Unveiled: The top 10 chefs in the Middle East

The 10 culinary masters making their mark in the region, according to the Caterer Middle East magazine's Power List 2015
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TimeOut Dubai has over 5700 restaurants listed on its website, therefore there is a lot of competition in the food and beverage sector.

\nWith so many outlets to choose from it would be a tough task to decide who were the best chefs in the industry across the entire region.

\nHowever, without further ado, here is the the list of the top 10 best chefs in the region, as decided by Caterer Middle East magazine's Power List 2015.
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10. Nick Alvis and Scott Price, F&B concept development chefs, Albwardy Investment Group

\nHaving both worked for Gordon Ramsay for a number of years, Alvis and Price moved to Dubai in 2010 and together worked on the relaunch of Verre by Gordon Ramsay at the Hilton Dubai Creek. As Ramsey’s tenure at the hotel came to an end in late 2011, the two friends seized the opportunity to make their own mark on Dubai’s dining scene. With the backing of Hilton Hotels, they opened Table 9 in November 2011.

\nFollowing the success of this joint venture, Alvis and Price joined the Albawardy Investment Group’s F&B concept development team together in 2014. The Taste Kitchen brand was a move away from the duo’s roots in fine dining and the pair believe the model highlights the importance of home-grown talent and innovation. Alvis and Price have focused on developing casual, family-oriented venues that aim to offer a great product at an affordable price. Alvis and Price are committed to building the reputation of their brand and are continuing to extend its presence. A fourth Taste Kitchen, located on the Palm Jumeirah’s Golden Mile, is due to open in March 2016.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: NA: 21 SP: 20
\nNumber of years with this company: 2
\nNumber of years in this role: 2
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 6
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: NA: 64 SP: 90
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 3
\nNationality: British
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09. Joe Barza, Chef Consutant and Terroir Artist, Joe Barza Culinary Consultancy

\nAs well as being a member of the Academie Culinaire de France, the President of the Lebanese Chefs Association, and on the organising committee of the Lebanese Salon Culinaire HORECA, Barza is also a consultant for GET Group in Qatar, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, and Hilton in Jordan. Operating several concepts throughout the Middle East and beyond — including Bioland, Kitchynet, La Bocca, Shrao, Al Khariss, Al Assi, Hawa al Khalij, Marjan, Laziz — Barza’s vision is to promote Lebanese cuisine, raising its profile with diners globally.

\nBarza has travelled the world to promote his cause, working with some of the biggest names in the industry, making regular TV appearances, and attending international events. He is passionate about passing on the knowledge, insight and experience he gains on his travels in the constant training of his staff.

\nNext year will see Joe Barza Culinary Consultancy opening a hotel in Laqlouq, Lebanon, introducing a Lebanese delivery concept to London, and opening Lebanese restaurants in India and Bahrain.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 29
\nNumber of years with this company: 6
\nNumber of years in this role: 13
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 21
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 600
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 90+ worldwide
\nNationality: Lebanese
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08. Akshay Nayyar, Corporate chef – EMEA, Sanjeev Kapoor Restaurants

\nProfits and royalty collection from franchisee outlets of the firm’s six concepts — Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, Khazana, Options, The Yellow Chili, Sura Vie, and Hong Kong — have increased by 400 percent in the last year.

\nThe employee satisfaction rate has also been high across all the various outlets with an attrition rate of just 8 percent year-on-year, and improved efficiencies have led to food costs reduced to an average of 28 percent across all brands.

\nIn addition, the Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor brand is currently named as the number one Indian restaurant in Doha on TripAdvisor. As the corporate chef for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Sanjeev Kapoor Restaurants, Nayyar heads all brands in the region. He also currently hosts Middle East reality TV food show “Foodshala”, which is gearing up for its fifth season this coming February. Nayyar has also presented Cuisine Centric for Indian-based channel Zee TV, and his culinary performances have been featured on Sony TV’s Weekend Out. His goal, he says, is to see Sanjeev Kapoor Restaurants become a world leader in Indian and pan-Asian cuisine by 2020, with more than 150 restaurants globally.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 10
\nNumber of years with this company: 4
\nNumber of years in this role: 1
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 4
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: Approximately 450
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 14
\nNationality: Indian
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07. Chris Lester, Group Executive Chef, Jumeirah Restaurant Group Dubai

\nBritish-born Lester honed his culinary skills at some of the most prestigious dining establishments in the world. This year Lester has developed popular dining concepts such as the UAE’s first smokehouse Perry & Blackwelder’s and North Indian premium casual concept Naya. He has also been heavily involved in menu development, and worked closely with JRG Dubai’s various head chefs to successfully reposition Trattoria Toscana, La Parrilla, Zheng He’s, Bahri Bar, Der Keller and Pierchic.

\nAlong with a team of experts from Talise Nutrition, Lester also worked on the creation of kids’ menu dishes across JRG Dubai’s restaurants to ensure fresh, well-balanced meals that are still in keeping with the individual restaurants’ menus. These are expected to be available in 2016. Next year will also see the launch of seasonal menus across JRG Dubai’s restaurants, as well as menus catering to diners with various allergies and intolerances. Lester and the team also plan to launch yet more exciting dining concepts in order to stay on trend.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 30
\nNumber of years with this company: 6
\nNumber of years in this role: 1
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 8
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 480
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 54 (33 restaurants and bars + 21 The Noodle House restaurants)
\nNationality: British
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06. Gary Rhodes, Chef/Restaurateur-Consultant

\nIn 2006, Rhodes was honoured with an OBE for services to the hospitality industry. He is currently the culinary ambassador for the Visit Britain campaign. Having achieved six Michelin stars and a host of other culinary accolades throughout the course of his career, Rhodes’ restaurants have added a new twist to the UAE culinary scene.

\nAs well as Rhodes W1, which delivers British classics with a refined finish, and Rhodes Twenty10 grill and steakhouse, Rhodes’ School Lunch Programme delivers wholesome, additive-free meals for children at Dubai’s Foremarke and Taleem schools.

\nThe Vox ThEATre by Rhodes concept, which launched earlier this year, brings a new approach to movie theatre food, turning cinemas into culinary destinations. There are already plans to expand the model into other Vox cinemas in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and potentially beyond. In fact, many new concepts and outlets are on the horizon for Rhodes, as he continues to grow his presence in the Middle East and spread his reach into the Far East.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 39
\nNumber of years in this role: 12
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 5.5
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 120+
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 4
\nNationality: British
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05. Colin Campbell, Corporate Chef, Abela & Co

\nCatering for the industrial, corporate, education, health, hospitality, and oil and gas sectors, Abela & Co. also incorporates retail brands Sandella’s, Red Apron, Zaatar w Aktar, 123, Bean There, and Zeeu.

\nThe company manages more than 100 contracts and delivers approximately 100,000 meals per day.

\nThe culinary department of Abela & Co. is focusing on improving menus, boosting the variety and quality of its product, and enhancing overall levels of customer satisfaction.

\nAs a leader, Campbell prides himself on having played a vital role in helping to mould an effective team, and on never asking from his staff what he would not do personally. Respect, he says, is absolute and mutual. Campbell attributes his success to ensuring that costs are well-managed, and that the quality of the overall customer experience remains consistent.

\nStaff training, which takes place at the company’s own chef academy, is vital. In the eight years since its establishment, the academy continues to grow, and to broaden culinary horizons.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 21
\nNumber of years with this company: 8
\nNumber of years in this role: 4
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 11
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 950
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: more than 100 contracts + retail
\nNationality: British
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04. Harald Oberender, Director of Culinary, Dubai World Trade Centre

\nUnder Oberender’s management, the DWTC hospitality division has surpassed its targets and decreased its operational costs for seven consecutive years, while at the same time garnering numerous culinary accolades and setting a benchmark for new Dubai Municipality establishments. The hospitality department runs a total of 15 outlets, comprising 14 at DWTC and one, the contemporary Emirati fine dining restaurant Seven Sands, in Jumeriah Beach Residence.

\nAs well as catering everything from international conferences and exhibitions and delegate conventions to royal weddings, music concerts, and gala dinners, Oberender also heads DWTC’s project planning for new facilities such as the Dubai Expo 2020.

\nOberender is a well-known and respected figure within the UAE — and the global — culinary community. Next year will see Oberender continuing his work on the Expo 2020 F&B project, with five Seven Sands outlets in the pipeline.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 38
\nNumber of years with this company: 21
\nNumber of years in this role: 10
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 24
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 321
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 15
\nNationality: German
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03. Russell Impiazzi, Culinary Director, Galeries Lafayette

\nImpiazzi is a do-gooder if there ever was one. Business-wise, Galeries Lafayette has continued to see strong growth in its outside catering and events department, which has seen year-to-date increase of 51 percent. The company’s retail selection has also been reworked so that more than 80 percent of the product range is now exclusive to Galeries Lafayette, a fact that has benefitted the business’ bottom line.

\nAs if running this didn’t keep him busy enough, Impiazzi also took part in the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution day and helped to judge the Time Out Dubai Young Chef of the Year competition, as well as hosting in-store food pop-ups, and the company’s annual food festival, its Young Chef Club and regular Fussy Eaters Workshop.

\nImpiazzi has also been heavily involved in fundraising for breast cancer charities the Pink Brigade and Nourish. A second Galeries Lafayette operation is scheduled for Q1 2016, which will operate four F&B venues, and Impiazzi is keen that this will deliver development opportunities for his hardworking team.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 23
\nNumber of years with this company: 4
\nNumber of years in this role: 4
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 19
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 110
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 1
\nNationality: English
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02. Izu Ani, Executive Chef, La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie

\nLa Serre Bistro & Boulangerie is the most profitable F&B outlet in the Emaar portfolio, and is the first restaurant in the Middle East to be awarded the Slow Food Movement’s Snail of Approval accreditation, which recognises Ani’s respect and understanding for the ingredients he sources and serves.

\nOne of Ani’s proudest achievements is how his staff has grown and developed. Ani believes that regularly participating in regional and international panels is a key part of his own learning, and he is taking part in the World Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi in December, to discuss how to protect the integrity, quality and standards of the F&B industry. He is also planning to launch an R&D kitchen in 2016.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 23
\nNumber of years with this company: 3
\nNumber of years in this role: 3
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 5.5
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 175
\nNumber of F&B outlets in the Middle East: 1
\nNationality: British Nigerian
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01. Sebastian Nohse, Director of Culinary, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

\nIn a career spanning more than 20 years, Nohse has worked at a number of restaurants in four- and five-star hotels. Currently at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Nohse leads a team of 280 chefs and 22 kitchens. In the last year, Nohse has shown outstanding leadership and remarkable performance on all audits and assessments and consistently delivered creative initiatives to inspire his team.

\nUnder his leadership, food costs dropped significantly as a result of his menu engineering and strong relationships with purchasing managers and cost controllers. At the same time, he has helped to increase the hotel’s food revenue.

\nNohse has created a Chefs’ Engagement Programme and a daily culinary newsletter, as well as designing a Catering Matrix, an interactive sales tool that allows sales and catering managers to personalise menus instantly. He personally trains six junior chefs in dish creation every week in his Chefs’ Masterclasses. Supporting the culinary community through his work with the Emirates Culinary Guild and with the ICCA Dubai scholarship programme, where he is a guest lecturer, Nohse has also made an impact by helping to boost the hotel’s recycling from 80 tonnes to 266 tonnes a year.

\nBite-sized facts:

\nNumber of years in the F&B industry: 22
\nNumber of years with this company: 2
\nNumber of years in this role: 2
\nNumber of years working in the Middle East: 5
\nNumber of people you are responsible for: 300+
\nNationality: German
Mon 14 Dec 2015 10:47 AM GST