A three Michelin star chef brings her experience to Dubai
By Meera Pattni
Florence was one of the many cities I had hoped to visit when I lived abroad. Everyone always talked about the food there. The dessert, they would say, ‘it feels like everything suddenly makes sense, and nothing else matters. And no, it is nothing like Pizza Express.’ I simply shrugged and assured myself that one day, that would be me. And it was. Except, I wasn’t in Florence. No, I wasn’t in Italy at all. In fact, I was right here in Dubai. And all I did was tag along with a couple of colleagues to The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri, which promised to bring Florence to Dubai.
Before I introduce you to the elegant and talented chef behind the restaurant, allow me to engage you in the magical experience, as tested by yours truly and her colleagues, at the Artisan recently.
The first thing I noticed as we walked towards the restaurant were the massive blue doors standing guard to what looked to me like a magical kingdom beyond the glass and wood shutters.
ìInteresting!î I thought. The doors looked like they were about to welcome me to that place from my dreams–a Narnia-like mysterious venue–except, with way more food.
We ordered our food and as I waited in anticipation, I eyed the restaurant’s décor and noticed pairs of the same painting in different colors plastered around the walls. Artsy and magical, does it get better than this? The answer is “yes.”
We started off with bread–not just regular bread–rosemary and tomato bread. It was soft, fresh and delicious. I wolfed it down in seconds.
Then came the lentil soup with black truffle shavings. Now, being Indian, I eat lentils about three times a week, so I wondered how these lentils are going to be any different. Well, they were. They tasted like the kind of lentils I ate as a child when I had just started going to school. The spice was minimal but the earthy flavor of the truffle and lentils was abundant and it was a good melange with the parsley leafs and small tomato cubes that added a fresh taste to my bowl. The hints of rosemary made it stand out from ordinary lentils, and the softness of it made it easy on the tongue and the stomach.
After the lentils came the beetroot salad. The only memory I have of beetroot is watching relatives blend it up and drink it. ‘It’s good for the blood,’ they would say in response to my half confused half disgusted face. The beetroot salad was paired with rocket leaves, yoghurt and hazelnut. Either it was the mixture of those ingredients that made me enjoy the salad, or the fact that the hazelnut made me feel like I was eating whole-nut chocolates, but I devoured the salad in a matter of minutes.
The salad, probably because of the yoghurt, had hints of sourness, which made my taste buds dance around in excitement. It was lovely.
I had about three servings of it, including the very last serving.
And last but not least came every vegetarians go-to pasta. Any guesses? Penne Arrabbiata! Does Penne Arrabbiata follow a universal recipe, because I feel like it tastes exactly the same everywhere?
But this pasta dish, although having hints of similarity to other pastas I have tasted, had a little more garlic and a little more spice, which added a kick to what is generally a bland dish.
On the other side of the table, sat three of my colleagues with their less orthodox food choices than mine.
One colleague started with her grilled steak and never stopped until she finished the whole thing, and trust me, it was really big, or as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump would say: “It was Yuuuuge!”
I thought to myself, she couldn’t have downed it that easily, had it not been that good; especially since she had already wiped her plate clean of grilled octopus, which our two other colleagues also had. All three of them had the ‘Oh My God!’ look on their faces from the first bite to the last.
It is at times like these that I start to question my vegetarian choices; sorry mom! Then came dessert. When I tasted the tiramisu, I was on cloud nine. It was made perfectly; the cocoa powder was bitter enough, the remainder of it was sweet enough, and believe me when I say it just melted in my mouth and was like a hug in a bowl that tasted of magic and euphoria.
The experience overall was great, and I would visit again, especially for the magical tiramisu! Go ahead and try it! You will feel the magic from the moment you walk into what lies beyond those large blue doors.
Now allow me to walk you through a brief history of The Artisan. It has it roots in Italy, and is known, particularly for offering a feast for the senses.
The restaurant gained acclamation long before social media played a hand in choosing what we eat for dinner: the 1970s, to be specific.
And above all, it is home to one of the world’s best chefs, Annie Feolde, who is one of only five women worldwide to hold 3 Michelin Stars for her food creations.
Feolde was born in Nice, France, to a family of hoteliers, which made her want very little do with the business.
So, she packed up her bags and ended up working as a clerk in a Paris post office. But, as fate would have it, she didn’t enjoy her job as a clerk, and a year later she found herself in Italy. Which is where her journey began. Newsweek Middle East spoke to Annie Feolde on her brief visit to Dubai. Here’s what she had to say:
“I always worked with passion and dedication, in the beginning, I just wanted to help the wine tasting that my husband was doing in a very nice and new way, I created small dishes to add to the guest experience,” she says about the roots of her restaurant. The wine bar then started to serve its first hot dishes in 1974, where she made desserts and appetizers using her own imagination.
Feolde takes pride in being a self-taught chef, and so it is evident that the Michelin Stars came as a huge surprise to her. “When I received the first star, I wasn’t expecting it since I always worked to please our clientele, and I was very surprised to be the first 3 Michelin Star female chef outside of France in 1950, I am very honored, I keep thinking about this courage and strength,” she says. It also shed some light on the divide between male and female chefs. There isn’t much difference between men and women, it is really a matter of passion and creativity, she continued.
And as Dubai is a multicultural city, where everyone brings a bit of their home here, this is also the case with The Artisan.
“Dubai is a hub where you have different cultures living all together,” says the world-class chef of the city, which she briefly visited for three days this month.
“When we opened The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri, we had the impression that we could give to people the possibility of knowing a bit more about the Italian cuisine,” Feolde says, describing why they opened up in Dubai.
Feolde is feeding her Italian specialty to dozens, but she has yet to try an Emirati dish. Go ahead, we promise not to disappoint.