Miss Lily's Dubai chef Adam Schop talks about the restaurant's success in the UAE
HE'S THE EXECUTIVE Chef who oversees Miss Lily's three locations: New York City, Negril in Jamaica, and Dubai and has previously led the kitchen at Nuela in NYC. New Yorker Adam Schop has over two decades of culinary experience under his belt, initially being taught in classic French cooking, which has evolved into a flair for Caribbean food. We caught up with him during a recent Dubai visit to find out more.
Out of everywhere in Dubai, Miss Lily's ranks high as one of the most popular places in which to eat out. Based on your experience in the NYC branch, what is it about the restaurant's food and atmosphere you believe has people coming through the door?
The Miss Lily's team wanted to create an environment with a soulful Jamaican offering. Our point of reference of design has been to stay truthful to creating a Caribbean vibe with bright and colourful elements. Most importantly, we took great care in selecting a highly energetic staff that engages with each guest in a personal and meaningful way. When guests say they feel a sense of escape from the daily stresses, we feel we have achieved what was set.
In the early days, what made you switch from being taught French cooking to producing Jamaican cuisine?
For me the decision to join the Miss Lily's team was a natural evolution. I had been friends with Serge Becker (from NYC) and often discussed collaborating on different restaurant concepts. In April 2014 I was celebrating the birth of my second son, and had received a call from Serge. He told me that they were eager to expand. It took a weekend to meet with the ownership team and my family took a decision to move back to NYC. It didn't take long to settle into my new position and quickly after I was fortunate enough to spend time at The Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. While spending time in Jamaica, I was able to take direction from the chefs at the hotel and saw first hand many of the traditional recipes and techniques.
What do you believe are the building blocks with which you must start to open a successful Caribbean restaurant?
It is important to learn about the ingredients that are locally grown and when they are in season.
What do you think of Dubai's culinary scene overall?
There are seemingly endless choices of high budget mega restaurants that serve thousands of guests each week! Among the restaurants that have been imported to Dubai I really loved my experience at Rüya at Grosvenor House. My favourite dining experiences though are highly prized local spots known for serving the same offerings for decades. From fried fish with curry gravy and kebabs served by the most humble and gracious hosts to cafeteria style mutton Jalfrezi and the countless delicious shawarma spots serving delicious vertically roasted meat in pita bread that is still hot from the hearth floor, I love it all. 3 Fils is also a pretty easy choice for a casual and thoughtful delicious meal.
What is one of your greatest memories working in a kitchen and what is one of the worst? Have you cooked for anyone in the public eye? What were they like as guests?
When I was starting out I was fortunate enough to be around chefs and cooks that took a personal interest in helping me develop my cooking skills, discipline, and most importantly learning the unwritten laws of professional kitchen culture. I think the most the most fulfilling moments in my career are when you invest extra time and care to those just starting out in the industry and mentoring them. I have been fortunate enough to watch many of my past work mates grow and develop their own style and gain acclaim for their hard work. It is quite satisfying to know that you helped share what was once shared with myself and leaves a legacy that leaves an indelible mark. I have cooked for so many well-known guests. Generally speaking, they almost all are quite grateful and appreciative as they have been cared for and fed by our teams. I think my favourite well-known guests are those that remember you in the future if you happen to cross paths later in life. Being remembered for cooking is a pretty special feeling.
What dish would you recommend for someone arriving at a Caribbean restaurant for the first time to give them the best impression of the food?
I think a perfect meal at Miss Lily's restaurant would be to start with our jerk grilled corn, salt cod fritters and hot pepper shrimp. Top that off with a soulful bowl of Jamaican oxtail stew with broad beans and rice and peas. I love to end with a slice our fresh baked coconut cake with cream cheese frosting.
Cod fritters are delectable