Debonair steps into the kitchen with the chef behind Michelin-starred Junoon, as he opens Kinara in Dubai
The place of food trends (raw, organic, hormones) in the future of creating culinary experiences
The executive chef of Miss Lily’s weighs in on his approach to developing award-winning dishes while balancing contemporaneous food trends. With more than two decades of kitchen wizardry under his belt, he shares his three secret ingredients to success in a dynamic, volatile craft:
It is critical to be mindful to guests, as we are accountable for the food consumed in our restaurants. Many guests trust that the gatekeepers of any restaurant are buying wholesome foods from reliable sources. Where most fine-dining institutions focus on the best version of ingredients, casual dining concepts may have a mandate to focus more heavily on authenticity and soulful cooking.
We took a hard-line approach of only bringing things you would see in a Jamaican yard to the table, meaning we dedicated time and resources to importing ingredients such as pickapeppa sauce and other classic seasonings all the way from Jamaica. Sometimes the typical way to do things for a chef’s technique collides with the authentic method of the cultural cuisine, but what takes precedent is that the flavor has to be inspired from the source, even if the ingredient is hard to access, or produce is limited and hence more costly.
Therefore, it’s always our mission to take into account all considerations when making purchasing decisions. The most impactful ingredient when we are building a menu is surrounding oneself with our team of creative, diverse thinkers and problem solvers.
Trends represent an overwhelming agreement in the court of public opinion. However, this doesn’t necessarily equate to harmony for all trends at all restaurants. The best path to balance demands and trends would be continuous improvement, innovation in method of operations well as listening to guest feedback and taking action when needed.
As a Jamaican restaurant, we tell a story though our cooking, so it works out well when we have a traditional dish like the smoked mushroom roti that we’re introducing soon – that happens to be vegan, with the use of Caribbean influences. This dish has a warm, spice feel and if filled with Miss Lily’s version of sauerkraut, purple cabbage cooked in sorrel tea spiked with all-spice berry and ginger and topped with a creamy cashew cheese all tucked in a homemade roti skin. Here we focused on creating a good dish that vegans can eat vs having a vegan dish, it stands on its own merit.
In our opinion, a trend is only successful when it aligns with the narrative of our approach to cooking. For example, we’re looking at introducing a new menu to celebrate Miss Lily’s third anniversary, which will have new dishes that are inspired by the Caribbean, cooked in authentic Jamaican style but coincidentally lean towards a more veggie and protein-focused menu.
Accessibility and healthier choices will be the most dominating trends. However, the more unique a restaurant is, the less it may be affected by trends.
The future depends on guest’s expectations, they are ultimately charting the course of all of trends. Chefs and restaurateurs will need to navigate accordingly. This is because many of these restaurants have become very personal to the creative force driving the energy. Every single successful business has an essential team pushing to captivate an audience. All team members including the chef and staff, working together as leaders.
Many restaurants who reach the nirvana of being untouchable aren’t on easy street for long as they have to consistently lead, surprise not only their customers but the entire industry and the pressure is on. It takes the hardest amount of work to be immune to trend. This is where conceptual dining is more than an eatery, as at some point, a select few restaurants that are regarded for their individuality become tastemaker’s vs trend followers.
The added value of providing a unique experience can often overcome guests preset expectations and as the industry learns to navigate this, we see menu curation really evolve. Such establishments may become immune to market conditions and trends become less significant to the success of the restaurant. These restaurants are typically purchasing responsibly, and handle ingredients with much care and respect.
Often a customer’s expectation is high — irrespective of your price point. The relationship between value for money and perception is just as important, irrespective of the sector because consumers want a return on their dollar. In fact, some venues that are more accessible are sometimes even more critically held because consumers often associate a sense of reliability on your because they’re regular patrons that have adapted our food as a staple in their daily dining routines.
Constant self-improvement is key at this stage as the worst thing you can do as a trendsetter is shift to a follower. Advice on how to survive is keep your head down, do good honest work and do your best to inspire people.
Debonair steps into the kitchen with the celebrated chef behind New York’s two-Michelin-star Marea, which recently opened an outpost in Dubai
Debonair steps behind the oven with the only female Emirati pastry chef in the region, who plies her trade at the Burj Al Arab