After our delightfully British dinner at Great British Restaurant (GBR) at DUKES Dubai, we had to find out more about the chef behind the classic menu with a twist. Luckily, Head Chef Graeme Dodrill was happy to oblige!
What made you decide that this was the right move for you, keeping in mind the heavy competition in Dubai?
I decided to make the move to DUKES Dubai after considering a number of factors. A huge aspect was meeting with Executive Chef Martin Cahill, hearing his views on food, and learning about his ideas for the Great British Restaurant (GBR). To be honest, the whole project appealed to me and after meeting with MD Debrah Dhugga and listening to the passionate way in which she spoke about the whole DUKES brand, it was an easy decision to join the team in Dubai. Of course, it’s also an excellent opportunity to progress my career in such a culturally diverse city.
In your eyes, what does the GBR brand stand for—what’s the USP?
GBR boasts a unique British identity with classically cooked British food and British sourced produce in a beautiful, elegant restaurant.
In such a saturated market, how do you ensure that the back of house and front of house align beautifully?
The staff at any F&B outlet, whether it is in Dubai or anywhere else in the world, will make or break the restaurant. With that in mind, we offer ongoing training to both back of house and front of house staff, individually and collectively, while continuous improvement projects keep the teams working together.
Where will GBR be in 12 months?
My vision, and the vision of every member of the DUKES Dubai team, is that GBR will be the best stand-alone hotel restaurant on the Palm Jumeirah, driven by exemplary food quality.
Tell us about your background. Most culinary legends learn from other culinary legends. How did you learn your trade?
I learned my trade mainly through Michelin star restaurants in Dublin and London including Lecrivan, Chapter One and Peacock Alley, where I worked for Aiden Byrne, who pushed me to go to London and work there. After a stint in Pied a Terre I returned home to work in One Pico, The Greenhouse and lastly Mulberry Garden. Therefore, it’s fair to say Aiden has been a huge influence on my career.
What’s your secret behind creating your menu—where do you gain inspiration?
There is no secret, creating your own menu is mainly done through hard work. I find inspiration in everything and I work very closely with Martin on research and development, which helps evolve the menus and, ultimately, improve the diner’s experience in the restaurant.
Please talk about your number one key signature dish?
The Dover Sole. This is a British classic, and like all of our dishes at GBR, we use the very best British produce to construct the dish. We actually get our Dover Sole whole from a fantastic British company called Wet Fish who used to be based in Billingsgate Fish Market in London so they understand our needs and spec perfectly. We roast it whole on the bone with butter capers and lemon.
This is what GBR is all about, great produce cooked well and respected.
What’s one culinary trend you cannot stand?
One culinary trend I cannot stand is style over substance in concept restaurants.
Visual presentation is as important as taste. What does the best colour and texture match look like for you?
The best colour and texture match, for me, looks, oceanic – with the green seaweed played off against a simple white fish, plated with some squid ink.
How do you choose your suppliers to ensure the best ingredients?
Together with Martin, we travel extensively throughout Dubai and the wider UAE to see suppliers and their produce first hand. Many taste tests are done in order to source the best possible produce to cook and to eat. Infusing tastes from the UK’s rich culinary history, GBR also serves produce from a select number of heritage brands including Paxton & Whitfield Cheese, which dates back to a cheese stall in Aldwych market in 1742, and was provided to Queen Victoria under Royal Warrant from 1850.
What’s your take on motivating your team? Is it all about shouting orders in the kitchen?
I’m definitely not a Gordon Ramsey-style chef, you won’t hear any shouting and swearing from me. I prefer to lead by example, by working harder than the rest of the team. I believe that’s the best way to earn their respect.
What qualities do you look for in your staff?
I look for honest people with a good work ethic, who are reliable and positive.
Best restaurant you’ve ever been to, apart from yours? 😉
Per Se in New York City
One word to describe you as a leader
One word to describe your restaurant(s)