It's a far cry from Queenstown Road

25 January 2002 by
It's a far cry from Queenstown Road

So much has happened in my six months here as head chef of Verre, Gordon Ramsay at Dubai Creek. My decision to leave L'Anis restaurant and work for Gordon's company was quick and easy to make. We met for coffee and an hour-and-a-half later the deal was done.

Two-and-a-half months later I was in Dubai. I spent the last two months of my time in the UK at Royal Hospital Road learning all Gordon's signature dishes to replicate here.

People questioned whether I would be happy cooking someone else's dishes. But I had the chance to work beside one of two three-star chefs in the world capable of producing such immaculate food out of not just one kitchen but five world-class restaurants, and I knew this move would benefit me long term.

I was met at the airport by Angela Hartnett, the executive chef for Gordon who has worked for him now for nearly seven years. She had been in Dubai for two months before, sorting out suppliers and staff. Angela has been an inspiration. She has such a wealth of knowledge and is such a nice person to work with.

One of our first tasks was to train all the staff to the Ramsay standard in six weeks. Not easy. It's the first time I have done anything like that, so it was as good for me as for them.

The job has taught me to become a better manager, because you have to approach things far more maturely than you would back home. Because of the language barrier you have to make sure the staff understand all you tell them. But these guys are willing to learn, and their respect and manners are impeccable.

The apartment supplied by Hilton is very comfortable. There is a swimming pool on the roof, so when I am swimming at 6.30 in the morning I sometimes think of Queenstown Road and waiting for the bus, which was always full, and reckon that this will be OK for a few years.

November brought the holy month of Ramadan. The laws are strict, with no alcohol and no consumption of food and drink in public from sunrise to sunset. There was a story in the newspaper about a guy who got a month in prison for smoking a cigarette.

But on the fun side of Ramadan is the celebration it brings. Every hotel has a Ramadan tent on the terrace where locals come and play backgammon and eat. n

JASON ATHERTON is head chef of Verre, Gordon Ramsay at Dubai Creek, Dubai

Next diary from Jason Atherton: 7 March

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