Celebrity chef brothers bring their signature cooking to the Mideast
Celebrity chef brothers bring their signature cooking to the Mideast
The Galvin brothers, Chris and Jeff, have been exploring entering this market for a while now, but wanted to wait until they had the right partners and team in place. It was about three years ago that that they finally committed, when they found that Dubai-based holding company Meraas’ vision for the Citywalk complex aligned perfectly with their “family-led” ethos.
The duo’s French brasserie and patisserie concept, Demoiselle, is located in the complex and it is soon to be joined by their newest restaurant, Galvin Dubai.
The older of the two brothers, Chris Galvin, is in Dubai to launch the restaurant and spoke to Arab News on the upcoming launch and the pair’s dining style.
“I’m a big family person, I like the thought of people having lunch or dinner, catching up, celebrating things together, that’s what our restaurants are about.”
This affinity with family may have something to do with their uniqueness — they are the only brother-duo celebrity chef brand with multiple awards and Michelin-starred restaurants to their credit. What most people do not know is that there is a third (middle) brother who also works with them in the business, but stays behind the scenes handling procurement and supplies.
Chris describes his relationship with Jeff as balanced and credits their individual humility for perfecting this dynamic. “I’m more of a dreamer, he’s more of a technician,” he said. “But the best thing about working together is knowing you’re always there for each other. We love each other desperately and we don’t talk an awful lot, but we have that funny thing where we know what the other one is doing.”
So, what did they jointly conjure up for their first fine dining restaurant outside the UK? For one, they have created a wholly bespoke concept for this region, instead of simply transplanting one of their existing successful brands.
Explaining the inspiration behind the concept, Chris said: “As soon as I step off the plane here, I immediately start to think of lighter foods, salads, carpaccio and so on — that’s what I want to eat here, I think Mediterranean flavors work well. We started thinking about the Mediterranean basin, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone else using before — this is a first. We’ve drawn influences from the west coast of Italy, south of France, Spain’s eastern coast and even North Africa — all of those flavors, you will find here. It’s light, sun-kissed, with hints of the spices of southern Europe.”
The menu will evolve according to the seasons, with seasonal ingredients — another key pillar of the Galvin brand — playing a big part. Chris defined the culinary philosophy as “market-led ingredients, carefully and simply cooked, humbly served in a highly professional but relaxed environment with first-class service.”
All of these boxes seem to have been successfully ticked in the Dubai restaurant. Whether it is the pretty-as-a-picture organic beetroot salad, with a delicate truffle goat’s curd texturally complemented by candied walnuts and chard, or the succulent pot roast chicken with puy lentils and pearl barley risotto, dripping with flavor, the menu seems to effectively capture the “flavors of the sun” that it set out to, underpinned by the finesse of French technique that the brothers have built their reputation on.
Some Galvin signature dishes are on offer as well, including their not-to-be-missed lasagna of Devon crab — a mousse-like confection of crab and scallop meat encased in a light pasta parcel atop a buttery, flavor-packed bisque, drizzled with lobster oil as a finishing touch.
It is masterful dishes such as this that will help the new restaurant stand out in a competitive market with discerning diners. “There’s a lot of energy here, I’ve always thought the Middle East was exciting,” Chris said. “Diners here really know what they want. I find there’s a lot of interest in what restaurants offer, and there’s a broad spectrum of different concepts to explore.”
And explore they will. Chris believes than a country like Saudi Arabia could be a successful new home for a concept like Demoiselle, in particular.
“I don’t know enough about the rest of the region yet, we haven’t really looked at it properly, but now I think we really should,” he said. “I just had a friend who is an international restaurant consultant suggest to me as well that we ought to explore Saudi Arabia. We’d be open to looking into it, as long as we can find the right ingredients and people… and feel like we can honestly, competently deliver something that we’d be proud of.”
This emphasis on having the right people on the ground resonates throughout our conversation. While the hand-picked Dubai team is ably led by head chef Luigi Vespero (who formerly worked with the brothers in London), Chris promises that theirs will not be yet another “soulless” restaurant with just their name above the door. “It has to bear scrutiny,” he says. “Whatever we do has to be there for a reason.”
Ta’ateemah: Giving Eid a Hijazi flavor
- Dibyaza is made of melted dried apricots, roasted nuts, figs, peach and sugary dates to create a marmalade-like dish that can be enjoyed with or without bread
- The dibyaza is also similar to an Egyptian dish called khoshaf, but dibyaza is often partnered with shureik — a donut-shaped bread with sesame sprinkled all over it
JEDDAH: Ta’ateemah is the name of the breakfast feast Hijazis enjoy on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr. It is derived from the Arabic word, itmah, or darkness, because the dishes served are light, just like midnight snacks.
Muslims around the world celebrate Eid Al-Fitr to feast after fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. But it is called Al-Fitr from iftar, or breakfast when translated to English, which is a meal Muslims do not get to experience during that month.
The first day of Eid is a day where they finally can, and they greet the day with joy by heading to Eid prayers and then enjoying this traditional meal.
Amal Turkistani, mother of five from Makkah who now lives in Jeddah, told Arab News all about a special Eid dish.
“The most famous dish is the dibyaza, and making a dish of it is a work of art that I can proudly say I excel at. Dibyaza is made of melted dried apricots, roasted nuts, figs, peach and sugary dates to create a marmalade-like dish that can be enjoyed with or without bread.”
She revealed that dibyaza is not a quick meal — it is usually prepared a day or two before Eid with the ingredients simmered to reach the correct liquid thickness.
No one can trace the origins of dibyaza — it remains a mystery. Some people claim it originated in Turkey, while others attribute it to the Indians.
A number of women who are famous for their dibyaza agreed that it is a Makkawi dish. This marmalade dish was developed and improved, with tiny details to distinguish it.
The dibyaza is also similar to an Egyptian dish called khoshaf, but dibyaza is often partnered with shureik — a donut-shaped bread with sesame sprinkled all over it.
Turkistani said sweet shops sell 1 kg of dibyaza for SR50 ($13), competing with housewives who make their own.
“I think it is always tastier when it’s homemade because of all the love that goes into making it. It’s also a wonderful way to greet your family and neighbors with this special dish that you only enjoy once a year.”
Her younger sister, Fatin, said: “My siblings always have Eid breakfast at my place, so it’s up to me to prepare the feast. My sister spares me the exhausting dibyaza-making, so I prepare two main dishes: Minazalla, which is a stew of lamb chops with tahini and a tomato chicken stew.
“She also serves what we call nawashif, or dry food, like different types of cheese and olives, pickled lemon, labneh, red mish — a mixture of white cheese, yogurt and chili pepper and halwa tahini,” Amal said.
Mohammed Ibrahim, 23, from Makkah, told Arab News: “It always feels unique to have minazalla and nawashif during Eid, and not just because it is followed by the Eidiyah.”