We catch up with the British executive chef from Bahrain's Art Rotana
Time Out Bahrain staff
So how did you end up in Bahrain? I worked for the same company [Rotana] before in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a long time. Then I decided to go off to Asia... I opened a hotel there and then this place [Art Rotana] came up. I was with my family and my wife, and it was a good time to come back. How did you become a chef? It all started when I was in school and you get to that stage in secondary school when you have to choose your options and go on work experience for a couple of weeks. We used to always go to my Gran and my Granddad’s house for Sunday dinner and before dinner we would go to the local pub and restaurant. I ended up doing my work experience there and basically fell in love with it. As soon as I finished that, I was hooked on life inside the kitchen. Every day is different. Tell us about the restaurants you’re managing now. Here we have seven restaurants. We have the all-day dining [Choices], Flames [steak and seafood], Rosso [Italian], Cellar 59 [Mediterranean lounge], Wu [pan-Asian], the Lobby Lounge and the patisserie. We will also have shisha which will be part of Wu so there’s a fusion between Asian and Arabic. What is the inspiration behind these concepts? Rosso [Ed’s note: Read our review on page 48] is very family, home style. That’s what we wanted from the beginning. We use good quality and authentic ingredients but the plates are in the middle of the table. You share salads, pizzas and pastas.
Flames is predominantly protein based and it’s our steak and seafood spot, focusing on American and Australian beef. There’s some different and unusual cuts in there, and then local seafood; fantastic fish from here. It’s food that people would recognise from a steakhouse – none of the foams and all this sort of stuff. You go there and you can have your fantastic truffle fries, steak tartare, calamari, clam chowder.
The Cellar has tapas style food and bigger plates if you want to have your Wagyu burger or roast chicken. We have artisan cheese boards and cured meat boards and anti-pasti items. It’s not predominantly Spanish but we have some items from Spain.
Wu will be opening soon and it’ll be focusing on five parts of Asia: Chinese, Korean, Thai, Malay and Japanese. Again, it’s going to have classic dishes but also dishes that people recognise and that aren’t too complicated. Predominantly the Japanese will be tempura and sushi, while Thai you’ll have your Tom Yum Soup and so on. We have some good Korean dishes as well like the beef galbi [short ribs] and kimchi. Korean food tends to be quite sweet, sticky and spicy.
How do you think these concepts will work here? I think well because the concepts were designed for here, for the immediate market – Amwaj. Amwaj is a lifestyle and family place, and the restaurants that we have and the menus that we’ve written are keyed up towards that.
What’s your kitchen management style? Are you the terrifying Gordon Ramsay type? No, I don’t think that’s always the most effective type. For me the most important thing in the kitchen is communication. Any successful kitchen, whether it’s a three Michelin star or a small local restaurant, communication has to be there. It’s the way you talk to your team, the way you’re training your team, the way that your team feels about you as well. I have a lot of people here which I took from the UAE who I worked with three or four years ago.
I think it’s important that you respect people. You’ve got to listen to people. For me, it’s a team effort. Everyone has ideas – not that suddenly they can start making their own dishes without letting you know, but everyone has a part to play in it.