Dubai Diaries: Post-pandemic Kitchen Nightmares
Please don't say I'm in denial
Since the pandemic, we’re all supposed to have baked, broiled and basted our way to a Michelin star. Or at least that’s what a casual social media browse would suggest. Smugly framed pictures with even greater self-satisfied captions including but not restricted to “something I just threw together” are only bettered by the passive-aggressive replies from envious onlookers. “Wow, just like my grandma used to make. Same plates and everything!” was a particular favourite of mine, prompting a shrug emoji retort from the account holder. Truly ROFL-inducing stuff. Increased time at home and every supermarket in town now delivering in 30 minutes apparently dictates there is no longer a valid excuse not to whip up a gourmet meal at least every other day. Despite life on the most part having returned to normal for the majority, the chef de la maison mentality from the weeks we were required to stay indoors has endured.
With every trend, no matter how counter-culture you may see yourself, eventually you’ll succumb to the zeitgeist. And so, it has come to pass, at least once a week (four times is too many) I now attempt a decent self-prepared spread usually from a cuisine with which I have little experience. A specialty Korean produce outlet that recently opened under a kilometre away has become a frequent port of call to add unfamiliar zests and flourishes. It’s at this point, before you begin to harbour fantasies of this being a recount of how I went on to win a noodle competition or something equally fanciful, I should let you in on an extremely guilty TV viewing pleasure: the decade-long run of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. In the underrated masterpiece, our old mate and one of the most notable names in cooking Gordon Ramsay visits struggling restaurants around the UK and US, samples the awful menu and delves into ownership problems, before updating the carte and proprietors’ methodologies thus relaunching the business. When City Times met the man himself a few years back while visiting his Atlantis restaurant, Bread Street, Ramsay revealed he had to pack the show in because he could no longer stomach any more terrible food. And I cannot shake what that booming voice may say if he ever sat down at ‘Chez David’.
Call it paranoia, but the minute I fire up the hob those words “Hello there, first name?”, as the Brit is predisposed to say by way of introduction, creep across my subconscious. By the time the dish is out on the table, the voice normally evolves into its customary expletive –ridden diatribe. While the criticism has diminished a little with the now months of practice, I’m still yet to hear the uplifting music which overlays the renovated dining room in the show signifying everything is going to be all right. More hours at the stove will hopefully assuage my imaginary Gordon someday, but until then the I’ll hold off the photo uploads for now. Smiley face.