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The secret lies in the sauce

Concierge joins Pierre Gagnaire behind the scenes at Pierre’s Bistro & Bar to see the master chef in action and learn more about the recipe behind his success

Offering a refreshed take on the complete French dining experience, Pierre’s Bistro & Bar in Dubai Festival City has been taking the emirate by storm since it opened early last year. The refreshed take on French cuisine and the quirky, colourful interiors that invite diners to enjoy a more casual approach than typical fine dining, has clearly resonated with the market.

But what diners don’t typically see is the work and preparation that goes into the plated dishes that arrive on their tables. It’s a pity as witnessing Pierre Gagnaire cast his magic in the kitchen is poetry in motion. With three Michelin stars to his name, a host of celebrated restaurants around the globe and a career that spans more than 40 years, there remains no stopping this master chef. The venue recently celebrated its first birthday and the chef was in town to launch the restaurant’s new menu to mark the occasion, which is when we caught up with him.

You’re one of the world’s best chefs… tell us how it all began?

“I worked! It all started in the ‘80s, when I decided I wanted to find a new and creative way to put the spotlight on fine French cuisine. But then it was no longer only work, it became a project of life – combining taste with emotions to deliver extraordinary experiences.”

It takes some of the world’s best chefs a lifetime to win a single Michelin star. You’ve won three. How does it feel?

“It’s like a jewel that you must work hard to keep. It’s not your property once you win it, you have to consistently prove you are worthy of it. That being said, a chef shouldn’t only work towards awards. Staying true to your own style and keeping it authentic is equally important as this is what keeps your diners happy.”

Pierre’s Bistro & Bar recently celebrated its first birthday. Tell us more about the celebrations at the venue?

“We changed the menu for the season with more focus on fresh vegetables such as asparagus and peas. We have also added a few interesting seafood dishes to the menu with the turbot now in season and we’re certain our diners are going to love it. With Dubai enjoying a central location, you get perfect produce from all around the world and I’m very happy with the quality of the product found here. We build our menu with these items as the base. In fact, here in Dubai, you will also find ingredients imported from France, which you cannot easily find in France itself.”

Any signature dishes on the menu?

“Our signature is that we have no signature – and our diners love us for that. Although sometimes, it can pose a challenge because people fall in love with a certain dish, come back for it and we don’t have it anymore. We have maintained a few successful dishes on the menu such as the tuna tataki with crispy rice; black garlic with mushrooms; and the calamari, but we don’t call these our signatures as there are slight changes in the ingredients with each passing season – even if it’s subtle and in the garnish only. But at the end of the day, there is a signature style that we adhere to.”

Tell us more about your culinary philosophy.

“I’ve always believed that the chef’s spirit inspires the culinary philosophy of any restaurant combined with the energy of the location. The philosophy at Pierre’s Bistro & Bar varies in character from my restaurants in other destinations. Although the personality of the chef remains at the core, the setting and the recipes are different everywhere. For us, it is all about casual food with a strong French character and that Dubai touch, simply because we cater to a multicultural audience. Our menu changes three to four times a year in accordance with the season and you’ll find everything from curries to ginger-infused Eastern specialities and local treats with dates. And that’s what the crowd loves.”

You’ve opened numerous restaurants around the world and with all the management it takes, do you still find the time to simply cook?

“At the heart of every new project is my desire to keep cooking. Of course, it’s different when you own the restaurant, but the story begins in the kitchen. I try my best to spend time in the kitchen every day. It’s very important to me as it helps me stay focused. I am not a businessman, I am a chef and I want to stay a chef – that’s the key to success.”

What do you have to say about the dining scene in Dubai and how does it compare to anywhere else in the world?

“Dubai is the new world. Here, you meet people from all over the globe that you wouldn’t ordinarily get the chance to meet elsewhere. People come here to live and to work and with so many ethnicities comes the opportunity to present a variety of cuisines to a diverse set of audiences.”

What’s your take on French fusion food? Does it fit your style?

“Fusion is confusion. It’s important to stay true to your roots and keep the authenticity of your art alive. In fact, when I began working, I felt the world was my oven. But I’m French and I didn’t try to look outside. I’m very focused on my speciality.”

When it comes to French food, what can make or break a dish?

“The secret lies in the sauce. It’s what gives you a final product you can be proud of. In France, we are lucky because we have it all – the sea, the mountains, the countryside – and the inspiration comes from everywhere. And when you tap into this inspiration, you can guarantee success.”

Any tips for up and coming chefs?

“To be yourself and to work with honesty. One shouldn’t copy someone else’s style. If you copy, you’ve lost. You must be yourself.” When you’re not behind the scenes in the kitchen, what keeps you busy? “I give interviews. Jokes aside, I like spending time with family, listening to music and reading. I always have a book in my bag. It’s a simple life.”

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