Meet Pierre Gagnaire in Dubai
He has 12 restaurants around the world including two with three Michelin stars each in France. He’s humble and sweet-natured but sometimes, due to the language barrier I expect, can come across as a little defensive. He’s Pierre Gagnaire, the French chef who lends his name and expertise to Reflets at InterContinental Dubai Festival City. In town for the LitFest and a ladies lunch, FooDiva meets the hands-on chef who like Ferran Adria, recoils at the term molecular, and explains that his cuisine is all about emotion and sensitivity.
- You do use molecular technique in your cuisine. How would you describe your cuisine to someone who has never eaten in your restaurant? It’s not molecular, it’s about emotion. I use molecular like an oven, like a grill. It’s just another way to obtain a new taste, a new texture, but it’s not my focus. I try to give a kind of sensitivity in each city. Each restaurant has its personality, it’s not standard. I am not a big company, I am somebody who cooks, who lives with the team. Day after day, I try to feel the product and the level of the team. The quality of the staff is better than five years ago. My style is a combination of the city, sensitivity and growing with the chefs and the manager who live here. My mission is to offer, day after day, emotion, sensitivity and touch that people feel on the plate.
- How does Reflets differ from your other restaurants? Five years later [since opening], it’s easy to obtain products from all over the world. We have real clientele who don’t come for the view, or the fashion. It’s not a show off restaurant. You come for the pleasure to have a good dinner.
- But do you not source some of your fruit and vegetables here given the growing UAE farm scene? This is new. We must wait a couple of years to have a real relationship with this kind of farm. The production is too small to supply day after day.
- How hands on or off are you in the kitchen these days, in particular Dubai? It’s my life. I am working on the menu here. I am more than involved. My job is my life and my life is my job. Because if you want to stay honest you must work work work. I come here every three months and stay for a week each time.
- Do you think Dubai is ready for Michelin? We offer the best we can in this restaurant, Michelin or no Michelin. I think they will come one day, but not immediately.
- What’s your favourite restaurant in the world? Michel Bras and Alain Passard’s restaurants in France. I have to love the food and the guy [behind the food] together. It’s impossible to separate the two. If I don’t like the man behind the food, I don’t like the food. In England, Heston Blumenthal and Gary Rhodes – I love their food.
- Would you prefer a better location in Dubai for Reflets? To be honest the location is not fantastic, but it’s near the airport. And we [attract] locals. Half of our business is repeat. It’s not pretentious. We have a very good relationship with the owner, Al Futtaim, which is key to success given we have 35 employees and it’s not full every night. The owner understands it’s important for the brand. We have projects to grow in this hotel, like the terrace.
- What made you publish a new cookbook with easier recipes – 175 Home Recipes With a Twist? My customers asked for it. Many cook at home – huge market. Simple, interesting recipes, very easy to make, not expensive and very quick. I find the quality of the photos though are not fantastic. It’s taken two years to create.
- And finally a couple of questions from my readers, if there is one dish you would cook to impress, what would it be? I open the fridge and cook the products. I am very comfortable with that. I go in your home and do the same.
- What would your last meal be? A glass of water!
Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine may not wholeheartedly embrace molecular gastronomy, but he definitely inspires with his creativity in his restaurants, Reflets included. It certainly serves the most cutting-edge of dishes in Dubai, since the closure of Chef Stephane’s Tang many moons ago at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi.
But what makes cuisine creative? Is it the emotion Chef Pierre refers to, as does Nobu through his heart? Or can creativity simply shine through by marrying the right ingredients? Raymond Blanc speaks strongly to this point in his autobiography, “Simple ingredients produce a powerful impression on the palate…creativity in the kitchen is about combining ingredients that work.”
I’d say you need a balance of both, along with an open mind. Love to hear your thoughts.
For my snaps from Chef Pierre’s canape lunch (and dinner at Chef Raymond’s two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons) check out FooDiva’s Instagram album.
P.S – there’s one last chance to win the Philips and Jamie Oliver HomeCooker and Cutting Tower, plus recipe book and apron before we draw the winner tomorrow! Click here.