At one point, it was all the rage. Fusion was the ‘it’ word in all things gastronomic. Today, you hardly hear of it. In fact, many ‘discerning’ chefs spurn the very thought now.
We decided that before we write a heartfelt obit to fusion cuisine (it did have its highlights), perhaps the matter needed to be clarified with one of the iconic pioneers in the field - three-star Michelin Chef Pierre Gagnaire.
Ahead of the Dubai Food Festival, he spoke to Gulf News Food team to explain how fusion started as an important culinary movement but ended up as a “mess on the plate”.
Fusion cuisine is cooked by combining ingredients and different cooking methods of two or more different cultures or regions. The origin of which is unclear, but many believe it gained popularity in the United States and Australia, two regions that witnessed unique human immigration.
From fusion and onward, the march continues
Chef Gagnaire said: “Nowadays it’s all about natural, vegetables, vegan… but fusion was not such, it came from Australia. Now with a big mix of vegetables, things are kind of a mess on the plate.”
Chef Gagnaire said: “Nowadays it’s all about natural, vegetables, vegan… but fusion was not such, it came from Australia. Now with a big mix of vegetables, things are kind of a mess on the plate.” This movement was important but like everything else, it's time seems to have passed or in Gagnaire’s words, “finished’’.
A key reason why, in a span of 50 years, his personal culinary journey, especially with fusion cuisine has evolved.
“As a chef, I have my own identity, my style, and my signature.” While adapting to a constantly changing world can be daunting, he draws his culinary insight from global tastes that have changed.
“The world is my garden, but my garden is not just fusion cuisine. For instance, I try to pick products, such as lemon grass, mango, chives, and coriander to reflect my style.
“Nowadays people want to find the product, see the quality of the product, what not. This is a big challenge for restaurants because, honestly, people don't want to pay enough, but they want the best! How do you even… c’est fou! (It is crazy) …it is impossible.”
But, it eventually all comes together because of a secret ingredient. “It is not a business, it is love. We try to bring emotion to the plate. Emotions and values of sincerity and honesty.”
And one day it is all “poof!”
Talk of sincerity and honesty brings the conversation to what definitely sounds like a sore point – social media!
For a competitive industry such as the restaurant and food business, social media has garnered a lot of popularity and reach. Chef Gagnaire said: ‘‘Social media has become of a lot of importance, perhaps too much.
“You have two types of chefs, the celebrity chef and then the Michelin star. I am a Michelin star chef. It is not the same construct.”
His team clarified that someone like Chef Gagnaire would have less followers than celebrity chefs, on Instagram, because he does not really work on/for Instagram to gain followers. It is something additional top chefs have to work with, definitely in today's time, but it is not their goal to be number one on Instagram.
Chef Gagnaire added: “Social media trends… six months it is here, six months there, six months later it’s poof…!”
Dubai and its “world food”
Despite travel and safety measures, what brought Chef Gagnaire and his team to the Dubai Food Festival all the way from France is sheer love. “We love this city, the city is the future, the atmosphere is stable with 200 different nationalities, and this is incredible. I can go to Tokyo, Shanghai, and London and then I can come to Dubai to find all these different cuisines in one city.” Probably the reason, chef calls Dubai food as “world food”.
He has been involved with Dubai’s food festival and the city’s global culinary journey for 13 years. “This shows our stability, confidence with the guests and the relationship we share with them.” Stating how food is one of the reasons for Dubai’s success, Chef Gagnaire said: “Bringing so many nationalities in one place, to speak about the food is incredible!”
While he acknowledges the loss that COVID-19 brought along with many dining out changes, he explains how in Dubai, everything around looks quite normal while “following all the safety protocols”.
So, how is it going to evolve? “Wait and see, we shall see….”
So, if not cooking up a storm in the restaurant, what does he rustle up at home?
Apparently not much. He does not cook much at home. “Maybe two to three times a year,” he added with a chuckle. But when he does cook, his go-to dish is an assortment of chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables; sometimes even a good lobster omelette.
The three-star Michelin Chef shares recipes for Parmesan soufflé with rocket financier and green pepper ice cream and Pomelo Jeruk thai.
What to expect at the Dubai Food Festival 2021
The eighth edition of the Dubai Food Festival (DFF) is on from March 25 to April 17, the annual festival of food, which will bring you the best of Dubai’s local food scene at discounted prices.
The DFF will showcase world famous chefs, global restaurant brands, street food and home-grown restaurants inspired by the over 200 nationalities living in Dubai. It will feature more than 3,500 restaurants and food experiences, with focus on rich culinary diversity and authentic and homegrown cuisine.
All dining experiences, events and activations during DFF will follow prevailing safety protocols and social distancing guidelines to ensure a safe experience for all.
Mouth-watering prices at the Dubai Restaurant Week (DRW)
From March 25 to April 10, food-lovers will have the chance to experience Dubai’s most-renowned restaurants with exclusive lunch and dinner menus. Two-course lunches starting at just Dh95, while premium three-course dinner experiences will start at Dh150.
The specially curated menus will feature many of Dubai’s top chefs and restaurants and their signature dishes at half the cost! This year, diners will be able to choose from a selection of restaurants including COYA, Bread Street Kitchen, Hakkasan, Toro Toro, Nobu, Torno Subito, Buddha Bar, Chicago Meatpackers, Hotel Cartagena, Indya by Vineet, Rockfish, Rhodes W1 and Seafire.
To celebrate resident-favourite pocket-friendly eats, DFF will be releasing a list of 32 of the best Hidden Gems in the city. The event will feature a variety of cuisine from Emirati and Indian to American and Lebanese from March 25 to April 10.
Mall events and citywide attractions
Malls and attractions around the city will be offering exclusive dining deals, experiences and fun for the whole family from March 25 to April 10. Head to City Walk, Mercato Shopping Mall, The Beach, La Mer, The Pointe and The Dubai Mall for pocket-friendly gastronomy experiences on these dates.
Staycations are so 2019 (since 2020 never happened), it’s time for a foodcation! Enjoy a great stay and amazing food at some of the city’s finest hotels, from March 25 to April 17. Hotels participating include The Meydan Hotel, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, Armani Hotel Dubai, Grand Hyatt Dubai, and much more.
Dubai’s most anticipated masterclasses, chef’s tables and experimental dining experiences will return in unique venues across the city.
With more than 20 gourmet experiences to pick from, residents and visitors can choose from a variety of experiences, including a desert dining experience with Platinum Heritage, BOCA’s Chef’s Table including an imaginative Spanish-influenced tasting menu as well as BOCA’s Paella Masterclass, and much more.
Dine and win
Spend Dh50 at up to 2,800 participating outlets between March 25 and April 17 for a chance of winning a three-month Zomato Pro membership and the grand prize, a GAC GS3 SUV! The winner will be announced on the April 17, 2021.
Shoppers in the city will get a chance to win a years’ worth of groceries at selected hypermarkets including Waitrose, Spinneys and Lulu-Hypermarket when they spend Dh250 or more. Winners will be chosen and announced in a raffle draw on April 17, 2021.
What about pop-up food outlets and food trucks?
Not yet. This year, the Etisalat Beach Canteen, which is the flagship event of DFF, will only return between October and December 2021. By the last quarter of the year, visitors and residents can enjoy the city’s new and home-grown restaurants as winter weather returns. The much-loved culinary event will feature food trucks, pop-up shops and family friendly food events to look forward to. Dates and ticket costs are yet to be announced.