The celebrity chef

How famous do you have to be to stop cooking in your own kitchen?
By Hannah-Farah Abdulla
Fri 31 May 2013 11:31 AM

I was disappointed to hear — from my reliable industry sources — (it’s true, I have eyes and ears everywhere) that the future of Titanic by Marco Pierre White, located at the Melia Hotel in Dubai, looked gloomy as the lounge area was re-branded last month.

It’s a fabulous concept with such a strong following. That said, White’s presence in this region doesn’t appear to be dying down — if anything it’s at its peak with the Frankie’s and Wheeler’s brands and the soon to be launched Marco Pierre White Grill at the Conrad Dubai.

But while he has a presence here in terms of his name, how much does his physical presence matter? If he was here, actually cooking in his kitchen and chatting to the guests, would that have made a difference to the future of Titanic?

Earlier this month, I caught up with UK celeb chef Silvena Rowe, famously known for her restaurant Quince, located at the Mayfair Hotel in London. Rowe is currently in talks regarding her upcoming Ottoman-inspired restaurant in Dubai. She told me she was planning a complete re-location to the region as she felt the success of any chef’s outlet wholly depended on their involvement in it.

Rowe said she refused to be ‘one of those chefs’ who attached their name to a concept and then let it be run by others.

Michelin star chef Gary Rhodes also addressed the issue during his opening speech at the Caterer Food & Business Forum in March at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai:

“You see chefs opening restaurants in hotels worldwide — I have them — and people say to me ‘I bet you don’t cook in any of them’. I cook in all of them — I’m a cook.

“People say to me ‘you’re some kind of celebrity chef’— I hate the word. I’m not a celebrity, I’m a cook. I started off as a cook, I will continue getting my hands dirty until the day I die in this industry. That is so important to me — really important. People still get quite shocked when they walk into the kitchen at 7am and see me slicing onions like everybody else.”

Admittedly, I’d be a little surprised too if I saw Mr Rhodes getting stuck in like everyone else. But should I be taken aback? At what point do they stop becoming celebrities and become what they are? Chefs!

Is it right for chefs to have long-distance relationships with their restaurants? But if they don’t establish international concepts, how do they then invite the world to engage with their cuisines? I’ll be getting White’s thoughts on the matter when he visits later this month.

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