Caterer Middle East Power 50 2017: Influencers

The results of Caterer Middle East's 2017 Power List

Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants

01. Duncan Fraser-Smith


Director - Global Food and Beverage, The First Group

Duncan Fraser-Smith has worked in Australia, Asia and the Middle East in senior management roles; developing and operating leading-edge, brand-defining High Street and hotel-based outlets, ranging from deconstructed bars, cafes and lifestyle outlets through to traditional steakhouses and contemporary fine dining.

At The First Group as director – global food and beverage, he has created and executed outlets for the group’s newly formed stand-alone food and beverage division, including Local and Barbary at TRYP by Wyndham, Alloro Ristorante and The Blacksmith at Wyndham Dubai Marina. Fraser-Smith works closely with the hotel operators to create disruptive industry concepts that provide  character and value for money.  Price positioning is key for him, with restaurants and bars that disrupt standard pricing structures, so more people can have the experiences more often.

For the coming year, Fraser-Smith is focused on delivering concepts in the premium casual sector that engage the consumer on an emotional level whilst simultaneously delivering exceptional hospitality and ROI.


Number of years in the F&B industry: 26

Employees: 100

Number of Outlets in the Middle East: 10

Coming soon: Six new concepts in Dubai in 2018

02. Donna Benton


Founder & Chairman, The Entertainer

Donna Benton launched The Entertainer in 2001, to make Dubai’s dining and leisure venues more affordable for residents and to drive footfall to the growing number of outlets. The Entertainer’s ‘buy one get one free’ model was designed to mutually benefit both customers and merchants. In a cost-conscious climate market, The Entertainer is often cited as a reason that restaurants have continued to attract customers.

In 2012, the Abraaj Group acquired 50% of The Entertainer - expediting international expansion across Asia, Africa and Europe and the development of an award-winning smartphone app.

From a print publication, The Entertainer has transitioned to the data-driven digital company it is today. To date, customers have redeemed over 12 million mobile offers. Over the last 12 months, redemptions have grown by an impressive 85% YOY, saving customers over AED 502 million ($US 138 million).

2018 will see burgeoning B2B model that produces apps for global brands including Samsung, HSBC and Pepsi.


Number of years in this role: 16

Offices worldwide: 14

Employees: 280

Coming soon: A 100% digital Entertainer

03. Sunjeh Raja


Director & CEO, International Centre for Culinary Arts

Since founding ICCA Dubai, a world-class culinary training centre in 2005, Raja has been spearheading the expansion of the company’s Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) programmes in the international arena. Meanwhile, ICCA Dubai has been consistently raising the standards of culinary training and food service across the region. Raja also heads Fatafeat ICCA Academy Online, a collaborative initiative between food channel Fatafeat and ICCA Dubai.

Scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2018, ICCA – King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Saudi Arabia, is a SAR46 million (US$12.26 million) culinary school project under construction. Also graduating next year is the third batch of young chefs under the ICCA Dubai Culinary Scholarship, an AED1-million CSR initiative that trains and certifies 30 deserving, but underprivileged, candidates for the UAE hospitality industry.


Number of years in this role: 13

Number of years working in the Middle East: 13

Employees: 46

Coming soon: ICCA – King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Saudi Arabia

04. Michael Kitts


Director of Culinary Arts, Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management

In his almost two-decade long stint at EAHM, Kitts has mentored many students and seen the academy break into the top 10 list of hospitality universities around the world.

His career has spanned hotels, banking, hospitality and teaching, but he still gets a great deal of satisfaction from transferring his knowledge and experience to young people who have chosen a culinary vocation. Over the past three years, Kitts has been instrumental in building a rapport with hotels, restaurants and other sectors of the hospitality industry and in setting up the inaugural EAHM Street Food Festival. He has also been a part of judging panels at trade events and award shows such as the Caterer Middle East Awards.

In 2018, Kitts plans to set up culinary and F&B exchange programmes with other major universities globally.


Number of years in this role: 12

Number of years in the company: 17

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 40

05. Orit Mohammed


CEO, Boon Coffee

Orit Mohammed founded Boon Coffee after moving to Dubai, driven by the desire to communicate the story of coffee beyond the caffeine kick.

An organic specialty coffee roaster, Boon Coffee offers 100% pure, single-origin, Arabica coffee beans sourced from Ethiopia.

One of the pioneers in Dubai’s single origin speciality coffee movement, Boon supplies its roasted coffee beans to La Serre and Baker & Spice also operates a retail outlet in Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

Coming from a large family of traditional coffee lovers, Mohammed works closely with Ethiopia’s farming communities, assigning a portion of profits to help educate children there. Her efforts to educate people about speciality coffee and increase demand for it has resulted in increased exports and sales for Ethiopia’s farmers.


Number of years in the company: 05

Number of years working in the Middle East: 10

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 05

06. Becky Balderstone


Founder, Ripe Organic

Becky Balderstone started off the Ripe business in 2011 with ‘seasonal veggie box’ deliveries prepared from one of her farms, and quickly grew the Ripe concept into what it is today – a retail brand running weekly farmers' markets, four retail stores and online store in Dubai, as well as deliveries of fresh, organic fruit, vegetables and a wide range of other organic products across the UAE.

As well as a source of local produce for chefs in the UAE, the initiave served to educate consumers and trade professionals  about the source of their produce.

At the core of Ripe’s philosophy is supporting not only local business owners, but also giving back to the wider community.

Having opened three farm shops and launched the Ripe Own label range, Balderstone looks forward to expanding on Ripe’s own label and opening more farm shops across the region.


Number of years working in the Middle East: 11

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 06

Employees: 65

07. Zoe Bowker


Blogger at, Official Tastemaker for the World's 50 Best Restaurants and Bars

Bowker’s website,, provides inspiration for gastronomes around the globe.  The Dubai-based fine dining and luxury travel expert has covered regional and international establishments. Bowker is an official Tastemaker for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and The World’s 50 Best Bars.  As the only Tastemaker based in the MENA region, her opinion is the one that F&B industry insiders trust.

Last year, she visited 18 countries, sharing her culinary journeys with an audience of 43,000 Instagram followers.

Bowker's vision is to develop as a platform for audiences to discover the world’s best and to guide UAE restaurants and hotels on improving their service, experience and F&B offering.


Number of years in this role: 02

Number of years in the company: 02

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 02

08. Khalil Shadid


Chief Executive Officer, Reserveout

A computer engineer who worked at Cisco Systems and several Fortune 500 companies before starting Reserveout in 2012, Shadid is a tech entrepreneur on a mission to revolutionise the region’s dining scene.

Reserveout shines as a cost-saving tool for restaurants and restaurateurs, allowing them to manage reservations while reaching potential customers. Diners can search, view, and immediately reserve at restaurants through web, mobile and social media platforms, synced in real-time with the restaurant’s reservation and table management system (also built by Reserveout). More than 1,600 restaurants in 10 cities have signed up, making it the most widely used reservations and table management system in the Middle East. For . It works with restaurants in the UK, South Africa, India and China.  By the end of 2020, Reserveout expects to work with 5,000 restaurants all over the world.


Number of years in the company: 05

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 06

Employees: 60

Coming soon: A presence in 5,000 restaurants around the world by 2020

09. Sarah-Jane Grant


Director of LXA, Dubai

One of the region’s most respected design experts, Grant has a passion for F&B, coupled with a dynamic approach that has seen LXA build a formidable reputation in the region. During her seven years at LXA Grant has worked on a variety of fit-outs, redesigns and refurbishments including Asha’s restaurants, Biella Italian restaurants, Chamas, Intersect by Lexus, Jones the Grocer, Le Clos, Salero and Wagamama.

Grant regularly hosts the “Women in Hospitality” lunch series that supports women in the F&B sector and offers an opportunity for informal networking. For LXA, 2018 is about international expansion, with Asia and KSA being two planned markets to focus on. New openings on the cards include Greek restaurant ENA, located at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah, Spikes Bar at the Emirates Golf Club, and the first Jones the Grocer in Shanghai, which will be LXA's first Asian project.


Number of years in this role: 05

Number of years working in the Middle East: 07

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 07

Coming soon: Greek restaurant Ena, located at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah

10. Samantha Wood

British/ Greek-Cypriot

Publisher, Writer, F&B/ Digital Consultant, FooDiva

Seven years ago, Wood left a career in corporate hospitality PR to set up FooDiva (, a website and app for critical, constructive restaurant reviews.  Wood also curates luxury mystery dine-around experiences for UAE residents, visitors and corporates taking in three or more restaurants in one evening. She also creates tailored industry events for artisan food producers and chefs, showcasing best-in-class ingredients to the people that buy them. Her expertise in the UAE’s social media landscape has resulted in a number of projects where she organises culinary influencer trips for clients. Wood is also an independent writer, speaker and awards judge on food, restaurants, hotels, travel and social media. For 2018, Wood plans on expanding the mystery #DineAroundDubai experiences to bespoke events for corporate as well as launching a regular wine column on FooDiva. She aims to make FooDiva the leading guide on UAE restaurants, with the view of expanding internationally to the Far East and Australia.


Number of years in the company: 07

Number of years working in the Middle East: 18

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 13

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