OPIN­ION

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Lift­ing up Emi­rati cui­sine with Andrew Cullen, direc­tor of re­tail brand devel­op­ment at the Dubai World Trade Cen­tre.

As the Direc­tor of re­tail brand devel­op­ment at the Dubai World Trade Cen­tre, andrew cullen looks after the Seven Sands Emi­rati Cui­sine brand, which opened in 2015. At the time there were a hand­ful of restau­rants of­fer­ing Emi­rati food, very rare in the ca­sual din­ing cat­e­gory. Now, three years later, the Emi­rati din­ing scene is evolv­ing. Here, Cullen looks at the culi­nary scene in Dubai and asks if now is the time for Emi­rati cui­sine to emerge?

As recog­ni­tion grows for Emi­rati cui­sine the ques­tion needs to be asked, what is next? Per­haps Emi­rati cui­sine needs to take its in­spi­ra­tion from the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. I have lived in Dubai since 2011 and watched the rapid growth of Peru­vian food, a re­gional cui­sine from Latin Amer­ica which is now a global phe­nom­e­non.

Peru­vian cui­sine has only re­cently de­vel­oped and the cui­sine is based on the com­bi­na­tion of pro­duce avail­able and in­flu­ences over the cen­turies. When the Span­ish con­quered the In­cas, they brought with them their Ara­bic her­itage and African in­flu­ences.

Peru has the sec­ond largest eth­nic Ja­panese pop­u­la­tion in South Amer­ica. The cui­sine de­vel­oped from this was Nikkei, a Ja­panese Peru­vian fu­sion best iden­ti­fied to­day by the Nobu brand.

When we com­pare the cur­rent rise of Peru­vian cui­sine with Emi­rati cui­sine we can see that there is a long way to go but the po­ten­tial is present. Emi­rati food needs to come out of the home kitchen and find its place in the spot­light.

At Seven Sands the ma­jor­ity of our dishes

are tra­di­tional, but we also like to in­no­vate. If a dish uses lo­cal in­gre­di­ents or tech­niques we are happy for it to be part of our Emi­rati cui­sine.

Emi­rati cui­sine needs more ex­po­sure within the UAE it­self. I have vis­ited JBR ho­tels pos­ing as a tourist look­ing for some­where to eat lo­cal food and was di­rected to Seven Sands as an Emi­rati and Ara­bic restau­rant on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. How­ever, most concierge em­ploy­ees sug­gested Le­banese restau­rants as lo­cal food. Ed­u­ca­tion is the key here.

It would be good to see new Emi­rati cui­sine based con­cepts be­ing de­vel­oped and launched rather than an­other new burger or pizza joint. It would also be good to see more restau­rants el­e­vat­ing the cui­sine like Me­zlai in Abu Dhabi.

Ho­tel chains in Abu Dhabi have al­ready signed up to Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cul­ture Author­ity’s Emi­rati Cui­sine & Hos­pi­tal­ity Ca­pac­ity Build­ing Pro­gram, through which all four-star and five-star ho­tels in the cap­i­tal will fea­ture and pro­mote na­tional dishes. This ex­am­ple needs to be fol­lowed through­out the UAE.

As a fan of lo­cal food I would like to see it more widely avail­able and as a restau­ra­teur I see the po­ten­tial that has yet to be fully ex­plored.

The last piece of the puz­zle will be de­vel­op­ing the right am­bas­sadors for Emi­rati cui­sine. Some­one who em­bod­ies the cui­sine and cul­ture and who can com­mu­ni­cate it to a greater au­di­ence.

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