THE RANT – My unresolved issues with food that claims to be gourmet in Dubai.

My stance on gourmet food has really changed over the years.

Childhood and adolescence (ie. those years when I had never so much as seen the face of the bill) – ooooh, fancy food, dim light, this is sooo cool! thank you daddy!

College life – bleh. Overpriced food in microscopic portions. Pass the 99 cent pizza please.

First year of full-time consulting job in New York – Wha…? Lunches and dinners are paid for when I travel? Steak and lobster, come to mama.

Next few years of consulting – I’m such a simpleton when it comes to gourmet cuisine. Have so much to learn from my more well-informed and travelled colleagues.

Now – Gourmet cuisine is really not just food, it’s often an art and a mode of expression for the chef. I’m comfortable with appreciating the art in my own way…and if I don’t like it, I’m even more comfortable just saying so.

Dubai tends to take the art of gourmet cuisine, and replaces it with a whole load of hype. There’s just no original made-in-Dubai stamp on the food which would make it any different to eat Nobu in New York versus Nobu in Dubai.* When I go to a gourmet restaurant, I’d like to know that the chef has put original and unduplicated thought into how the food is composed, why it’s unique, why it really works in that place and at that time and is a local masterpiece that creates international ripples. I do not want to know that it’s just another replica of a famous restaurant in some other city where at some historical point in time, the chef had put original and unduplicated thought into how the food was composed, why it was unique, why….

So since I moved back to Dubai, I just haven’t gone to any of the Michelin starred restaurants in the city. I refuse to throw my money at a reprint, rather than the real artform, even if it is the same chefs who are recreating their masterpieces. Something just feels missing…it’s that unique Dubai touch. I hope that in the next few years, we can see more home-grown gourmet chefs (even if they have their training elsewhere), who grow up to well-earned fame in Dubai with styles and ingredients that are not distant memories of fine foods we’ve eaten elsewhere.

*There’s a brilliant essay titled “Variations on a Theme” by Jeffrey Steingarten in his book The Man Who Ate Everything, where he eloquently describes how New York had been slammed by the food chain phenomenon. This phenomenal piece by Steingarten is really worth a read – actually the entire book is – and it’s what really helped me distil why I tend to get frustrated so often with the restaurant scene in Dubai.

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