gastronomes, who evaluate restaurants across five universally-applied criteria in order to build their yearly starred selection.

Published by the French tyre company Michelin, since 1904, the guidebooks convey its restaurant reviews through a system of distinctions, the highly revered of which are its universally renowned Michelin Stars.

Across all destinations, One Michelin Star is bestowed to restaurants for “high quality cooking that is worth a stop,” Two Michelin Stars for “excellent cooking that is worth a detour,” and Three Michelin Stars for “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.” Besides the coveted star ratings, the selection will also include the Bib Gourmand category, a distinction awarded to establishments that provide value-for-money three course meals.

Here, we sit down for a brief tête-à-tête with Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the Michelin Guides.

What was the deciding factor to have the Michelin Guide in the Middle East, specifically Dubai?
Our inspectors have been on the field for years, to monitor the Dubai culinary evolution, as we are always monitoring new culinary destinations throughout the world. But we decided to move forward with Dubai because of the vibrancy, the potential and the diversity of the energy we feel here; and we have been witnessing a surge in the number of restaurants, and the quality of the restaurants as well. So, for us, it was definitely the time to move forward.

What are your thoughts on Dubai’s dining scene?
One of the trademarks of Dubai is the diversity of culinary offerings, not only in terms of cooking styles, but also in terms of experience, from luxury to the more informal casual eateries. That is part of the excitement for the inspectors. The main quality for inspectors of course is to be professional; but it is also to always remain open minded – to be able to access the quality of the food regardless of the settings, regardless of the surroundings. It can be casual or luxury as well.

“Our team of inspectors is already in the field, in order to prepare the first selection of restaurants, which will be revealed in June. We will be showcasing the best of Dubai’s gastronomy, to reflect not just the sophistication that the city is famed for, but also the wide diversity of cuisines that the city’s location and history provide.”

You’re entering a freshly developed culinary hub, what are you looking for?
The focus for the Michelin Guide is really the quality of the food. At the Michelin Guide, we have criteria, and our team is working together to be able to access the quality of the restaurant regardless of the country, regardless of the style, regardless of the localisation. We know Dubai will add some flavour in terms of diversity; but the criteria for the Michelin Guide definitely remains the same when it comes to the assessment of the quality of the food and ratings.

“The five criteria are always the same – the quality of the ingredients, mastery of cooking, the harmony and balance of the flavours, the expression of the chef’s personality in the cuisine, and the consistency.”

Do elaborate on the five criteria the Michelin Guide inspectors rely on.
The five criteria are always the same – the quality of the ingredients, mastery of cooking, the harmony and balance of the flavours, the expression of the chef’s personality in the cuisine, and the consistency. The consistency is key from one meal to another, all the time and throughout the menu as a whole.

Will new categories be created for the Middle East?
We are very consistent worldwide. I would say, all the categories we have may apply everywhere in the world. Some are specific because they are related to maybe local type of restaurant, for example, in Spain you have tapas bar and tapas is something you can find in real tapas bars only in Spain. But if you have tapas bar that are worth to be recognised by the Michelin Guide outside of Spain, of course we can recognise them. But no, in terms of categories, we are open to all types of restaurants provided you have a great meal experience.

Is the Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 going to be solely digital focussed?
Let’s say that we are still publishing the iconic paper guide for some countries; but today the Michelin Guide is digital with the app, with the website, with the social network as well. It’s the best way to reach a wide audience and to be constantly available wherever they are.

The Michelin Guide Dubai 2022 selection will be available on the website and on the Michelin Guide App. Visit Instagram.

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