The place of food trends (raw, organic, hormones) in the future of creating culinary experiences
A testament to the success of his healthy approach to fine dining, chef Heinz Beck celebrates five years in Dubai
Eduan R. Maggo
In a city that’s built a reputation on the shiny and new, legacy hasn’t always been prized. Which puts chef Heinz Beck in a very exclusive circle as he celebrates his fifth anniversary in Dubai.
Looking back, he can’t but marvel at how much things have changed since he opened Social by Heinz Beck at the Waldorf Astoria on the Palm Jumeirah. “Everything was much more difficult five years ago,” he tells Debonair. “Obviously there were less suppliers, less producers. And as these numbers rise year after year, they become more competitive. And the quality will rise.”
Similarly, he welcomes the mushrooming of the emirate’s fine-dining scene. Given that diners have more options today than ever before, it drives players in this market to perfect their game. Continued success has eluded many in this market. “The typical lifetime is around three years,” he says.
Social, on the contrary, has just been renewed for another five years. “This is really positive, and we’re very happy with that. It means we’re doing something right — if we weren’t successful, they would have closed it.
“The Dubai market is very competitive. Add to that the fact that we’re located right at the end of the Palm in an unusual spot. With so many new restaurants opening, and in more accessible places, our success is only possible through quality food and quality service. If diners aren’t won over by your offering, they won’t travel here.”
Beck ascribes much of the appeal of his contemporary Italian gastronomy to the healthy approach he’s taken to fine dining for the past 20-odd years, which fits the general trend towards eating healthier these days. “What I’m doing is a very light and healthy cooking of Mediterranean flavours. I’ve done a lot of research with medical personnel over the years to ensure my dishes are very easy to digest.
“It is possible to present really flavourful dishes that tick all the emotional boxes but that you won’t regret eating afterwards.”
The German-born chef, who’s made Italy his home, says his dishes are carefully balanced with diners in mind. “We put the client at the centre of everything we do.”
Beck’s flagship venue is La Pergola, Rome’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant. This is where most of the dishes on the menu at Social and celebrated restaurants such as London’s Michelin-starred Apsleys originate. “We create an enormous number of dishes every year. It’s all about inspiration, which can strike at any moment. We take those ideas into the kitchen and distil and rework it until we’re happy with the result.”
Raspberry 1.1, a creative presentation of that one ingredient in 11 different ways.
For Social’s anniversary celebrations Beck presented a 10-course tasting menu, with some of the highlights, including his take on the Roman classic Fagotelli carbonara, from 2015. Instead of adding a heavy sauce over the pasta, he fills pouches of freshly made pasta with a cream sauce, and finishes it with light olive oil.
Last year’s foie gras creation started the show, and 2014’s Raspberry 1.1, a creative presentation of that one ingredient in 11 different ways, concluded things. Despite the fact that ingredients are more readily available here these days, the one product Beck wishes could be grown here is artichoke. “I love its flavour and versatility,” he says.
His favourite dish pairs it with fresh peas, white asparagus and beautiful pan-seared scallops, although he’s also partial to scallop carpaccio with chives and Iranian caviar. “I’m inspired by products, because you need perfect ingredients to get beautiful dishes,” Beck says. “Then your mood also plays a part.
“But we’re very happy about what we’re creating — happy dishes. Nothing too heavy, nothing too boring.”
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