CateringNews Middle East - - Contents -

A new healthy restau­rant, Nour­ish aims to give Dubai the real taste of nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents.

In an in­dus­try where costs are in­creas­ing day-by-day and con­sumers are be­com­ing con­scious of their spend­ing, not hav­ing com­pet­i­tive mar­ket prices can be a chal­lenge, how­ever head chef and op­er­a­tions man­ager at Nour­ish, Julie Wat­son has found the an­swer to serv­ing healthy, fresh food at rea­son­able prices. Her mantra? Do it your­self.

Chef Julie caught up with Cater­ing News Mid­dle East on the chal­lenges, perks and red flags of run­ning a restau­rant and ed­u­cat­ing Dubai con­sumers on real healthy food.

“Healthy food does not have to be ex­pen­sive, the trick from my per­spec­tive as a chef is, do it your­self,” Chef Julie says.

“I try not to buy as much as I can, from my prod­uct list of 600 items, I buy only five ready-made items, like tomato paste- be­cause tak­ing 50kg of tomato and cook­ing it down to 1kg of paste is not fea­si­ble to me and I don’t have the man­power or space to do so.

“The rest, we make it all in-house. Do­ing it your­self is the key – buy­ing bread or mak­ing bread, buy­ing pasta or mak­ing pasta, there is al­ways an op­tion and most other out­lets buy al­most ev­ery­thing,” she ex­plains.

Mak­ing all her prod­ucts at the restau­rant also gives her the op­por­tu­nity to ed­u­cate the chefs on how to build from scratch, “I don’t just look at the cus­tomers per­spec­tive, I also look at the peo­ple in the kitchen, the ones who are learn­ing.

“I want to take my ste­ward and turn him into a head chef, I never want to hire mi­dlevel but want to work on the tal­ent we al­ready have and the best way to make them grow is to teach them to do it your­self,” the South African Chef adds.

With most restau­rants us­ing ‘short­cuts’ also known as canned and tinned prod­ucts, din­ers in the UAE have be­come ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing a dish taste ex­actly the same ev­ery time they dine-in, how­ever

when us­ing nat­u­ral pro­duce, the taste may dif­fer based on sea­son­al­ity and that is one of the big­gest chal­lenges Chef Julie faces with her cus­tomers.

“The dif­fi­culty with healthy food here is not that it tastes bland, but the fact that the pal­ette is so sen­si­tised be­cause of all the added preser­va­tives that peo­ple eat here,” she says.

“We are try­ing to re-train the taste pal­ettes, and the dif­fi­culty I face is that ma­jor­ity of our clien­tele would com­ment that the food does not taste the same as the last time they had it. This is a very big chal­lenge for me but six month old gin­ger will not smell and taste the same as it does right now, it de­pends on sea­son­al­ity and I do not aim for it to be the same ei­ther. It is not pos­si­ble to have the ex­act same taste when the pro­duce is com­ing in at a dif­fer­ent time.

“The con­sis­tency part you can get from cook­ing with tins and pack­ets, it is easy to do but is it re­ally of ben­e­fit to the cus­tomer?

“We are try­ing to help peo­ple adapt to this change, it is a slow process but it is pick­ing up,” she adds.

Sourc­ing fresh pro­duce, mak­ing your own in­gre­di­ents and serv­ing fresh food comes with its own set of chal­lenges, one of them be­ing keep­ing the price con­sis­tent, how­ever, Nour­ish is not the kind of out­let that will only chase profit.

“The chal­lenge is re­ally dur­ing the sum­mer be­cause in win­ter the farms have more va­ri­ety, where as in the sum­mer it is a chal­lenge to find that va­ri­ety so we have to im­port. We try to use as much of lo­cal prod­uct as we can and also have a farm in Al Khawa­neej, but we stick to the prices on the menu through­out. We are not chas­ing profit, you can­not be­come rich from one shop and there are ex­pan­sions in the hori­zon for Nour­ish, not nec­es­sar­ily an­other Nour­ish but we are aim­ing for the brand Nour­ish to be­come an um­brella for other ideas and I be­lieve the fu­ture is col­lab­o­ra­tion.”

Cur­rently lo­cated in Dar Wasl Mall in Jumeirah, Nour­ish will be part­ner­ing with delivery ser­vice De­liv­eroo, who launched a delivery-only kitchen in Jumeirah Lake Tow­ers late last year to help venues reach cus­tomers be­yond their cur­rent range of ac­cess.

“By the end of March we will launch with De­liv­eroo Edi­tions which means we will be able to de­liver to Ma­rina, JLT, JVC, Mead­ows, Greens and other ar­eas around that lo­ca­tion. There are more sites in the wraps within the year and this con­cept does not have big tech­ni­cal costs- work­ing to­gether is the way for­ward,” Chef Julie ex­plains.

The restau­rant will also be rolling out a healthy meal plan delivery ser­vice soon but on a small scale.

“If peo­ple ap­proach us and say they want a meal plan, we will of­fer it to them but my route in or­der to take this fur­ther will

not be aimed at grown-ups, but chil­dren up to 10 years of age,” she says.

“We serve fresh and healthy food and I tell you ex­actly what is in it, I do not lie whereas I have seen peo­ple talk­ing about food from par­tic­u­lar places claim­ing it is gluten free and or­ganic and what not when it is not true, you need to be open and hon­est to your cus­tomers.”

Nour­ish does not claim to be or­ganic as it is not fea­si­ble for the Dubai din­ing mar­ket, but source lo­cally as much as pos­si­ble in­stead.

Chef Julie ex­plains: “This is a huge de­bate within the in­dus­try here, or­ganic food is not fea­si­ble for Dubai be­cause the shelf life for or­ganic pro­duce is 24 hours. You pay more for or­ganic prod­ucts with a lim­ited shelf life as com­pared to just get­ting prod­uct from nat­u­ral agri­cul­tural pro­cesses. We try and be as sus­tain­able as pos­si­ble by sourc­ing lo­cally and grow­ing veg­eta­bles in our own farm.”

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