Dubai: Sheikh Mohammed's incredible gesture helped this TV show host become a Michelin chef

'He had watched my show on TV with his family and was impressed with my work,' she said


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Thu 25 May 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 May 2023, 7:49 PM

A Michelin-recognized chef has shared how a TV show changed her life. Iranian American chef Ariana Bundy was in shock when she got a phone call saying His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai appreciated her cooking style and wanted to meet her.

“He had watched my show on TV with his family and was impressed with my work,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times after winning the special award titled new opening of the year. “We then got to meet him.”

Following the meeting, Ariana prepared a taste-testing menu for Sheikh Mohammed. “After a lot of talk, I prepared a feast for him,” she said. “He loved the food and then offered me a restaurant space to set my own thing.”

Challenges, steep learning curve

An award-winning cookbook author and television show host, Ariana said running her own restaurant was a challenge and steep learning curve. “We were delayed by four years, but it has been an incredible journey,” she said. “It was a great creative process, and I was given the carte blanche to create anything I wanted. I have the most amazing team with me, so I had everything at my disposal to create something magical.”

Her eatery, Ariana’s Persian Kitchen, is located inside Atlantis The Royal and is a modern and refined take on the ancient and sophisticated Persian cuisine. Served family style, Persian classics are given a twist in terms of textures, ingredients and presentation at the restaurant. Guests can sample signature dishes such as rose-scented sea bass and her take on classic Persian ice cream with saffron, pistachios and rose water as well as traditional Persian tea and baklava.

It was the first time that an award for a newly opened restaurant was given out as part of the Michelin Guide in Dubai. After winning, Ariana said that the recognition meant a lot to her as an Iranian woman. “This award will give recognition to a food and culture that is relatively unknown,” she said. “I hope with this, we can shed more light on our beautiful heritage, the food that we serve and the hospitality that Persian homes have.”

It is all in the family

Ariana first learnt the ropes of food business from her restaurateur father, who owned innovative French dining establishments in pre-revolution Iran and later Beverly Hills.

After learning the craft, Ariana became a pastry chef at a reputed bakery, catering for the Oscars and Golden Globes as well as movie premieres. In 2012, her book ‘Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes’, received a Gourmand Cookbook Award and was shortlisted as the best cookery book at the 2013 Writer's Guild Awards. In 2015, Ariana became the host of the cookery and travel series ‘Ariana's Persian Kitchen’. She said she feels blessed for everything she has achieved. “I feel like I am living in a movie,” she said. “I feel emotional when I think about my journey.”


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