A few months ago, we had the opportunity to visit Galvin Dubai, the latest from Michelin chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, who have found immense success with their restaurants over in the UK.
Although it bears the Galvin name, Chris and Jeff knew that they wouldn’t be able to be as hands-on and involved with the Dubai location as perhaps their other restaurants. So they chose an Executive Chef who they knew and trusted immensely to take Galvin Dubai in a direction that would not only uphold the reputation of the family brand but also make it its own in this new location.
Enter Chef Luigi Vespero.
The Napoli-born chef worked for the Galvin brothers for a number of years prior to this latest position. He first worked as the sous chef at Galvin La Chapelle before moving up to become head chef at Galvin Bistrot Deluxe. Chef Luigi then left for the opportunity to work at Jumeirah Group in Dubai for a few years.
But when plans began forming for Galvin Dubai, there was no hesitation in Chris and Jeff appointing him Executive Chef or in Chef Luigi accepting the opportunity to join the Galvin family again.
Whilst still keeping to their M.O. of English-influenced French cuisine served in a hip but elegant environment, Galvin Dubai has added a “flavours of the sun” spin to the menu by also adding in touches of Italian, Southern French, and North African cuisine. It also goes without saying that Chef Luigi’s Napolitano roots are a huge asset to the Mediterranean influence on the menu!
Galvin Dubai has been establishing their presence and as word spreads about the elegant vibe, excellent service, and Chef Luigi Vespero’s talent, it will no doubt become just as popular and successful as go-to in the new City Walk development.
Read our review of Galvin Dubai here!
Was it always in your plans to work with the Galvin brothers again?
When I left the Galvin brothers and my home in London to move to Dubai, I didn’t have any premeditated plans to rejoin Chris and Jeff. However, my time and traditions with them was always very precious to me and the day I had left, I said to the brothers, “This is not goodbye, this is arrivederci”.
What have been some memorable moments for you as the Executive Chef since the opening of Galvin Dubai?
I began my journey with this project when Galvin Dubai was simply an idea on a piece of paper. Starting from the very beginning, I really felt like the restaurant was very much my very own brainchild. After spending months on project planning, procurement, recruitment and much more, when we finally opened, the team and I truly knew we had everything perfectly in place to now make Galvin Dubai a very successful restaurant.
How do you think your approach to the kitchen and menu would have differed if you had come straight from London to open Galvin Dubai, as opposed to having had the time to “acclimate” to the Dubai food culture for a few years before taking on this position?
It would have been more challenging, without a doubt. Although we are very fortunate and blessed in Dubai as we can fly in ingredients from all over the globe.
You’re a very ingredient-driven chef. What sort of ingredients have been inspiring you lately? Has there been anything that you really wanted to use but just weren’t able to source?
Traditionally, working in Europe meant we had the tendency to source a majority of our produce locally. In Dubai, you have the opportunity to utilize some of the best ingredients from all around the globe. For example, our Veal is sourced from Canada, and it’s the very best veal I have used in my cooking.
Between your Naples roots, your London cooking career, and now Dubai, not to mention working under greats like Gordon Ramsay, are there any particular experiences that have continued to strongly influence the way you cook and look at food today?
Shaping up to be the chef I am today started a long time ago. It began with cooking at home with my grandmother, I absorbed so much knowledge and experience. Again with my times spent in trattorias, pizzerias and other traditional establishments, it truly inspired my understanding of cooking. However, certainly, the 3 key and revolutionary experiences in my life were working with Gordon, following the two restaurateurs and gurus Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, and ultimately Chris and Jeff Galvin.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make when cooking and coming up with menus for the Middle East dining clientele versus the UK?
Very straight answer: “The Sharing concept”
Visual presentation is as important as taste. What do you keep in mind when deciding how to plate each dish?
We live in the era of social media; therefore when we assemble a dish, we must think not only how well it will look to the customers’ eyes, but also keep in mind how it will look in pictures. I often say to my chefs, “the dish is required to be instagrammable” as a thought to ensure it looks as good as it tastes.
In your eyes, what does the Galvin brand stand for—what’s the USP?
A family-run business, whose patrons are extremely hands-on, ensuring the warmth of welcome and top service alongside exceptional food.
What qualities do you look for in your staff?
Determination, respect for others, love for the ingredients, and to some extent, I like them to be dreamers who dream big, so that I might be one of the people helping them to turn their dreams into realities.
What’s the best meal you’ve had in the world (apart from yours)?
On my 26th birthday, I treated my wife and myself (my girlfriend at the time) to a 9-course tasting menu at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in London. To this day I still remember every single dish!
What are some of your favorite Dubai (or UAE) restaurants?
In no particular order, I would say Le Petit Maison, Lima, 3 Fils, The Experience and Ravi!
On your days off, where might we find you and what are you likely to be doing?
On my off days, I fully dedicate myself to my family. Spending quality time with my two children trying to make up for all the hours I spend in the kitchen. There are times when I actually take them with me to the grocery shop or either fish or vegetable market, too. I get them very much involved on how to select the best ingredients and they really love it. It’s nice to shine some light on a big process of what I do when I am not with them.
What’s your cooking style when you’re off the clock? Any favorites dishes you like to prepare for friends and family?
On many occasions, I have been told that my BBQs are just the best and I am truly starting to believe that 😊
One word to describe you as a leader
My philosophy is “Work with me…not for me!”
One word to describe your restaurant
Any plans, new developments, etc., that we should keep an eye out for?
We have just recently opened Galvin Dubai which complements Demoiselle by Galvin, so for now, there are no new expansion plans for Dubai. We are focusing our energy and efforts in our current offerings and establishing our presence at events and in the city.
The Square, City Walk, Dubai