Pierre Gagnaire returns to Dubai
Pierre Gagnaire is something of a legend in culinary circles. He earned his first Michelin star as a young chef in 1976, and hasn't looked back. He has since opened up restaurants in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Las Vegas and now (once again) Dubai.
We sat down with the famed chef to discuss his new restaurant, Pierre's Bistro & Bar at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City:
You famously ran your gastronomic restaurant Reflets for ten years in Dubai before closing it. Now you’re back with a Bistro. What was it that made you change approach?
I think what people wanted the city of Dubai changed. After 10 years, it was time to refresh what we were doing. Pierre’s Bistro & Bar will be in the same location but bigger and with a livelier atmosphere. Yes, the food will be less high-end gastronomic, but it will have the same quality behind it.
Is it fair to say that the word ‘bistro’ means something a little different in France to what it means over here?
Yes, that’s true. In France ‘bistro’ means something that is very casual, whereas in other places it is somewhere that is a little fancier because it is done to look and feel like you are transported to France. The new restaurant is called Pierre’s Bistro & Bar, but we won’t be serving bistro food as you would get in France, it is my version of bistro food, served in a more lively atmosphere, thanks to the bar and live music. The emphasis is more on it being a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant. We included ‘bistro’ so that people know it is not the same gastronomic cuisine from before.
At the stage you are in your career, how do you see yourself? Chef? Restauranteur? Businessman?
I am all of that. I have my own restaurants, but I am also a chef. I wouldn’t say I am businessman, I’m not like Danny Meyers, no.
What is interesting is that for the last 20 years, the chef has been the star. He has been on TV making promoting his personality, but I think that trend is now stopping. Customers are increasingly in search of authentic experiences – it could even be in a McDonald’s or a Nobu – they want to create a memory of their personal experience, and not about the chef.
I believe it is important that chefs must stick to their roots, and that is being able to cook. If you spend too much time ‘on stage’ then you can lose sight of what made people want to eat at your restaurant in the first place – the food.
If you could cook for any one person in history, who would it be?
Chef Paul Bocuse. He was my idol.
What is your favourite herb?
Coriander. Thirty years ago, for my generation, coriander was totally new and exotic. It was exciting and new, like passionfruit. It’s a great herb, you can have it with beef, shrimps, vegetables – even desserts.
When you see something you’ve never cooked with, do you consider that a challenge?
Every day is a challenge. I need to keep my passion about food strong. My passion for food comes from sincerity. I want to continue being a chef, and to stay near the product, and the team. That’s what I want to do. If you are only on the stage as a ‘celebrity chef’, you lose touch of what makes you passionate about being a chef. If a musician doesn’t practice, he gets worse. It’s the same with a chef. It is important to stay focused.
Is there any ingredient that you won’t cook with?
No. I am always interested in looking new foods. I’ve recently been looking at a list of fruit suppliers from Vietnam, and there are somethings on there that I’ve never see before!
Are you still learning?
Absolutely. You learn every day. The more you know, the less you know, and when you’re older you realise just how much you still want to learn.