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
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