08 4 / 2012

peter gordon

London-based Kiwi chef Peter Gordon has restaurants in London, Auckland and Istanbul, recently published his eighth cookbook, Fusion, and is lauded by food writers the world over as the king of fusion cuisine. What’s On food editor Gareth Rees sat down for an espresso with the affable chef during his recent visit to Jones The Grocer in Dubai…

What’s On: So, Peter, what exactly is fusion cuisine? Are we talking curry and Cornflakes?

Peter Gordon: No, no. All the world’s great cuisinesare a fusion to a certain degree. Fusion looks at the world’s ingredients, ignores where they come from and tries to find a way to bring them together in harmony. I believe that regional boundaries mean nothing, and that all the different flavours can work together with a bit of thoughtful planning.

WO: You were born in New Zealand, a country that produces plenty of top quality produce. What sparked your interest in fusing ingredients from all over the world?

PG: I was raised in a family that grew a lot of its own vegetables; we butchered our own animals in the garage and made soap out of the beef fat. A typical 1960s New Zealand family – it was quite normal to do all of that. Then I moved to Australia as an 18 year old, and Melbourne was a place of amazing cultural diversity. There were Greeks, Italians, Moroccans, French – just everybody. I was so excited by all of these new flavours and ingredients that when it came to cooking for my mates, or even just myself, I would opened the cupboard and cook everything that was in there.

WO: Fusion cuisine can be a complete disaster with the wrong chef behind the stove, though, surely?

PG: A good cook, given any ingredients, will look at the characteristics of those ingredients and work from there. I read recently that when the Jerusalem artichoke first arrived in Europe it was used often in desserts such as crème brulee, so it was seen as having quite a sweet characteristic. But if any restaurant in Dubai put Jerusalem artichoke in a crème brulee or panna cotta now, people would say, “oh lord, that’s some weird fusion”. But it was actually done a few hundred years ago.

WO: So it’s just a matter of perception, then?

PG: Yes, I suppose it is. If you look at Thai cuisine, for example, Thais use a lot of sugar in their savoury dishes. So you will have a lovely beef salad with a palm sugar and lime juice dressing. Or you might have fishthat has been glazed with sugar syrup. But if you said to a German, “I want to put sugar on your savoury food” he would think you were bonkers. All cultures have a lot to offer, and I always keep my eyes and ears open to see what other people are doing.

WO: You mentioned earlier that you grew up eating ingredients you had grown or reared yourself – truly local produce. Isn’t using ingredients imported from across the globe terrible for the environment?

PG: I was invited on to Canadian radio to debate with a chef from Toronto – a supporter of the ‘locavore’ movement [those who believe in using locally produced produce] – and he argued that using all of these different ingredients wasn’t sustainable. But, if you take New Zealand lamb, for example, it is more sustainable than Welsh lamb – the carbon footprint for British lamb is three times that of a New Zealand lamb. People can’t quite believe that, because it’s from so far away, but it’s true. All the sheep in New Zealand are free range, most of our electricity is generated through hydroelectric power, whereas in the UK it’s generated by fossil fuels. So you can use food that’s from a long way away that is, in fact, more sustainable than local produce. I also asked him if he served coffee in his restaurant, and of course he did. If you lived in Brisbane, Australia, being a locavore would be easy, because everything is grown there, but all you have in Britain in winter is swedes and turnips. If you lived in central China, you couldn’t have seafood. It’s just not going to work. I have my own set of rules when it comes to sustainability.

WO: With ingredients from all over the world available here, Dubai is the perfect destination for fusion cuisine. Any plans to revisit?

PG: It is. You have a lot of different ingredients, people from different cultures and a mix of different cuisines. This is just trip number one, so we’ll have to see. 

Peter Gordon’s book Fusion is available now at Jones The Grocer

10 1 / 2012

Turkish snapper Nazif Topcuoglu’s Innerscapes exhibition opens tomorrow at Dubai’s Green Art Gallery

Jan 11 to Mar 3, Innerscapes, Green Art Gallery, Al Quoz 1, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue, Unit 28, Dubai. Tel: (04) 3469305. gagallery.wordpress.com 

15 12 / 2011

Stadium-packing soft-rockers, Snow Patrol, have confirmed their debut UAE gig, as they fly in to headline the Sandance Festival on Atlantis’s Nasimi Beach on March 9.  

The Northern–Irish five-piece, will be joined by superstar DJs Calvin Harris and Erick Morrillo making quite a case for this arguably being Sandance’s most star-studded line-up to date. 

One thing is for certain though – we’ll be there, and you can join us too, just remember to stay tuned and keep picking up What’s On.   

Mar 9, Sandance, Nasimi beach, Atlantis hotel, the Palm, Dubai, Dhs250, 2pm to 2am. sandance.ae

15 12 / 2011

Dubai-based Iranian artist Arezu on her new exhibition, Trespassing, at Dubai’s XVA Gallery

First things first. Why do you only go by your first name?

I find first names to be very intimate and personal and that’s what my work is all about.

You were born in Iran. How does that affect your work?

It all started with painting. I started painting when I was 19 and I was living in Iran. I joined Taha Behbahani’s painting class; he is a world renowned surreal painter and sculptor. Some years after I took a photography course at University, and since then I haven’t been able to put my camera down.

 How would you describe your work?

 I work with elements of obscurity and ambiguity. I would like to leave the audience with hidden stories, un-answered questions and deep thoughts.

 Do people ever react negatively?

I don’t expect people to always agree with me; I am not looking for confirmation. Instead I would like to bring new perspectives of looking at life, and give enough space to people to find their own stories in my work.

 Crows and ravens are generally associated with death. Where does this element of darkness come from?

The crows in my work are a metaphor for freedom and anonymity.  I like working with paradoxes. I’m showing two separate sets of images in the exhibition and one is the opposite of the other.

You talk about freedom and space yet the characters within your portraits seem trapped. An interesting contradiction…

I choose to tell stories with something that is not there. If everything I want to say already exists in the picture, then there is no space for the viewer to explore.

From Dec 13, Tresspassing, XVA Gallery, DIFC, Dubai, Sun to Thur 11am to 7pm, Sat noon to 6pm, free. Tel: (04) 3585117. xvagallery.com

Look out for Arezu in our The Future Of Dubai Art feature in the upcoming January issue of What’s On

21 11 / 2011

We chatted to celeb chef Atul Kochhar at the opening of the latest incarnation of his Dubai chain restaurant Zafran. The first Indian chef to win a Michelin star talks about his new menu, why it’s OK to open a restaurant in a mall and plans for a high-end restaurant in Dubai

What influence have you had on the menu at Zafran?
I have created the menu for Zafran with the assistance of my talented team. We are very proud of the final offering.

What can people expect from the food?
Zafran’s cuisine is authentic but not traditional, so the menu offers a mix of old and new Indian cuisine.  We combine bold yet simple flavours to create new twists on Indian classics. I am in town at least three or four times each year to work on the menu. 

A lot of big name chefs put their name to restaurants but really have very little impact on the dining experience. How important is it to you to ensure anything with your name on it is of the highest quality?
I work with the Zafran team on all aspects of the cuisine that is offered in the restaurant. It is a close team. You have to train, trust and empower people. Remove any room for error and implement good systems to safeguard standards. That’s the best way to avoid any pit falls. 

How do you think people who have eaten at your London restaurants Benares and Tamarind would react to the cuisine at Zafran?
People with fine dining experience will appreciate Zafran’s cuisine as well, because it is refreshingly different and diverse.

In a city with so many high quality, cheap, independent Indian restaurants, why should people eat at a chain restaurant in a mall?
For convenience, quality and a guaranteed high standard.

Dubai has a large Indian population, how big a hit do you think the food at Zafran will be with people used to eating traditional Indian cuisine?
Zafran is authentic in every aspect. People will be surprised with the originality of cuisine we have created.

Your London restaurants have Michelin stars, why have you decided to work with a chain restaurant?
Zafran is my brainchild. The idea is to create an Indian brasserie that caters to people’s fancy and at the same time offers excellence in regards to the quality of the food and the standard of service, as well as exceptional value for money.

What plans do you have to open a high-end restaurant in the UAE and go into competition with the likes of Vineet Bhatia’s Indego?
I will open a high-end restaurant like Benares soon in the UAE, not to compete but to add to the rich and diverse food scene in Dubai. I really like Dubai as a foodie destination.

There are outlets of Zafran at Mirdif City Centre and Dubai Marina Mall

20 11 / 2011

Songs To The Sirens by Dubai artist Altamash Urooj is currently on display at the Shangri-La’s seafood restaurant Amwaj. Chef Marcello Mereu has developed a menu to complement the artist’s Vast Expanse collection, winner of the Sheikha Manal Young Artist Award (youngartistaward.ae).

17 11 / 2011

Enjoy these pics of Hakkasan Dubai ahead of the global restaurant giant’s grand opening this evening. Look out for our verdict in the upcoming December issue. hakkasan.com

17 11 / 2011

Dep Ed Helen on Dubai 92

08 9 / 2011

A song about malls. Obviously.