Celebrity chef brothers bring their signature cooking to the Mideast

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A succulent lamb tagine ready to be devoured. (Photo supplied)
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A delicious yellowfin tuna escabeche.
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The brothers promise that the restaurant will offer first-class service.
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Chris Galvin is one half of the celebrity chef duo.
Updated 18 September 2017
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Celebrity chef brothers bring their signature cooking to the Mideast

DUBAI: There is no dearth of restaurants in Dubai with big ticket celebrity chefs’ names embossed on the door. However, when one has been eight years in the making, expectations run high. That is particularly so when it is coming from not one but two renowned chefs who run Michelin-starred restaurants in London.
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.”


Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

Nada Kutbi started baking from home for family and friends before setting up her Sucre De Nada pastry shop to expand her home business. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2019
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Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

  • Thanks to social media, business is booming for Jeddah’s cake and pastry makers

JEDDAH: Enterprising Saudi home-bakers have been turning to social media to help cook up some sweet business success.
The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, and none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.
Her Sucre De Nada pastry shop in Jeddah has become one of the go-to places for homemade desserts and cakes, and the online side of her business is also booming.
Kutbi’s daughter, Nassiba Khashoggi, told Arab News: “She has basically been baking all her life, especially after having children. She used to make cookies for us and whenever she tried a dessert somewhere else, she would recreate it.
“In restaurants or gatherings, she would always analyze sweets and make them at home for her family. That was how she started baking.
“I don’t think she ever thought she could pursue it as a career, but everyone loved her baking and one of her closest friends encouraged her to start her business when she was a stay-at-home mom.
“It was in 2011-2012, and her friend basically forced her to start by telling her, ‘yallah! make a cake and I will buy it from you now.’”
Khashoggi added: “In the beginning we just went by word of mouth, but when Instagram came along, we made an account and started posting pictures and the customers loved her creativity and uniqueness. I don’t think many people knew what banoffee was before my mom promoted it.”
Although Kutbi’s unique takes and touches went down a treat with customers, it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.
But stepping up from running a home business presented new challenges. “When you are running a home business there are few staff and it is easy to control,” said Khashoggi. But expanding requires you to put more trust in other people and that was difficult for my mom. Also, when we increased the number of our products it became harder to maintain the quality of goods.”
Kutbi aims to avoid storing, pre-baking or freezing her products and is not a fan of mass production and blast freezing, according to her daughter. “In short, she is against commercial baking,” said Khashoggi. “What is unique about my mom is that everything she makes is made the same day from scratch. It makes it harder for her to redo everything but that’s what makes her special.”

HIGHLIGHtS

• The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.

• Kutbi’s unique takes and touches have been a hit with customer, but it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.

Sometimes customers even send pictures or pieces of dessert to Kutbi asking her to recreate their favorite foods.
Another Jeddah-based bakery thriving on the internet is Ganache. Run by Anas Khashoggi, 58, and Jamila Ali Islam, 48, the pastry business has been operating for almost 20 years.
Khashoggi supported his wife after spotting her talent for baking and took a leap of faith by giving up his job and starting an online bakery.
“At that time, there was no social media, but we made an introductory website, which helped us gain popularity,” he said. That was in 1996, and the couple’s first store opened later the same year.
“Ganache has its own unique spirit as a family business, and it is run by Saudi youth who are managing the bakery and understand the Saudi market. The family committee is the one that approves the products,” added Khashoggi.