Dubai is a city of many firsts and for once it is not a tall building grabbing international attention but a unique restaurant incarnation of a globally popular reality show.
Words by David Dunn
The only MasterChef, The TV Experience is now open in the new Millennium Place Marina hotel.
And while the region doesn’t currently have a tailored version of the show, it could well figure in a future episode. So says Duncan Fraser-Smith, director of global F&B for UAE property developer and F&B specialist The First Group, which partnered with show producers Endemol Shine Group to create the restaurant.
He confirms some series already running around the world could end up filming challenges at the Dubai restaurant, which features a 36-dish menu selected from recipes by 120 champions and finalists.
“MasterChef has continued to grow and there’s no better place in the world to put a concept like MasterChef than in a place like Dubai,” says Duncan. “Experiential dining is what people want – people come out and want to be entertained while they eat.
“There’s heart and soul gone into this restaurant; it’s not gimmicky or to grab attention; it’s really about conveying that emotional connection between food and the consumer. We’ve made sure we stayed true to that.”
Among those contributing is Simon Ward, UK MasterChef champion in 2015, now with two successful restaurants and a third imminent.
“I always wanted to be a chef but life never led me in that direction,” he says. “MasterChef came along, flipped life on its head and I found myself where I should be. I’m in the kitchen, five days a week – that’s a utopia for me.”
Simon will be guest chef in Dubai for a week in August with his duck fat mash potato, artichoke celeriac and truffle pear.
“The equipment and infrastructure they’ve got here is fantastic. It’s state of the art – it can only do good things for food.”
Also back at the 160-cover restaurant will be Las Vegas foodie Stuart O’Neale – MasterChef US 2016 champion.
“Masterchef is an amazing platform – it changes your life but it’s really the work you put in afterwards. I was a DJ for almost 20 years so it was a pretty easy transition because food and music have a unique relationship. It’s all about pleasing people and having a good time, making sure people are enjoying the food or enjoying the music.”
Stuart’s venison loin rubbed with coffee and chilli – the entree that helped him win the finale – is on the main menu.
Daring diners can even opt for the show’s Mystery Box – at AED 300 for two*, you select five ingredients from 10 protein, vegetable and condiment options and challenge head chef Margarita Vaamonde-Beggs and her team to bring the ingredients to life within 40 minutes.
“No restaurants in the world right now are letting guests choose ingredients and then creating something special out of a choice,” adds Stuart. “It’s a unique concept and only MasterChef can pull something like that off.”
Masterchef The TV Experience, Millennium Place Marina, Al Marsa Street. Daily 12pm-3pm and 7pm-11pm. For bookings and reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.masterchefdxb.com – or call 04 550 8111.
*The summer menu is AED 129 for three courses and AED 229 for three courses, including a two-hour grape package. For one month, from 9th June.