Meet chef Chris Galvin

Chef Chris Galvin at Galvin Dubai - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

Chef Chris Galvin at Galvin Dubai

I first stumbled upon chef Chris Galvin (and his younger brother Jeff) when they opened Terence Conran’s Orrery in Marylebone in 1997. I used to work round the corner, and my boss treated us to lunch. But those were the days when concepts were all about the restaurants, not the chefs – so I lost track of his subsequent ventures, until the brothers set up shop in 2005 developing a reputable name for high quality French bistro cuisine.

As Chris said, “we opened seven restaurants in seven years in London and Edinburgh. We had a lot of talent that we had to grow. And then we opened five more in one year, last year, which really broke us!”  Two of their London restaurants – Galvin at Windows atop the Hilton Park Lane, and Galvin La Chapelle each boast one Michelin star.

Chris, who turns 60 next year, is one of those chefs I could natter to for ages in a pub over a bottle of vino. With a calm demeanor, he loves to tell a tale, especially a controversial one. So much so, he’s tough to reign in when I try to bring him back onto relevant topics. He’s in Dubai for the opening next week (date TBC) of his licensed restaurant Galvin Dubai at City Walk’s The Square, following on from the launch earlier this year of the Demoiselle by Galvin café, a stone’s throw away. It’s heartening to see a big-name chef bring his executive chef Luigi Vespero (ex-The Rib Room Emirates Towers and previously at the helm of Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Baker Street) to join our interview.

1. How does the Galvin Dubai concept compare to your UK restaurants? It’s a mix of La Chapelle and Windows.

Oysters at Galvin Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FooDiva

Cumbrae and Brittany No 2 oysters at Galvin Dubai’s media opening

2. Describe Galvin Dubai. It’s affordable glamour. I loved the idea of this Square [at City Walk]. Some great classic dishes from London, and the rest is all about the Mediterranean basin. Cuisine of the sun – Italy, Cote d’Azur, Spain, and Morocco with tagines. Ingredients are key. Wet Fish [a supplier] gets the fish here at the same time we get it in London, so that gives me confidence. Produce does not necessarily have to be organic, but good husbandry and farming methods are important.

Galvin Dubai is about Luigi, who is from Naples. We put our chef names on the menu. Cultivating chefs that are based in Dubai is the future here. It also hurts when we get things wrong which we will; and the chef needs to feel the steam. Once I got to know some of the big London critics, I learnt so much from them and their reviews of our restaurants. They travel so much and get to see things we don’t see. I am a dreamer and am in the kitchen all the time. But I can’t be everywhere, which is why we need these guardians and ambassadors. I like succession planning.

3. Do you think Dubai is ready for Michelin, and if so why? Absolutely – because of the quality of restaurants here.

4. But do you think we have enough excellent restaurants for a launch guide? Yes I do, even though I don’t know if there’s a three star calibre restaurant here. The guide is not just about stars. You also have to be careful of what you wish for, because Michelin brings enormous pressure, which chefs bring on themselves. Rule number one – be amazingly consistent, even when the power goes down and chefs don’t turn up. You have to be good, plate-by-plate. As Terence [Conran] said, there are other ways to judge a good restaurant – by being busy.

Galvin Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FooDiva

Galvin Dubai

5. What has been the biggest challenge of your career? So many! The Wolseley was the SAS of restaurants to work in for those two years. The attention to detail was breathtaking. We also did something that had never been done before – we were all things to all people – breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, plats du jour, dinner and supper. 1,300 covers a day. Packed all the time. And still is.

Brexit. People are leaving the UK in swarms. 95 per cent of our staff is from Europe; we are losing so many of our key workers. I have never seen anything like it in the 43 years of being in this industry. The last seven months have turned my world upside down. We have a minimum wage now. Our European ingredients have gone up 25 per cent because of the euro. Hundreds of restaurants are opening; whoever is smartest and quickest will survive. We have to re-model. Zero expansion, and looking after what we got. I have to get up earlier and go to bed later to turn it round. Weirdly I am excited about it, but I didn’t expect it to happen. It’s the perfect storm.

My family is a massive sacrifice. I have never loved it [this business]. I wanted to provide and I did enjoy it, but mostly it was hell. Four walls; steam; fire; heat; aggression; the curtain rising twice a day; so many working hours that I was never paid for.

6. What has been a career highlight? I got to work with two of the greatest restaurateurs on earth – Terence Conran and the Jeremy King/ Chris Corbin duo. I never got to work with Danny Meyer, which would have been the holy trinity. I got two out of three!

7. If you weren’t a chef what would you be? I love engines and music. I have been learning guitar for the last year because I thought I was losing my memory. And my memory has come back with a revenge. Our charity, Galvin’s Chance, helps disadvantaged youngsters gain training and employment in leading hotels and restaurants. It’s our duty to give back. I love teaching too.

8. Which chef do you admire most? Michel Guerard. Marco Pierre White broke every mould. He was a master counterfeiter; a Mona Lisa. He opened all these restaurants but never named his chefs, whereas Gordon Ramsay did – as do we.

9. What’s your favourite restaurant in Dubai, and worldwide? La Petite Maison. Zuma. Ruya – Colin Clague, John Torrode and myself worked together in 1995. My brother Jeff was raving about Play; I have never seen him so excited. I may try and visit this time. L’Oustau de Baumanière, a two Michelin star restaurant in Provence.

10. How would you like to be remembered? Kind and hard working.


What’s your experience, if any, of the Galvin restaurant empire?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

I first stumbled upon chef Chris Galvin (and his younger brother Jeff) when they opened Terence Conran’s Orrery in Marylebone in 1997. I used to work round the corner, and my boss treated us to lunch ?. But those were the days when concepts were ALL about the restaurants, NOT the chefs – so I lost track of his subsequent ventures, until the brothers set up shop in 2005 developing a reputable name for high quality French bistro cuisine. More in my interview with Chris now live on FooDiva (see link in profile) as he prepares to open his first licensed restaurant outside the UK, @galvindubai at City Walk next week (date not yet confirmed). What’s your experience, if any, of the Galvin restaurant empire? ??#meetthechef #foodiva

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  • The Square, City Walk Phase 2, Jumeirah, Dubai
  • +971 4 5905444
  • Mediterranean, British
  • Yes
  • AED 300 per person without alcohol
  • Open daily 12pm - 1am, and on weekends until 2am
  • https://www.facebook.com/pg/GalvinDubai/
  • Posted under
    British, Dubai, Jumeirah, Licensed, Location, Mediterranean, Meet Chefs, Restaurants
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2 Responses to “Meet chef Chris Galvin”

  1. Helena September 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    I absolutely adored working with Chris after being part of the opening of Galvin at Windows at London Hilton on Park Lane, still a career highlight for me! Very excited to see he is in Dubai now, I hope to visit soon.

    • FooDiva September 24, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      Of course you did Helena! I should have asked you for some sneaky questions in advance 🙂 Not sure when he’s opening here – there are some technical issues I understand.

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