Meet chef David Myers

Chef David Myers - Dubai restaurants - FooDiva

Chef David Myers in Bleu Blanc Dubai

He calls himself the ‘gypsy chef’, spending more time in Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong at his six restaurant concepts, than he does in his home city of Los Angeles. But that’s not surprising given since 2014 he no longer operates any restaurants in the US. 43-year old, Boston-born David Myers opened his first restaurant aged 27, and is now in Dubai prepping to launch three concepts at the quirky Renaissance Downtown Hotel (actually in Business Bay overlooking Dubai Canal).

Basta opening on the 22nd October marries a Roman trattoria with a Florentine steakhouse and a Neapolitan pizzeria. A week later on the 29th October, Bleu Blanc, a Southern French farmhouse-inspired restaurant opens – followed by Poppy, a cocktail bar playing analog tunes in November. Incidentally, chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Japanese concept also opens in the same hotel in December.

So what can you expect from the gypsy chef? Here’s my interview.

Basta at Renaissance Downtown Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FooDiva

Basta at Renaissance Downtown Dubai

Why do you call yourself the ‘Gypsy Chef’?
Gypsy chef really embodies me as a chef and my inspiration when it comes to cooking and creating concepts born from travel. I have been fortunate enough to have businesses in the Far East and been able to do events around the world, that I’ve seen a lot of really great things inspiring me to travel more. It gives me a good excuse to get out and bring these new ideas into our new concepts. Gypsy itself is kind of a fun word that a good friend of mine came up with. He said “man, you’re such a gypsy!” and I responded “no, I’m a gypsy CHEF” – and he laughed and we all made a joke out of it – but we actually wanted to create a TV show around it, based on a concept I wanted to create at the time called ‘Gypsy’. It was a restaurant that would change every month with its style, design and food – almost like an art installation. When we pitched this idea, it was back when the economy was bad in the US, so there wasn’t a lot of spend available for international shows and it didn’t take off.

Are you a chef or restaurateur?
Both, because I cook and I create. Part of that creating is not just food; it’s concepts and new restaurants. I was certainly more of a chef when I was younger, because I was cooking in the kitchen every single day. I’m certainly creating more concepts now. It’s an evolution. I admire the chefs that are in there day in day out, doing their craft, for their love of whether it’s being a sushi chef or a yakitori chef, and they just get better and better to reach a god-like status. But that’s not me. I need to have a new challenge and try something new. I’m as much involved in how the table looks, how this design plays out, how the carpet is set up over there, how the aroma is when you walk into the bathroom – as I am with what dishes we’re serving and how we’re serving the guests, what the vibe is like and what the music is like. It’s like the whole world is putting on a show or a movie…I love that!

Bleu Blanc at Renaissance Downtown Dubai - Dubai restaurants - FooDiva

Bleu Blanc at Renaissance Downtown Dubai

You exited the David Myers Group in 2014 and since then you’ve not had a restaurant in your home country. That’s a little odd, isn’t it?
Not at all, because I’ve had a lot. I’ve opened a lot of restaurants in the US, and after opening in Japan eight years ago, I got really hooked on the international bug. My plan had always been to really expand and focus on the international market at some point. I turned 40. I had this dream of really diving in on the international scene whilst I could still do it, and so I did. It doesn’t feel odd at all, because I can go home and it feels great to be able to do that, and to not have to immediately go to a restaurant after getting off the plane. I feel comfortable with what I’m doing and the path that I’m taking from LA.

Why Dubai and why now?
My goal is to be in key cosmopolitan cities around the world. The US is included in that – New York, LA, San Francisco [FooDiva’s note: so he will open again in his home country!] I’ve actually been holding off with two concepts that are ready to go, but it’s a question of time and priority. When I came to Dubai three years ago to see the property, there was nothing here – just sand and dirt! There wasn’t any water. But when I was told what it would become [Dubai Canal], I wanted to do it. I’d never travelled before to the Middle East and I was interested in the culture and the food, so having this opportunity in this particular venue, it was a fit.

You have publicly said, “With every new city explored, I discover fresh, seasonal ingredients and techniques that influence my cooking style.” In practice, how does this work?
For Basta, the key team and I went to Italy – Rome, Naples, and Florence – the three key influencing cities that really inspired the concept – and we ate our way through there. The dialogue between the chefs, myself, the different places we visited and the different produce we bought at the markets gave us a lot of ideas for the menus. We wrote the menus on the trains between the different cities! For Bleu Blanc it was a little different. We hit the south of France first – Nice and Provence. We went to some really great restaurants to get a feel of the setting, the vibe, the richness of the detail in these landscapes – and how we wanted to apply that here. And then we went to what I consider the home of the best real concepts in the world – and that’s Spain. We went in hunt of the best steak and the best grilling from all the asadores in San Sebastian. We hit up a bunch of those pintxo bars, not that we’re doing Spanish food at all, but we wanted to understand the simplicity in the preparation. We had unbelievable examples of grilled turbot, different seafood and types of beef.

How are you sourcing your produce?
We’ve reached out to a number of farmers in Europe and Australia to help us get the quality and type of ingredients we’re looking for. For instance, our beef is from a rancher in Australia that specialises in rare and unique cuts exclusively for us. I haven’t seen anything so far like the farmers’ markets in Santa Monica.

It’s not on the same scale as the US, but once the harvesting season starts here, you have a very good farmers market right here in Business Bay.
Oh that’s good! Then we’ll be doing that!

What did you learn from working with Daniel Boulud and Charlie Trotter?
Daniel is a great guy; fun. I worked for him for about a year and a half in New York City at his original restaurant Daniel. I worked up until the very last day we closed. I learnt how to be a chef. Daniel is the ultimate example of a chef. He’s done a great job; he’s global; he has multiple restaurants in New York City; and he’s a great restaurateur. He has been able to thrive doing his French cuisine, in a cool New York way. It was intense and pumping, and you’re prepping on small little corners or slithers of a chair to get ready for service – a phenomenal experience. He taught me how to interact with people; how to really cook; how important flavour and seasoning is; and how to deal with guests. He was a great mentor. I loved every second of working there and it was sad to leave, but actually it was perfect timing, because it was the end of an important era [he closed and reopened a couple years later with the new restaurant Daniel]. Charlie Trotter was my first big restaurant experience – the toughest of my life. They say a boot camp lasts six weeks – this lasted six months! It was really brutal! I learnt about inspiration, spontaneity, how to make anything happen and that ‘no’ cannot be in your vocabulary. You just have to find a way to deliver the ultimate experience for guests.

You’re very well travelled. What’s your favourite restaurant in the world?
Based on pure joy, it would be in Tokyo and it would be Sushi Shin. It’s amazing – the experience from A to Z is off the charts! The details – the type of vinegar, the quality of the seafood, the hand-made sake cups. It’s a one of a kind experience. If I had one day to live, Sushi Shin is part of that day.

On that note, hypothetically, what would your last supper be?
I would start with classic gin martinis with a twist that one of my favourite bartenders from Tokyo would make. Then I would have Champagne with sushi – and some sake. It would end with me grilling something over a fire with close friends and family over red wine. Wine is my dessert; I don’t have much of a sweet tooth!

What’s your favourite destination and why?
I love going back to Japan. I love the food; am crazy about yakitori, sushi, tempura. I go as deep as possible as I can in Japan and I still haven’t even scratched the surface. I’m really excited and immersed in their culture. It’s a real personal pleasure.

I guess we should expect to see a Japanese concept from you soon?
Yes! It’s on the cards.

Have you tried any of David Myers’ concepts in Asia?

A bientôt.
FooDiva. x

NOTE: Bleu Blanc has advised its opening is slightly delayed to early November – exact date TBC.

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