Dubai: It's been three days of celebration. Three days of bringing communities together. Three days of culinary discovery. Taste of Dubai in partnership with Philips, held from February 3 to 5, is a success for the UAE's F&B industry, and a time for people to "celebrate life to the fullest".
As international chef Jason Atherton told Gulf News: "Food brings communities together, allows everyone to share a lot of love, gather together, and celebrate life to the fullest - food gives that opportunity for all cultures, especially post COVID-19... privileged to be part of that.
Watch Taste of Dubai Day 3 highlights
"Dubai is the city of dreams," said the chef and avid golfer, who met and married his wife 20 years' ago in Dubai. He was working as Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at that point and today has several restaurants of his own in the UAE.
The final day of Taste of Dubai in partnership with Philips, on February 5, left people wishing it lasted a few more days. Food enthusiasts got to meet and cook with some top celebrity chefs from around the world. The chefs said the festival this year was bigger and better than ever. They believe Dubai’s culinary scene is only going to get more diverse and evolved.
Michelin-starred Chef Akmal Anuar from Singapore, pointing at the long queue in front of his restaurant, 11 Woodfire at Taste of Dubai, told Gulf News: “I wish there were two more days of Taste of Dubai! People seem very happy and enthusiastic about going out and enjoying the weather and good food.”
The chef has been in the food industry in the UAE for over a decade and owns five restaurants in the country. He said: “Ever since I’ve been here [in the UAE], the food scene is changing and evolving. The number of new restaurants just keeps growing.”
More from Taste of Dubai
- Video: Hundreds of gourmets flock to Taste of Dubai on day 1, enjoy free cooking sessions
- Gulf News Food Editor wins cooking challenge on day 1 of Taste of Dubai
- Video: Discovering dishes, massive turnout, food from across the world on day 2 of Taste of Dubai
- Complete guide to Taste of Dubai, set to take place this weekend, from February 3 to 5
Talking about the future of the restaurant business in the city, he said: “In Dubai, with the introduction of the Michelin Guide, the competition will grow. The level of creativity will also increase and people will have more and more choices of places to eat from. Food business owners can take advantage of this if they understand the market and be a lot bit different.”
Wagyu beef, seafood, fusion and new restaurants
Mohammed Rahil Aga, Executive Chef at Carnival by Tresind, who has been in the industry for 18 years, agreed: “It’s great exposure for those who want to try out different cuisines and for us [in the restaurant industry], it’s a lot of practice for our service staff, and for instance, my junior chefs. This kind of an event should happen twice a year.”
Speaking about what he learnt during the three-day festival, Aga said: “We got to know what’s happening in the city, how people’s preferences are changing. Right now, for example, the Wagyu beef and seafood dishes are selling out the most across the stalls.
“The food scene in Dubai is diverse, colourful and experimental. People are creating fusions and not sticking to recipes and that does best here, I believe. Chefs are using new ingredients and flavour profiles and this is what people are liking about it.”
Chef Tom Aviv, visiting from Israel, said that Dubai is amazing. He said: "It is my first time in Dubai and to experience Taste of Dubai, coming from Israel, I have to say that the event is amazing. Dubai city, the people here are amazing. It is very safe here and there’s a lot of nationalities in Dubai and you can find a variety of food from different cuisines in Dubai. Everything is here from everywhere from top chefs and they need to perform really good to be elevated here.
"I have never been here before and it was not my plan to open a restaurant in Dubai but after experiencing the Taste of Dubai, now I am interested to open a restaurant, so yes, I will in Dubai ...soon!"
A sentiment shared by Australian-British celebrity chef John Torode. He said: “The festival has been amazing! I love that it has so many different cuisines and people, and the number of different restaurants here. Everyone is smiling, and everyone is happy. Especially with the cooking classes, we got to meet and interact with so many people.”
Talking about the various dining options around Dubai, he added: “Whenever we are eating out in Dubai, the experience has been wonderful. Plus, it’s great to see people doing food outdoors...."
Celebrity Chef Jenny Morris, also known as "The Giggling Gourmet", who won many hearts at the Taste of Dubai, said: “This year the festival was bigger and better than ever. This festival always makes me so happy. I have been coming for about 10 years now.
“What I love about the festival is that it is well represented from a restaurant point of view. There are some great talents and many more chefs now. People love the kind of hands-on experience they get here.”
A regular UAE visitor, the chef from South Africa added: “Dubai is very global it’s got everything from everywhere. But, when I come to Dubai, the first thing I do is head to Bur Dubai to a small shop there for its wonderful kebabs. I have been going there since 2006. I love to enjoy what’s local.”
Another thing she said she can’t find in South Africa but loves to get from Dubai is Ahmad Tea. “The day we landed, my friend and I went to the supermarket and got our stock of tea,” added the chef.
Trying out new dishes
Adam Rees, a British expatriate based in Dubai said that this was the first time he was attending the food festival. The atmosphere is amazing, and the selection of food is great.
Rees who tried the food at the kiosk by Michelin-started chef Akira Back added: “I enjoyed an octopus dish and their truffle tuna tacos. The service was great too.”
A resident of Dubai for nine years, he said the inclusivity at the Taste of Dubai is something that impressed him.
First-time visitors Lauren Byrne and Jaime Morton said they were pleasantly surprised.
“We had no idea there was so much happening and how big this festival was,” said Byrne an expatriate from Ireland.
Her friend, Morton, an expatriate from the US added that she was impressed with the mix of cuisines and cultures at Taste of Dubai. “There are so many cultures and their foods coming together. We tried vegan food and some great Chinese food. I tried fish and chips from the UK, Mexican mango, and Korean gimbap for the first time,” she said.
“Everyone’s really positive, nice, and helpful. The organisers have done a great job with the maintenance of the place considering how many people are attending. There’s no trash around, it’s so clean. Everything from the music to the different events is well taken care of,” said Morton who has been working in Dubai for seven years.
“It’s wonderful how many well-established well-reviewed restaurants and very high-end hotels are here alongside local and smaller eateries and stores. You can taste things from so many places. It is, literally, Taste of Dubai,” the Byrne added, with plans to attend the event on all three days next year.
Pakistani expatriate Gulzar Ahmed attended the festival with his wife, Sadia Gulzar. The duo had registered for the Waterfront Market BBQ School.
Ahmed said: “We had so much fun learning how to perfectly grill chicken with the wonderful chef, Jenny Morris.”
Sadia said: “The music is great, the weather is great and we learnt how to properly barbecue, which we love doing in this weather. I’m definitely coming back next year for more classes.”
British expat Natasha Brammer is new to Dubai and she was at Taste of Dubai in partnership with Philips with her friend. Talking to Gulf News, she said: "I am new to this event and the vibe is totally refreshing. I love to cook food and here we were strolling through all the food counters to try different food. I love being outdoors.The event is so exciting ...I'm happy to be here."
Anette Kamp Graakjaer from Denmark and Anastasiia Papertnaia from Russia were also attending Taste of Dubai for the first time. Talking to Gulf News, Graakjaer said: "I am in Dubai for the past seven years, but I haven't been to the event. This is my first time and I'm enjoying the time with my friend. It is very lively and the music is so exciting. Plus food is amazing here. It's a weekend well spent."
Looking forward to next year
Anju Chadda, Events Director, MENA Live Events, said: “What a weekend it's been! We've welcomed over 15,000 foodies who've enjoyed plenty of food, music, unique cooking experiences, and more.
“We wanted to bring you the best Taste experience possible, and we hope this year's festival was one you enjoyed as much as we did!
"We can't wait to be back next year for even more family fun, food, and fantastic entertainment. See you in 2024!”