Dubai: For Pierre Gagnaire, food is all about emotions

Michelin star chef explains why the city is the perfect setting for him


Ambica Sachin

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Photo by Shihab
Photo by Shihab

Published: Tue 13 Dec 2022, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Fri 16 Dec 2022, 5:01 PM

As we walk into the understated yet luxe Pierre’s TT one balmy afternoon, we are greeted by its resident patron — an indolent brass tortoise. The elegantly set restaurant in stylish hues of pink and green is languid, as if taking in a moment before the evening service brings with it chattering diners and clinks of glass and cutlery and service staff waltzing around with plates filled with emotions.

Outdoors, there is someone soaking in the sun, and on closer look we espy the three-Michelin star chef who is making the most of his brief time in the city where he has jetted in from Europe. There is a placidness to Chef Pierre Gagnaire — he doesn’t seem the kind who would temperamentally fling the hotpot at the kitchen wall or cuss his team out if the steak is plated wrongly.

Bonjours and Mercis fill the air as we sit down with Pierre Gagnaire for a tete-a-tete. It’s fascinating to note that the chef has flown down to the UAE all the way from Paris to oversee his Dubai outpost that attracts discerning epicureans from across the world. Talk about global cuisine plated up for a glocal audience in a multi-national hotspot like Dubai. “It’s not complicated,” he assures us.

Reminiscing about the early days he recollects how when they opened 15 years back in the city it was probably difficult to source fresh produce like fish, vegetables and meat. But now they bring in stuff from across the world, whether it be Italy, Australia or Europe. “I always say the world is my garden and here in Dubai it is perfect. The city is incredible — it’s a new world, a new attitude.”

Born in Aping, France, Pierre Gagnaire earned his stripes when he forayed into his Michelin-star family restaurant. This was followed by years of toil accompanied by more plaudits and today the 3 star Michelin chef, considered among the “immortals of French cuisine”, has his name affixed to outlets as far flung as Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, London and Las Vegas.

While quality food, of course, is central to the success of his business, behind the carefully curated menu and delicately plated dishes is a story of passion, one that stems from a desire to evoke emotions in diners through food. It is evident when we query him on his idea of a perfect dish. “Emotions,” is his one-word response that aptly captures the essence of this iconic French chef.

There is a lot of choice available to a discerning diner today, he points out. Michelin may have the competence to judge a work, but the ultimate winner he says, is the guest. Because, “it is the guest that matters.”

With Dubai turning to be a global food outpost and award-winning restaurants at every corner, the competition today, compared to when he started out, must be intense, we speculate. While he initially agrees with us, he is quick to point out that “it’s not a competition. I don’t like that…”

But the recent entry of Michelin Guide into UAE’s dining scene will probably put the focus back on quality seeing as how many fly-by-night operators get away with a lot of razzmatazz in the form of presentation but not much meat beneath it all, we venture to observe.

“Certainly,” he avers. He is dismissive of the current trend of food bloggers who have taken over social media with their heavily edited picture perfect dishes that perhaps look prettier than they taste. While he admits this could be a problem for many with quality compromised over looks, for someone like him who started way back in the 70s, and who is engaged to this day in serving up lunch and dinner, the main focus is to offer up a real experience and real emotion to the diner.

“We don't sell the photo, we sell the emotion, we sell the real experience,” he says passionately.

Dubai being the land of bling there is always great focus on food that looks spectacular but Chef Gagnaire says his attention as always has been on quality. “I will always engage too much with quality. I’m obsessed with quality…”

“When I began to work for myself,” he says, “I found that French food was a disaster. The presentation was not elegant. It was sad. I think now we have found a good balance between the show and the taste. But the taste is the most important — that and the quality of the service. The quality of the team in the dining room to pay attention to the people… For me, the service is very, very important.”

It’s obvious it is not just the money, but the art and the quality of the relationship between him and the diners that is foremost to Gagnaire. Which probably explains his longevity in the industry as well.

And because he holds service so high up, the one quality he looks for in his staff is simple. “Honesty. Honesty on the floor. Nobody is perfect and nobody has all the competence. But when you work with your heart, when you're honest, when you try to do the best, it's easy.”

And Pierre Gagnaire definitely makes it look easy. Here he is at 72, still jetting around, taking catnaps between interviews and whipping up a storm in the kitchen.

“I love people. I love my job. I love to share my experience with my team all over the world. That's it. I think it's the the key to my energy. To share my experience, my competence because when you do the job you meet so many people; it's fantastic.”

Pan fried squid with black garlic, Paris mushrooms

with lettuce rocket

Calamari U10: 100gm

Cream liquid: 50gm

Butter: 50gm

Parsley: 10gm

Black garlic: 50gm

Lettuce rocket: 50 gm

Mushroom Paris button (100gm for duxelle and 50 gm for chips): 150gm

Fish stock: 20gm

Garlic: 10gm

Lemon juice, salt and pepper


Create the sauce by combining black garlic, fish stock, cream, salt and pepper.

Pan-sear the mushroom duxelle in butter until golden brown and add salt and pepper. Once cooked, top with chopped parsley.

Pan-fry the squid with garlic. Once cooked, deglaze the squid with fresh lemon juice and chopped coriander and roll it in the black garlic sauce.

Add the mushroom duxelle to the squid and top the dish with fresh rocket lettuce and season with lemon juice and salt. Finally, add mushroom chips which have been fried in olive oil.

Pierre's TT is located at the Promenade level of Intercontinental, Dubai Festival City

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