Q&A: Michelin chef Michael Deane

Visiting Dubai, Deane talks produce, Pierre Gagnaire and potato bread

Michael Deane inspired the UAE's future chefs with fresh Irish produce at Churchill?s recent gala dinner.
Michael Deane inspired the UAE's future chefs with fresh Irish produce at Churchill?s recent gala dinner.

Michelin chef Michael Deane owns seven restaurants in Northern Ireland. He took time out during his first trip with Churchill China to Dubai to talk produce, Pierre Gagnaire and potato bread

On his first impressions of the region
It’s a little bit of everything, but I don’t think it’s got enough. It’s a little bit all the same. I don’t know. I’ll have to come back again! The people in the hospitality industry here seem to love it though. Mark Patten at Atlantis is incredible. I don’t know how he runs that operation.

There are 2,000 for room service! I’d like to see someone from the UK try and do that boy’s job – I don’t think they could. He has his own stamp on it too – incredible. And he walks so quick from one end to the other!

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Grosvenor House I am so impressed with. The service there puts the UK to shame.

If he’d ever open a restaurant in the UAE
It would depend. I wouldn’t come here and do something that I couldn’t do. Look at Rhodes’ menu – he’s doing what he does best. He’s doing a fantastic job. I think there needs to be different restaurants here, but it would have to be something I do best.

Working with the Emirates Academy to create a gala dinner
The standard is good. And there’s real interest. You get some [chefs] who come here and try to blow the socks off people, but that’s not what I try to do at all. That’s why we did the Irish menu with the students [for a Churchill dinner].

We had one kid who was from Norway, and we made potato bread, and he said “what the hell is potato bread?”. I said, “it’s just bread made out of potatoes”, and he said, “how do you make bread out of potatoes?”

On the Irish menu he debuted
We did smoked salmon in a little jelly, served in leak and potato soup which is Scottish Irish; then we did roast scallops with Armagh bramley apple sauce and smoked eel; cannon of County Down lamb with champ shank potato; and Guinness jelly, blanc-mange and oat granola to finish. It is what it is.

Produce avialable in Dubai
I think it’s got a long way to go. I think Mick Kitts [director of culinary arts at the The Emirates Academy] does a tremendous job with the stuff he’s given, but it’s a real challenge. What we had was good, but he had to work hard to get it. I don’t know if you’d get that every day.

On Gary Rhodes
I’ve always admired Gary Rhodes. I think he’s a good yardstick for British food. He’s a good ambassador, a gentleman. I won’t hear a bad word said about him. He takes genuine interest in his own restaurants. A lot of people put their name above the door and that’s it, but he’s in them all the time. He seems to love it here.

On named chefs with multiple restaurants
I’m guilty of that! But I’m in them every day. One restaurant was never going to be enough for me. I went to Pierre Gaignaire’s Courcheval restaurant for the first time the other day. The food has to travel four to five hours to get there. I don’t think it’s worth the price. But Gordon [Ramsay] has been good at it. If you have a good team to back you up, you can pull it off.

On who’s leading the world’s culinary standards
It’s definitely the Scandinavians these days. They say it happened during the recession, when people didn’t want to pay so much to go to Gagnaire in the centre of Paris any more.

I think they’ve turned the whole thing on its head. It’s not fine dining – it does what is says on the tin. It’s cheap food, you’re sitting on a cheap chair, in the docks. They’ve left the French running for cover.

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