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Food & Drink

“If any lady thinks marrying a chef will get her out of the kitchen, think again!”

Also, it’s wrong to eat shark. So says Chef Colin Clague, who shares his thoughts on life in the kitchen

Sharp knives are indispensable. A good set of knives, well looked after, will last you years. Knowing how to use knives properly is half the battle in being a decent cook.

Having overseen some of the best known and loved restaurants in Dubai including Jean Gorges, Zuma and Qbara, Chef Colin Clague added the homegrown Rüya Dubai — the Anatolian fusion restaurant in Grosvenor House in Dubai Marina — when he launched it last year.

Known for bringing high-end Anatolian cuisine to Dubai, Chef Clague was nominated last year for the globally-recognised The Best Chef Award.

Now, the Executive Chef at Rüya Dubai, is bringing back the Friday brunch. Ahead of the re-launch at Grosvenor House tomorrow, and before tasting what Rüya Dubai has to offer for the Friday crowd, we caught up with the man running the show from the kitchen to talk all things gastronomy.

Does a man who cooks win brownie points at home?

I’m sure he does; however, most Chefs spend more time at work and are seldom at home. If any lady thinks marrying a chef will get her out of the kitchen, think again! If you ask my wife she will tell you she is a single mother, and when you’re lucky you will get the odd celebratory meal. But all men should know how to cook, I still think it should be compulsory at school.

What’s your top life hack for the layman in the kitchen?

Plan ahead, start of simple, and perfect the basics before trying anything fancy.

What’s your one indispensable kitchen implement?

Sharp knives are indispensable. A good set of knives, well looked after, will last you years. Knowing how to use knives properly is half the battle in being a decent cook.

Sharp knives are indispensable. A good set of knives, well looked after, will last you years. Knowing how to use knives properly is half the battle in being a decent cook.

Whole grilled sea bream, fresh from Chef Colin Clague’s kitchen at Rüya Dubai , Grosvenor House, Marina.

Professional kitchens are renowned as stressful environments. How do you handle the pressure?

At the end of the day, a good glass of wine seems to help. But, pressure never goes away, especially now we have more than one restaurant. I spend a lot of my time travelling to make sure I provide all the support and coaching needed to the teams. Nevertheless, we have hired and trained professionals who can handle the daily pressure of providing the perfect essence and food which makes it a lot easier.

How did you enter the industry?

I think it’s fair to say I was always heading towards a hands-on career, academics wasn’t really me. My mother was a chef so I followed her. I started washing pots in the local hotel at 14, and slowly wormed my way into the kitchen. I then enrolled at the Isle of Man college doing a catering diploma, and straight after I was off to London, and I haven't stopped travelling since.

Brunch o'clock

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How often do you cook outside the workplace?

To be brutally honest: very little! My wife Farah is a fabulous cook and she tends to cook for the kids. However I do take the initiative to cook if we have friends coming over or if we are having a BBQ.

What’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at and what made it memorable?

The most memorable restaurant I’ve been to is “Per Se” in New York, USA. I dined in with my colleague Nick and we both ordered the 12-course set menu with matching wines. The place and food were exceptional as both of us had completely different dishes. As chefs we had to share the food, so we tried 24 different dishes that night and we couldn’t spot a single fault, even the staff where amazingly welcoming and on the spot.

Conversely, what would you never eat again?

Ideally, I’d never think of eating whale or shark as I feel it is not right to do so. I also believe that these creatures are beautiful and where they belong: in the sea. However, I was once invited to a fine dining restaurant in Japan where I tried something that turned out to be whale. I wasn’t happy that I had been tricked, even if it was delicious, I wouldn’t eat it again knowingly.

What new trends are you seeing, and how do you feel about and respond to them?

I am not sure if it’s a trend, but I have witnessed a lot of smaller more manageable restaurants coming up. Globally, there is a chronic shortage of Chefs and every restaurant in Europe is crying out for them. Sadly, it’s near impossible to get visas for some of the talented Chefs we have over here, and don’t get me started me on what will happen to restaurants in the UK after Brexit!

Who’d you invite to your ideal dinner table?

If you are excluding wives and family members, it would be a mix of everything: sport, comedy, politics. Something like Billy Connolly and Micky Flanagan for the laughs. Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams for the sport. And Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Corbyn for the truth.

If you could choose your final meal, what would it be? 

There’s a lot to choose from… Turkish breakfast on the Bosphorus, Japanese in Kyoto, Fish and Chips next to Peel Castle on the Isle of Man… I can’t choose. Every meal is memorable.

What’s your earliest food memory?

I still remember those days when I used to join my father and my grandfather on fishing trips to catch mackerel and cod. I can't really remember if the sea was so generous or we were incredible fishermen, but what I can't forget are the fun moments and excitement we experienced when we caught fish.

The unforgettable part was the end of the journey when we would take the fish home to my mother who used her magic techniques to cook them. Captivated, I used to watch her cleaning and cutting the fish. I also helped sometimes by lightly coating the base of our frying pans with olive oil so the fish won’t stick and then my mother will season it with salt before we fried them enjoy the incredible fresh taste.

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