A CUT above the rest
Your new restaurant CUT seems to specialise in American Cuisine. what draws you to this style?
Surely the steakhouse really has to originate from the Mid-West of America, no? It goes back to the cattle ranches where beef was the main staple food, where the ranchers would cook it differently in different places. For example, in California they have a lot of oak trees so beef gets chargrilled over oak. I think that’s really a traditional way of cooking, before we had gas and electricity, so I still like to cook it that way today because it gives it more flavour than just cooking it in a pan.
So that’s essentially the idea behind CUT?
There are many steakhouses, of course, but I think most of them are very plain. They cook the meat in a little oil or things like that and it doesn’t have a lot of flavour. To me, most of the steakhouses in America, or indeed anywhere else, have very little talent in the kitchen. They have a guy who is the broiler, and they make the baked potato and maybe have an iceberg lettuce on the side. We really have a lot of talent in the kitchen. For instance, we make all of our breads, so it’s really a lot of work in comparison. Our main speciality is naturally meat, but we also have fish and lobster… we’re going to get a lobster tank.
How long have you been in the Middle East?
I’ve come here many times before but this is our first restaurant in this part of the world. I realised when the economy turned really bad in 2009 that we had to diversify, not only across the United States but also go a little bigger and create an international brand as well. That was when we started in Singapore and London, and now this is the third one internationally.
Are you approaching it in a different way or is it exactly the same tactic as before?
We have a certain brand, so if you want to go to CUT in London, then you will want to go to the CUT here. The restaurant might look a little different, or even a lot different, but in the end we wanted to give people great quality food and great service. I want people to have a good time; it shouldn’t be serious. The only thing serious at CUT should be on a plate or in a glass.
Is there a Middle Eastern dish that you really like?
You know what’s interesting is that the first time I came over here I ate camel, I’ll always remember that. I was having lunch with my hosts at Le Royal Meridian in Abu Dhabi, and I joked, “I thought I’d come here to eat camel and here we are in a French restaurant!” And they said “You’ll come to my house and we’ll have that”. So the next day we went to this palace, and there was a huge table with maybe 40 people around it. I was the only one in a suit! And when you eat in this way with an Emirati group they give the meat to you by hand, rip it off by hand, and say the hump is the best part. It was okay, I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it again, but it was a really good experience.
When you were just starting off in your career, did you ever envisage you’d be starting a restaurant here in Dubai?
No. I probably didn’t even know where Dubai was, but I always wanted to open my own restaurant. I’ve always wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, and then it just came slowly. We opened the first restaurant, Spago, and it was so big that the Japanese heard about it, took all the measurements of the restaurant, came back – we had been open maybe nine months – and said, “We want to open a Spago in Tokyo, do you want to be part of it?”. I said that I was struggling to run one restaurant right so why would I open another one so far away? They came back a month later and said that if I didn’t want to open in Tokyo they’d just do it without me. We opened less than 14 months later, and then opened Chinois, which was the first French-Chinese fusion restaurant.
So what are the plans after you’ve opened CUT here?
We’ll continue to open restaurants slowly in Asia, maybe another in the Middle East, too. We might look at Abu Dhabi and Doha next.
Any crazy culinary experiments?
I am building a whole kitchen in LA which is for experiments. It’s going to have three chefs and we’re just going to devise new recipes. It’ll be interesting, but it will also help me to work and play around, because in a restaurant it’s generally so busy that it’s hard to stay focused. We never just say, “How can we best cook the chicken?” This way we’ll be able to figure out ways to do it better.
Lastly, what is your favourite thing to cook on your own?
I like the steak that’s half-way between Wagyu and a Black Angus, because it has the flavour of beef but it is richer. I also like ribeye for the the taste and the colour. I like smaller things too, like a steak for two, and then I’ll order three or four appetisers, a salad, maybe a crab-cake or lobster, with a truffle platter. I like to have small different tasters, rather than just one big plate.
CUT is located in The Address Downtown, Dubai. www.theaddress.com/en/hotels/the-address-downtown-dubai/dining/cut-by-wo...
To read our review of the CUT brunch, click here