Chef Sil­vena Rowe on the 2015 Dubai Food Fes­ti­val and lo­cal pro­duce.

Fri­day’s Do­mes­tic Diva Sil­vena Rowetalks to us about lo­cal pro­duce, the Dubai Food Fes­ti­val and her new restau­rant

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Sil­vena Rowe is on a mission: to make Emi­rati food more al­lur­ing. “You think of French restau­rants, Ital­ian, Ja­panese, Span­ish, and th­ese places have this whole aura,” she says. “Cus­tomers think they’re al­lur­ing and sen­su­ous. And I sup­pose they are.

“But that’s a rep­u­ta­tion we should also be try­ing to el­e­vate Ara­bic and Emi­rati food to. Be­cause taste-wise and ex­pe­ri­ence-wise it is ev­ery bit as good as all those oth­ers.”

The kitchen queen – owner-chef of three Dubai restau­rants, TV star, and Fri­day’s very own Do­mes­tic Diva – thinks for a mo­ment.

“In fact,” she says, “for me, it’s bet­ter. It’s au­then­tic.”

It is for this rea­son, per­haps, that she is the head­line am­bas­sador for the 2015 Dubai Food Fes­ti­val (DFF).

The mam­moth ex­trav­a­ganza – cur­rently run­ning across the city un­til Fe­bru­ary 28 – is in its sec­ond year. And this time the fo­cus is on high­light­ing the benefits of eat­ing lo­cal, eat­ing healthy and eat­ing Ara­bic. In­di­vid­ual events will in­clude street food mar­kets, food-and-film nights, and five-star restau­rant tours (one by he­li­copter, no less).

But at the heart of ev­ery­thing will be a de­sire to put tra­di­tional UAE food and the pro­duce of tra­di­tional UAE farm­ers into the city’s con­scious­ness.

And that, says Sil­vena – whose lat­est ven­ture, Om­nia by Sil­vena, which opened in Down­town Dubai ear­lier this month – is es­pe­cially sat­is­fy­ing. “My restau­rants are all about this,” says the mother-of-two who also runs Om­nia Gourmet and Om­nia Blue in Jumeirah Fish­ing Har­bour. “They are about show­cas­ing the best food from this re­gion; pro­mot­ing lo­cal and or­ganic pro­duce; and giv­ing peo­ple an in­cred­i­ble, mouth-wa­ter­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at the same time.

“My menus are filled with mod­ern takes on tra­di­tional Ara­bic foods like gasheed [sus­tain­able baby shark], Emi­rati fois gras made with lulu dates, and Emi­rati masala made with tra­di­tional bezar spices. Plus 65 per cent of all our in­gre­di­ents are pro­duced lo­cally.

“The food fes­ti­val is build­ing on what I’ve been do­ing for years. It’s bril­liant for the city.”

Sil­vena has just com­pleted a 9km run along the beach when we speak. She’s out there ev­ery morn­ing at 8am. That might ex­plain why, as she ap­proaches her 50s (she re­fuses to give an ex­act age) she looks amaz­ing.

With her plat­inum blonde hair, trade­mark vamp­ish eyes, stat­uesque frame and no-non­sense at­ti­tude, she’s equal parts friendly and equal parts in­tim­i­dat­ing.

And while she could spend hours talk­ing about the diet that helps keep

Om­nia by Sil­vena has walls adorned with work by Tu­nisian graf­fiti artist eL Seed

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