Caterer Power List 2014: 21 - 35
We profile some of the biggest players on the region's F&B scene
21 Naim Maadad
CEO, Gates Hospitality
Naim Maadad has many projects on his plate right now. While he is currently responsible for Reform Social & Grill Dubai, Ultra Brasserie (in Emaar Square and Marina Plaza, Dubai), and Six Senses Zighy Bay’s five F&B venues, he is also involved in an alliance with TGP representing more than 42 international brands in the Middle East. Due to confidentiality agreements, we are unable to list all brands involved.
In the next year, he will launch the third branch of Ultra Brasserie on Sheikh Zayed Road, along with Tre by Roberto Rella at the Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai. Other concepts we can reveal, though the locations are still under wraps, include: Madam M, Paradise Grill, Beef Bar — Born in Monte Carlo, BeefTro, and Cafe Paradiso.
In the last year, he also signed Illy Espressamente for the entire Middle East and the first unit was launched in Abu Dhabi.
Restaurants under remit: 8
Size of team: 500
Number of years in the F&B industry: 25
Number of years in the Middle East: 12
22 Paul Evans
Co-founder and CEO, Solutions Leisure
Paul Evans left the financial services sector in 2000, and spent 14 years in Egypt building Solutions Leisure, with the company owning and operating more than 25 F&B outlets, including Ministry of Sound Red Sea and Hed Kandi Beach Bar.
In 2013, Evans and his business partner, Freek Teusink, moved to Dubai and acquired Karma Kafé, and opened Q43 at Media One Hotel six months later.
Evan manages a team of 250 employees, and earlier this year, launched new concept Asia Asia — a pan-Asian restaurant at Dubai Marina’s Pier 7.
Solutions Leisure also formed a joint venture with Horizon Hospitality Holdings, which currently owns and operates 12 casual dining concepts across the UAE. Evans is now focused on developing four signed concepts, due to open in 2015.
F&B outlets UNDER REMIT: 3
Size of team: 250
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 15
23 Evgeny Kuzin
Managing partner, Bulldozer Group
Last year has been rather eventful for Bulldozer Group and its managing partner, Evgeny Kuzin. In the last 12 months, Kuzin opened Toko Dubai in December 2013 with its izakaya style dining and Monaco-based brand Sass Café Dubai in March 2014 with its signature French menu. These added to existing concepts Movida and VIP Room.
The efforts Kuzin and his team have made were recognised in sister title Arabian Business’ Awards and Bulldozer Group won the title of Hospitality Company of the Year.
Kuzin is building on this success by working on launching Novikov — a London eatery located in the Mayfair area — in Dubai in 2015.
After moving to Dubai in 2008, Kuzin noticed a gap in the market for luxury nightlife brands and it was from there that Bulldozer Group was born more than three years ago.
He says he plans to continue with “supplying Dubai with more great venues”.
Restaurants under remit: 4
Size of team: 250
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 10
Number of years in the Middle East: 6
24 Duncan Fraser-Smith
CEO and founding partner, Global Hospitality and The Cutting Edge Agency
This year, Duncan Fraser-Smith has added on to his responsibilities as a consultant by having a stake in a restaurant — Clé Dubai. The venue, headlined by chef Greg Malouf, opened in October 2014 to much fanfare. On the night of the launch, it was announced that the brand would eventually look at expansion.
Fraser-Smith says he’s proud to have taken “a new outlet from block and board to the biggest opening in Dubai in less than nine months”.
He is working on 12 concepts planned for the Middle East. He says his strategy is two-pronged, with concept development and R&D, and operational development of outlets across the region.
We also love the fact that Fraser-Smith is one who always has his nose to the ground of the F&B scene, and if anyone knows of a new project or chef entering the region, it would be him.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 23
Number of years in the Middle East: 7
Size of his team: 140
Restaurants under his remit in the Middle East: 1
25 Dani-Jan Gicquel Billington
Operations manager, RMAL Hospitality
Taking over from Simon Penhaligan, Dani-Jan Billington is no stranger to the F&B industry. Since his move to RMAL Hospitality in the last year, he has worked on the development of Wheelers of St James and Wagamama, while securing new Marco Pierre White (MPW) franchises which are underway, and is looking at the further expansion of Wagamama across the UAE.
He says: “Profit will be higher this year than last with a much better conversion rate to bottom line, trouble sites’ revenue has been improved, and we have secured some great locations for the new sites coming in 2015.”
Billington has revealed he is planning to expand Wagamama by another 5-10 units over the next five years, and carry out a refurbishment of Frankies Bar and Grill, and Trader Vics Madinat Jumeirah, with eight new concepts in the pipeline.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 20
Number of years in the Middle East: 8
Number of years in this role: 1
Size of his team: 275
Restaurants under his remit in the Middle East: 11
26 David O’Brien
Founding partner and director, Ghaf Hospitality Development
David O’Brien has had a very eventful year — he introduced a new F&B concept to the region with Ghaf Kitchen, the first gourmet restaurant on wheels, where he worked closely with local authorities to refine and adapt the concept to the UAE market and created a home-grown brand.After one year in business, the concept has built a strong mix of regular clients along with being the catering partner for a wide range of events.
Right now, O’Brien runs Ghaf Kitchen, Deus Café and Ghaf Gourmet Pop Up, and has four more concepts in the pipeline.
As a consultant, he has helped to develop seven restaurants and bars in Baku, Azerbaijan, for Pasha Construction. In Dubai, in addition to consulting on the first Mahiki Club, O’Brien consulted on and helped launch La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie, Tom & Serg, Frioul Bistro de Luxe and Pacha Ibiza Dubai.
Restaurants under remit: 3
Size of team: 10
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 29
Number of years in the Middle East: 9
27 Russell Impiazzi
Culinary director, food and beverage, Lafayette Gourmet, Galeries Lafayette
Russell Impiazzi is a well-known figure in the region’s F&B industry, and as the culinary director of Lafayette Gourmet has worked on a number of initiatives over the last year that have resulted in profits going up and costs going down.
Impiazzi has implemented a new recipe management system which has more than halved wastage at his operation. In addition, his team is managing the HACCP policy with the Menu Safe team, and is showing a strong staff retention.
And while Lafeyette currently has 10 kitchens with different cuisines working side by side, there are two more concepts in the pipeline, details of which are still under wraps.
Despite a hectic schedule, Impiazzi also made time for his passion of supporting social causes. He co-founded ‘Nourish — Chefs United’ with IHG’s chef Robbie Stokes, an initiative aimed at bringing chefs together for a common cause and raising awareness for breast cancer.
Size of team: 106
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 23
Number of years in the Middle East: 18
28 Scott Price and Nick Alvis
F&B concept development and project management, Spinneys/Albwardy investment group
Scott Price and Nick Alvis joined Albwardy Investment in January 2014, after a successful tenure running Table 9 at Hilton Dubai Creek. They opened their first restaurant under the company this year — Taste Kitchen at Mercato Mall.
Another two will open by the end of 2014 — one in Dubai Silicon Oasis and another at Trade Centre Road Mall.
The duo has successfully built up their own brand in the region — ‘Nick & Scott’ — after working for eight years for Gordon Ramsay.
Price says: “I think Nick and myself were one of the very first to open their own concept with their name above the door in the UAE, which is something we are very proud of.”
Price and Alvis are currently building the Taste Kitchen brand in the UAE, and are also working on future concepts, which they are tight-lipped about.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 21 (SP) and 20 (NA)
Number of years in the Middle East: 5
Restaurants under remit: 1
Size of team: 100
29 Dr Edward Saad
Founder and chairman, Shakespeare and Co
Edward Saad is the man behind Shakespeare and Co. The home-grown brand already has 21 locations and has sprawled across the Middle East region.
What’s exciting is that in addition to three more Shakespeare and Co. locations in the pipeline in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ajman, Dr Saad is working on a brand new concept in 2015 — which we can reveal will be called Pita Social.
The rapid growth and confidence in the concept was further proven when NBK Capital bought into a 49% stake in the company. Saad has since received the MENAFA Award for the 2014 Best MENA Franchise Brand, and also sold five additional franchise locations in the Middle East to partners in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Iraq.
Dr Saad is now going to focus on Asia and also the US. He says: “We are quickly achieving our target of 35-40 locations by 2017 with three more scheduled openings this year and seven scheduled for 2015.”
Size of team: 1050
Restaurants under remit: 21
Number of years in the F&B industry: 16
Number of years in the Middle East: 34
Nationality: Lebanese American
30 Joe Barza
Chef consultant, Joe Barza SARL
Joe Barza is a self-admitted rebel at heart, who in the last year has launched a store for organic ingredients, Bioland, in Lebanon, where he serves as executive chef and partner. In addition he is working on the opening of various restaurants and hotels in Souk Al Waqif in Qatar.
These include Al Kharis Restaurant, Al Assi, Hawa Al Khalij, and Madaloun in Athens. He is also working on another concept called Beb Idris, where he is looking at 20 branch openings between Lebanon, London, Oman and other countries in the Middle East.
Barza is a member of the organising committee of the Dubai World Hospitality Championship, and has invested his energies to further establish the Joe Barza Culinary Consultancy. He is an active member of the Academie Culinaire de France, the German Chefs Association and the organising committee of the Lebanese Salon Culinaire Horeca.
Size of team: 200+
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 28
Number of years in the Middle East: 20
31 Sunjeh Raja
Director and CEO, International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai
Although Sunjeh Raja established ICCA Dubai in 2005, the institution has had an eventful year — it opened its new campus in Knowledge Village in Dubai, and Raja is currently working on the opening of another culinary training centre in Abu Dhabi.
The company also launched an education industry initiative in partnership with the Emirates Culinary Guild, World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), and City & Guilds, London, which aims to benefit under-privileged young chefs in the UAE industry.
The programme has the support of many, including celeb chef Gary Rhodes, Jumeirah Group’s Christian Gradnitzer, Atlantis, The Palm’s Sascha Triemer, and many more — showing the clout and quality of support he has garnered.
Raja says he wants ICCA to “become the leading culinary training provider in the Middle East and redefine the way in which professional and personal culinary training is delivered across the region”.
Size of team: 23
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 10
Number of years in the Middle East: 10
32 Chris Lester
Group executive chef, Jumeirah Group
Last year, Chris Lester was on the Caterer Middle East Power List as executive chef of Caprice Holdings in the Middle East. This year, he’s been promoted within the Jumeirah Group to support Christian Gradnitzer with the culinary management at more than 35 restaurants at some of Jumeirah Group’s hotels — Madinat Jumeirah Resort Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
In the last year, Lester has overseen the relaunch of Pierchic at Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, which opened in October 2014 after a five-month refurbishment.
Lester is now responsible for 650 chefs, and is overseeing the launch of two more restaurants in the coming months; Perry & Blackwelder’s Original Smokehouse in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, currently in soft opening, and a new Indian restaurant with a focus on regional cuisine at Jumeirah Beach Hotel on the site of Al Khayal, which will open at the beginning of next year.
Restaurants under remit: 36
Size of team: 650
Number of years in the F&B industry: 30
Number of years in the Middle East: 11.5
33 Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez
Co-managing directors, Tom & serg
It’s been a year since the social media sensations, Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez opened the hugely popular Tom & Serg in Al Quoz, with its industrial warehouse-style interior and coffee culture.
The duo are now putting the finishing touches to their second outlet, and surprised many by revealing it is not another Tom & Serg outpost. They will open their second café concept called ‘The Sum of Us’ in January 2015. The duo reveal: “It will be a very large café, bakery and coffee roaster all under one roof.”
Not stopping there, they are also working on four “very quirky licensed and unlicensed outlets for 2015, which will focus on turning Dubai’s casual dining scene on its head”. They add: “We plan to change the face of casual dining by going against the grain, thinking outside the square and surprising the city.”
Number of years in the F&B industry: 12 (TA) and 15 (SL)
Number of years in the Middle East: 5 (TA) and 7 (SL)
Nationality: Australian (TA) and Spanish (SL)
Size of the team: 49
Restaurants under remit: 1
Concepts under development : 4 + 1 Confirmed to open in January 2015
34 Yael Gail Mejia
Brand consultant, Baker & Spice Dubai, Foodcraft Solutions
Yael Mejia is responsible for spearheading the very first locally-inspired community-based farmers’ market initiative in Dubai in 2009, with a market “by the farmers, of the farmers and for the farmers”, and all generated income goes to the farmers directly. This is returning for its sixth edition, and will be held at the gardens at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
She is also the brand consultant on Baker & Spice Dubai which now has a total of three outlets and a very successful home catering division. When she joined, it was near closure and one of the main challenges was sourcing local produce.
Fresh ingredients are a constant in Mejia’s kitchen, and after a year of investigation, phoning, cajoling, travelling in the desert, and begging, she finally ended up working with three farms, and continues to push the cause of local in the region’s F&B industry.
Restaurants under remit: 3
Size of team: 130
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 36
Number of years in the Middle East: 6
35 Sebastian Nohse
Director of culinary, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
At the end of last year, Sebastian Nohse moved from his role of Madinat Jumeirah resort executive chef to becoming the director of culinary of the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai. In his new role, Nohse looks after a five-star luxury business hotel with 1600 rooms and banqueting facilities of 1500 pax. Additionally, he oversees 15 restaurants and bars across 29 kitchens, with a team of 340 chefs and 120 stewards.
In the year he has been with the hotel, there has been an increase in guest satisfaction across a period of five months. On the team front, he restructured the culinary team. He has also re-positioned two of the hotel’s restaurants — Izakaya and Positano. After a market analysis, Nohse changed the chefs and the food and service style in both restaurants.
Nohse says: “Izakaya needed to be authentic with a modern presentation and a menu that is interesting enough to compete with Nobu and Zuma in Dubai.”
Restaurants under remit: 15
Size of team: 460
Number of years in the F&B industry: 21
Number of years in the Middle East: 6.5