10. A leader when it comes to healthy food, Silvena Rowe is using her more than 30 years of experience in the kitchen to promote superfoods that will leave her customers not just satisfied but genuinely better. Her Omnia brand consists of three concepts in Dubai Omnia Gourmet, Omnia Baharat, and Omnia Blue but more than just a restaurant founder and chef, Rowe hopes to make a difference to her customers lives. Vegan and organic is the name of the game at Omnia, where Rowe makes every effort to use locally grown produce from UAE suppliers. Its something were beginning to see more of across the industry but few make the effort like Rowe.
9. Peru-born chef Roberto Segura is the co-founder of 3 Hospitality, the company behind the ever-popular Waka Restaurant and Bar, where Segura is also the head chef. The concept at the Oberoi Hotel in Business Bay brings together a fusion of Latin American flavours and Japanese seasonings in a multi-award-winning combination. Segura himself is no stranger to awards events, regularly being voted chef of the year in competitions. Alongside Waka, Segura also launched Craft Caf in Dubais Design District while he is set to bring a new concept, Fit Pack, to the population before the end of the year. Everything is coming together nicely for Segura but he isnt stopping there, saying he has plans to expand to the GCC and Europe, taking over new markets and showing them what we are capable of achieving.
8. Its been an interesting year for Singaporean chef Reif Othman. Shuttering his incredibly popular The Experience restaurant at the H Hotel, he has teamed up with former F1 supremo Flavio Briatore as a business partner in Sumosan Twiga where he will oversee the Sumosan chain in Dubai, Monte Carlo, and London as well as any future openings. Its a change of tack for the former Play restaurateur, but one he thinks will allow him to head into bigger and better things. Othman has always been a key figure in the UAE dining scene, and has even made the crossover into more mainstream popularity, as an appearance in the Esquire 100 showed. Now we watch with interest to see what he will do with Sumosan and its mix of Japanese and Italian cuisine. And will we yet see a return of The Experience?
7. At only 30, Himanshu Saini already has an enviable reputation. Tresind is the most talked about Indian restaurant in Dubai a city with millions of Indian diaspora and plenty of Indian restaurants to compete with. Having started his culinary career under the mentorship of celebrated chef Manish Mehrotra, Saini has taken a love for traditional Indian food and morphed it into something special at Tresind and Carnival by Tresind. The recently launched Tresind Studio takes it to new heights of creativity in a much more intimate setting. At the moment the Tresind brand is restricted to just Dubai and Kuwait, but plans are afoot to expand in multiple regions around the world. Up next though is a more drink-focused concept at Palm Jumeirah which is opening soon. Unsurprisingly awards have been forthcoming for Saini but he tells us that while awards are motivating, when a guest visited five times in a week to the restaurant, just because she enjoyed the experience so much, it made my year.
6. Its been a big year for Francesco Guarracino, with the Italian making the move up from executive head chef of Robertos Abu Dhabi to become the companys group executive chef. Now overseeing Robertos in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, plus Mercato and Urban Bistro in Dubai, his role now consists of keeping the nine chefs below him at the top of their game. 2019 could well be even bigger for Guarracino and Robertos with new outlets planned for Bahrain and Singapore, and Guarracino says he hopes to bring it worldwide recognition and he plans to chase Michelin stars for the Robertos brand.
5. From joining the team at JRG Dubai back in 2011 as sous chef at The Ivy, Ben Tobitt has worked his way up the ranks to this year take the position as group executive chef. It means Tobitt is now responsible for the groups entire kitchen portfolio across 15-plus dining venues in addition to planning and managing the setup of new kitchens as the company looks to grow. That includes the soon to open Hillhouse Brasserie and The Duck Hook which have both been announced for Dubai Hills Golf Club in collaboration with Emaar and Meraas. It means Tobitt certainly has his hands full and he tells us that it involves simultaneous work in areas such as kitchen design, menu development, recruitment, and extensive equipment procurement. Its not just new concepts where Tobitt is hard at work, with extensive menu refreshment a continual mission across the groups brands including Flow, Trattoria Toscana, and The Noodle House.
4. Its been a year of improving the bottom line at Ossiano for Gregoire Berger. Renowned for the quality of his work on the plate (Berger was this year ranked as the 23rd best chef in the world by The Best Chef Awards), he has made a concerted effort to ensure it translates into financial success. Berger has removed a la carte options and moved into solely set menus. Before set menus were implemented, 78% of Ossianos guests ordered two-courses. Now, 25% of guests order the 11-course set menu, resulting in the average check being boosted from AED 835 to over AED 1,000. He tells us though that his vision remains to strive for Michelin standards 100% of the time to ensure we continue to be a leader in fine dining in the region so theres no room for slacking when it comes to his creativity and consistency.
3. No chef has reached higher heights in the UAE this year than Colin Clague, literally. His link up with Bentley to open a pop-up restaurant atop the countrys tallest mountain, Jebel Jais, was certainly interesting, but bringing homegrown concept Ruya to Londons Mayfair and making it an instant success was the pinnacle of his year. He told us that it was already proving popular with every royal family in the Middle East attending it over the summer for a taste of the recognisable Dubai brand and its Turkish cuisine. A third Ruya is due to open soon and give Clague a further headache when it comes to splitting his time between the restaurants in different countries.
2. 2018 saw Nick Alvis and Scott Price roar into the pub game as they took over The Black Lion at H Hotel to create The Lion by Nick and Scott. Its the second operating venue for the pair who also have the successful folly by Nick and Scott at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Having spent 15 years working for Gordon Ramsay across London, Paris, and Dubai, the pair also developed homegrown concept Taste Kitchen previously, but are now in an exclusive partnership with Gates Hospitality as they look to develop further concepts in the future. Theres nothing specific announced for time being from Alvis and Price, but with folly and The Lion both proving successes its surely only a matter of time before the third Nick and Scott concept comes to fruition.
1. If a year goes by in Dubai without Izu Ani opening at least one new concept, did it really happen? 2018 saw the British chef responsible for the like of La Petite Maison and La Serre add to his growing portfolio of successes with the creation and opening of Carine, GAIA, and an Izu Bakery in Dubai Mall. Carine, named after the chefs wife, at Emirates Golf Club is a French-Mediterranean inspired concept offering relaxed, unpretentious fare in a beautiful setting overlooking the golf course. Meanwhile, GAIA, from the Greek goddess of Earth, has recently opened in DIFCs Gate Village and also takes its influence from Mediterranean and Greek cooking. Busy as ever, Ani wont be stopping there and we can expect to see more concepts from him in the coming months and years.