This weekend I caught-up with the eternally charming Gary Rhodes– chef, celebrity, restaurateur and author. Over the years, Gary has served as an ambassador for British cuisine. He did what no other chef was able to do—reinvent classic dishes and introduce the globe to a culinary heritage that was once dismissed as stodgy and boring. He has also acquired somewhat of a restaurant empire which have earned him a constellation of Michelin stars, including three restaurants in Dubai and another one set to open later this year in Abu Dhabi. Keep reading to find out who’s his “chef crush,” and what he really eats at home…
DB: So many other chefs have had to depart Dubai, what do you think is the reason for your continuing success in the Emirates?
I am heavily involved in the restaurants here. Gordon Ramsey, who I have the utmost respect for…perhaps his irregular visits to the region played a part in his restaurant closing. Every project that carries my name represents me. I try to be here [in Dubai] as much a possible. Last year I spent about 4 months of the year here.
DB: What’s next? What do Gary Rhodes’ fans have to look forward to?
We’re opening a new restaurant in the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi. It’ll be distinctly different from the Dubai restaurants. It will have more of an Arabic influence.
DB: What is the first thing you ever learned to cook? How old were you, and was it any good?
My mother taught me how to cook, and the first savory item I learned to make was a shepherd’s pie. The first dessert was a lemon sponge cake with a lemon sauce. I still make them, the same recipes with a few tweaks. I started cooking with her when I was about 7 or 8 years old, and by the time I was 13 or 14, I had perfected those dishes.
DB: What’s the best advice or cooking tip you have for a home cook?
Eat simply. The simplest things are often the finest. Don’t overmask flavors. Buy in-season. The ingredient will express itself, it needs little help. For example, English asparagus is best in May/June and all you need to do is steam it and serve it with a bit of butter. Delicious.
DB: What dish have you created that you’re most proud of?
That’s a difficult question because so many recipes are built upon other recipes. I, of course, didn’t invent bread and butter pudding. But I don’t believe there is a better bread and butter pudding in any part of the world than the one we serve in our restaurants.
DB: What is the dish you’re least proud of? Did anything ever wind up on a menu that you regret?
I’m not telling.
DB: Is there a dish that you wish you’d invented?
There have been many times over the years where I’ve eaten at Guy Savoy in Paris. Every time I go there, I get excited and buzzed and at the same as the high I think, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”
DB: Do you have a foodie crush on any other chefs?
I look up to the Roux brothers in London. They elevated London cuisine before any one else and have trained Marco Pierre White, and Gordon Ramsey. They really are geniuses.
DB: Gourmands like to keep their food clean. Is there any low-brow or junk food that you indulge in as a guilty pleasure?
I do not go to fast food, I’ve banned places like McDonalds. Now of course, when I was 18 and I couldn’t afford anything else, I’d eat fast food. But I do enjoy having a Heinz tomato soup out of the can, with a ham and cheese sandwich that I dip in the soup. And of course, baked beans… everybody eats baked beans.
DB: What would be your last meal?
I’d dine with Marilyn Monroe, Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr, Sir Alex Ferguson and, of course, my wife. We’d eat braised oxtail, and a lots of creamy mashed potatoes out of a big bowl. I’d be wearing an Armani suit but I would eat the oxtail with my hands and let it dribble down my shirt. And it wouldn’t matter because it would be my last meal, and as far as I’m concerned, I’d be eating with style.