By Devina Divecha
French Michelin-starred chef talks candidly about the success of his UAE venture and the importance of working hard to please guests
Why did you decide to open Choix Patisserie right next to Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire?
We opened Reflets six years ago and it was a good time to open Choix, because we have a competent team, and we have respectability in the city. The key of this success is the relationship that we have with the InterContinental, with the owner, Mr Al Futtaim. Dubai has grown; yes, it was difficult for a couple of years, but now it is good. But remember, it’s not enough to just open a venue. It’s important to have a team to do it. And it was not easy to build that. But now I am very confident.
What can guests expect to find at Choix?
They can find a good sandwich, good tartare, good coffee, and great quality of food. That is my mission in each restaurant that I manage — to be absolutely honest. For me, it’s my obsession.
Is it easy to get correct ingredients for your restaurants here?
When Reflets opened it was more difficult. Now it is easier because there are so many places in the market. You know, I heard that in Dubai, there are more than 270 hotels. It’s incredible.
Do you try out other restaurants when you are in the UAE?
No, I focus on my place. We are not alone, and it is important to have competition. It is good for the business, but my problem is to be focused on our venue.
How involved do you think chefs and restaurateurs need to get in their ventures?
If you want success, you must be totally involved, day after day. For me, it’s impossible because I don’t live here. When it opens, a restaurant must be good. But they must be good in five days, two months, three months, and five years. My mission, like with the restaurant, is to keep the level high and to have real quality.
How involved do you get with picking your staff members, and how important is your relationship with them?
I get very involved with picking my staff. They are my family — because they are the key to my success. Without them, all this is not possible. The relationship with the team is the key to the success and quality. The product is never a problem; the product is the base. After that it’s the people, it’s the human element. Our work is not impersonal — you must love people.
Any advice for young chefs?
Work, work, work! You need a little bit of talent, but if you don’t work, you’re dead. You must have a small fire in your heart. If you have that, you can go anywhere.For all the latest gourmet news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.