Last Bite: Hari Nayak
The New York-based chef, author and restaurateur talks about concepts, culture and his advice for young chefs
You’re based in the US. How often do you come to Dubai?
I am based in the US. I have been living in the NY area for the last 20 years since I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. Before this project came along, I used to visit Dubai mostly as a tourist. I have done a few pop-up events in the past at the Royal Mirage. I have been here four times in the last six months. I plan to be here very often to take care of the exciting projects I have lined up.
House of Curry has recently been rebranded to Bombay Bungalow. Can you describe the new concept?
Bombay Bungalow is a casual Indian concept serving reimagined traditional Indian dishes. We are not trying to reinvent this age old cuisine. We have made it very approachable and exciting. The space is very homely and welcoming and has hints of the old world bungalows of India with a modern touch. The culinary direction is very important to me; we are focused on consistent quality and clean presentations.
What are some standout dishes on the new menu?
Burrata butter chicken, ghee roast coconut crab, calamari bhel and tellicherry beef ribs.
What has the feedback been from customers so far?
The feedback has been amazing and we already have our regulars! I am very excited to see a lot of images on social media from our guests. Our dishes not only look great, they are consistent and delicious!
How would you describe the food scene in Dubai?
For me Dubai has always been one the hottest food destinations in the world. I’ve always wanted to be part of it. Coming from NYC which is known to be a food capital, Dubai is fascinating, it has a lot to offer. I love the local food scene especially the Middle Eastern style of communal dining.
What are the main differences between running restaurants in the US and the UAE?
The main difference between the two countries is cultural. We need to be very mindful about clientele here in Dubai when we plan the menus, much more than the US locations. We are blessed with seasons and seasonal ingredients in the US, as a chef it is very exciting. But at the end of the day challenges for a restaurant operator are universal and same around the world. It’s hard work and rewarding.
Do you have any new restaurant openings planned in the region?
Yes, apart from Bombay Bungalow, we are planning to open an exciting modern Indian concept called Masti Cocktails and Cuisine. It is scheduled to open later this year in Le Mer.
Do you have any advice for young or aspiring chefs?
Learn how to hustle! Always try to do more than anyone else out there. Be patient. There is no short cut. Master the basics, give your dues and take the time to be hands-on. Always try to be yourself and never stop learning.
What are you working on next?
I am getting ready to release my seventh cookbook Spice Trail, 100 modern global recipes to excite & inspire home cooks. We are planning to expand the home-grown concept Bombay Bungalow to other cities and I’m working on a exciting new concept in NYC scheduled for early 2018.