"We're waiting for the Michelin guide to come because for us it's necessary in terms of integrity, in terms of image"

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 29th January 2020

Grégoire Berger is the chef de cuisine at Ossiano, an underwater restaurant at the Atlantis hotel in Dubai.

Born in Versailles and raised in Brittany, the chef began working in a Michelin-starred restaurant aged sixteen, not out of a desire to become a chef but out of necessity.

 

"I wasn't really into food before becoming a chef, I loved this work instilled from the first experience that I had, but in my family it wasn't like that. I was a chef by default." 

But in being a chef gave him the discipline he had craved growing up, cherishing the sense of guidance he received from his elders. 

More than food

Unleashing the perfectionist in him, the job led him to work in  in prestigious restaurants around the world - Paris, Monaco, Florida, and finally, Dubai. 

"I do everything at the finest level. I can't do half measures. Everything I do in life has to be the best of the best." 

Tapping into his guests' thirst for showmanship, every meal at Ossiano is an experience. 

"It's like theatre," the chef explained. 

The chef describes a dining experience where nitrogen is plentiful, with customised plates and a menu presented in the form of a poem, each of which describes one of the thirteen tasting menu courses - such as a frozen sphere of bouillabaisse in the shape of a planet, edible candles given to guests following a ceremonial introduction. 

'Nostalgia' - the chef's take on a croque monsieur - is served on a clock, the hands of which spin backwards. 

"We invite guests to think about their own past - about their wife, their friends - we try to relate it to emotional things." 

 

You don't come to Dubai for a crash-course in the classics 

The chef describes Dubai "like something out of The Fifth Element:" fast-paced, built-up with futuristic ambitions. Because of its spectacular setting, diners at Ossiano don't all come for the food.

"We still have clients just coming in to look at the fish tanks," he laughed. 

"I found it really difficult at first to attract the eyes of the guests away from the tanks to the plates."  

Describing the tank as "his worst enemy," the chef explained that while it drives business, it sends the wrong message about what they're trying to achieve.

"Most of the places in Dubai are so big and so shiny and new that you can't really believe that there is something unique and genuine and true here." 

For this reason, he wouldn't necessarily recommend that all chefs come to work in Dubai. 

"If you're coming to learn fine dining, it's not really the right place yet. There's quite a lot of money in places here, but they want a return on investment very fast and half the crowd in Dubai is mostly composed of Asian guests - Indian, Pakistani - not necessarily avid of fine dining cuisine." 

"It's an emerging country in terms of its culinary scene - that's why Michelin isn't here yet, because it's not really stable." 

Ossiano 

 

Waiting for the guide 

Grégoire would like to open his own restaurant one day. But in the meantime, he would like to see Dubai's culinary scene transformed. 

"We're waiting for the Michelin guide to come because for us it's necessary in terms of integrity, in terms of image." 

"We have a lot of potential, we have a great team, we can do a lot of things." 

The crowd in Dubai, he ventured, might just not be ready for the level of food they're preparing. 

"If we had Ossiano in Paris, in Tokyo, or in New York, it would be easier for us. At least we would know where we stand, simply due to the fact that there are guides to judge you, and we need them - if you don't have a guide, there are no rules.

"We've won more than 30 awards, but those awards are local, so that doesn't help the culinary scene to grow." 

"When you have one or two stars, you know where you stand, and everyone has to raise their standards to reach this level." 

Later this year, the restaurant will be rebranded, closing for renovations and reopening - perhaps with the chef's name above the door - and a website relaunch, separate from the The Atlantis', to showcase the restaurant for how it truly identifies: an independent restaurant trapped in a hotel's body. 

Ossiano restaurant

Video credit: https://chefsroll.com

 

In these challenging times…

…the hospitality landscape has dramatically changed in the last two months, and with that our advertising revenues have all but expired, significantly impacting our business. Despite having to furlough a large portion of our staff, we are still delivering the valuable content and honest information, which hundreds of thousands of you come to The Staff Canteen for. We believe we have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs, are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector.

Your financial support means we remain independent and open to all. We were launched by a chef and remain the voice of chefs and other hospitality professionals.

We need your support to keep delivering the products and content that you love, giving you the platform to share opinions and inspiration. Every contribution whether big or small, means so much.
Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 29th January 2020

"We're waiting for the Michelin guide to come because for us it's necessary in terms of integrity, in terms of image"