An Evolution of the Middle East’s Gourmet Food Scene and Palate
While cities such as New York and Paris might have firmly cemented themselves as food-centric destinations for those who like the finer things in life – particularly gourmet food – there’s a new contender for the crown. Last year saw the prestigious Michelin Guide extend its gaze to the Middle East and, in particular, Dubai. With inspectors being invited by restaurants, recommended for evaluation by the public, or who’ve decided to drop in on a whim, the UAE has chalked up a total of 69 restaurants, that stood as contenders to be recognised as masters of their art. Of those, two were awarded two Michelin stars, nine were rewarded with one, and a further 14 were granted Bib Gourmand status in recognition of their cooking standards and value for money.
In short, if you’re looking to experience more than 200 types of cuisine, all within easy access, and held to the highest standards, Dubai and the Middle East should be at the top of your list – and Chef Middle East is supporting this vibrant industry every step of the way.
Gourmet food at its best
Appraising the Middle East’s fine dining scene, the International Director of the Michelin Guide, Gwendal Poullennec, said that “What makes Dubai’s culinary landscape so distinctive is its reflection of the more than 200 nationalities that call the city home, delivering an epicurean kaleidoscope. One thing all the restaurants in this fast-paced, dynamic, and elegant city have in common is they are brimming with passion and enthusiasm. Today, the Middle East is recognised as an inspiring gastronomic destination, and we have no doubts that its unique energy will seduce gourmets from all over the world.”
The stars of the show
As a result of the Michelin Guide being in Dubai, an Italian restaurant, Niko Romito, and a modern-French establishment, STAY by Yannick Alléno, were both awarded two stars. Nine restaurants were awarded one-star status.
To add to this, the UAE’s capital was selected as the host city for a second time, for the prestigious MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants awards – Orfali Bros Bistro took the No. 1 spot as the MENA’s Best Restaurant, followed by Tresind Studio in the second position. Another sixteen across the UAE have been awarded by the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants.
Among the best fine dining restaurants in the Middle East, the region is filled with restaurants for those who want to treat themselves or their loved ones to a culinary experience to remember. What’s also evident is the sheer breadth of the cuisines that have made their homes in the region. For lovers of gourmet food, this offers a broad palette against which they can explore and indulge their own palates.
The Middle East: A magnet for world-class chefs
However, fine dining in the Middle East isn’t relegated to upscale dining in sumptuous surroundings. The long-awaited recognition of the region’s fine dining scene has given rise to an equally impressive rise in the demand for chefs, both in the commercial and private sectors. According to research by the industry website, Chef’s Pencil, the UAE has become one of the top 10 top-paying countries for chefs on the planet. Needless to say, the Middle East is attracting world-class chefs, offering world-class cuisine in world-class restaurants. That also requires world-class ingredients and Chef Middle East is playing a crucial role as suppliers to this burgeoning food scene.
With the fine dining explosion, the shockwaves extend well beyond those in charge of the cooking. Top-quality chefs demand top-quality ingredients. Chefs are spoiled for choice with all the meat, seafood, herbs, and spices required to cook first-rate culinary creations by leading food distributors. The sheer diversity, freshness, and quality of what the Emirates offers have made it a hub for all things food related. The UAE’s Food Code ensures that all ingredients must adhere to strict regulations so everyone enjoying an upscale dining experience knows that what they’re eating is the best it can be.
Because Chef Middle East offers only the finest produce and ingredients, it’s become the first port of call for the best restaurants. For example, Chef Middle East proudly supports 99 Sushi Bar as a world-class dining establishment, recently awarded its first Michelin star. They supply the outlet with the finest seafood, including frozen shrimp, Dibba Bay oysters, as well as luxurious ingredients like duck liver foie gras and Korean soybean paste to enhance their contemporary twist on classic dishes.
Similarly, Chef Middle East has built a fantastic relationship with restaurants serving gourmet food across the region that curate exquisite, elegant, and delicate culinary experiences requiring several specialist and hard-to-find ingredients. With their extensive network of suppliers across the globe, Chef Middle East has been able to do their bit to see a number of their customers become part of the MENA’s 50 Best and Michelin community. This is further evidence of the expansion of the region’s food scene that Chef Middle East is delighted to play their part in.
Exploring the spectrum of cuisine: From fine dining to street food
If there was any proof needed that the UAE has staked its claim on the food map, it’s estimated that it acts as a home to more than 13,000 restaurants. For residents and visitors alike, this offers a chance to sample foods, dishes, and desserts from almost every corner of the world. In addition to a burgeoning fine dining scene, the UAE is also home to some of the most exciting and mouth-watering street food. Whether you want to immerse yourself in the local culture or sample meals from far-flung climes, the Middle East is an eclectic and electric centre for even the pickiest of palates.
Perhaps one of the most significant indicators of just how much the gastronomic backdrop has evolved can be found in the Al Baleed Food Festival. Set in the grounds of the stunning Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, and founded in 2001, this culinary extravaganza now attracts Michelin-starred chefs, including the likes of Peter Gast, Roger Van Damme, and Dina Macki. These, and other leading lights of the restaurant world, come to the festival to showcase both national and international cuisines at their mouth-watering best.
To ensure that the five-star chefs work only with five-star ingredients, Chef Middle East is proud to supply all the produce, and ingredients necessary with only the best of the best. Whatever the chefs need, they make it their business to deliver. Now in its third year, the Al Baleed Food Festival has become something of a magnet for these cooking colossi, helping to further cement Oman’s reputation for standards of culinary excellence, and as the place to go for new gastronomic experiences.
How Chef Middle East is supporting the culinary shift
In the Middle East, gourmet food comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and from a variety of different countries. Cementing existing links and establishing new ones with suppliers will give chefs, hoteliers, caterers, and home cooks access to a greater spectrum of gourmet food ingredients than ever before. In the 28 years since Chef Middle East was founded, the culinary landscape has changed, with a palpable hunger for produce that transcends borders, cultures, and countries. Chef Middle East is supporting that movement by continually adapting its ranges, offering the unexpected and the familiar through one solid network.