Meet the chef: Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah
Social by Heinz Beck may be a UAE restaurant, but the chef at its helm has an impressive international pedigree. The German-born Heinz Beck has fronted award-winning restaurants all over the world, from Tuscany and the Algarve to Tokyo and Rome, where he is currently based at Michelin-starred La Pergola Restaurant in the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria. Who better then, to create the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah’s authentic Italian restaurant.
Social by Heinz Beck has been open for more than three years, bringing contemporary, high-end Mediterranean cuisine to the luxurious Dubai hotel. Much like its New York predecessor, the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah offers a sense of old-world glamour, a fact reflected in the refreshingly understated elegance of its restaurants. As for the food itself, the dishes at Social by Heinz Beck are a far cry from the cheese and carb laden plates of lesser Italian restaurants. There is a lightness and freshness to the menu that puts it a cut above its Dubai contemporaries. Here, the convivial chef tells us about his plans for 2018, his thoughts on the Dubai dining scene and what, in his opinion, makes a perfect meal.
What can we expect from Social by Heinz Beck this season?
“I visit Dubai at least six times a year to manage the restaurant, and this includes getting the menu ready for seasonal changes. Right now, we are trying to use more winter vegetables – we have some beautiful tortellini with pumpkin, some lovely white truffle. Even though Dubai doesn’t really get cold and have a proper winter.”
Do you have a favourite dish on the menu?
“Would you ask a mother who her favourite child is? My dishes are like my kids, I love them all. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t put them on the menu.”
What makes the perfect meal?
“A perfect meal is one where afterwards, when you go home, you feel happy. You sleep well, you’re energised when you wake up. And of course, it’s important that the food isn’t too heavy, because then it’ll make you tired and you won’t be very good at conversation over dinner. People think that Italian food is rich and heavy – big bowls of pasta filled with cream and cheese. But that’s not how Italians eat, and that’s not how I cook. The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. That is the kind of food I make, and that’s what you’ll find at Social by Heinz Beck.”
Where do you get your inspiration from as a chef?
“Every day, I’m experimenting in the kitchen, creating new dishes and then I’ll get in touch with my team and have them recreate it with the local ingredients. I’m inspired by my raw materials – I like to leave ingredients as untouched as possible, so that they speak for themselves. That’s why I only use the best.”
What do you think of the current dining scene in Dubai? Do you think the city is ready for its first Michelin star?
“I’m not sure if and when the Michelin guide will come to Dubai. There are more new concepts popping up all the time, but as a chef, I really believe that you have to remain true to your vision. At the end of the day, your customers will show you whether or not you’re doing things the right way. We have a very loyal customer base, and a big percentage of our clientele comes from outside the hotel, which I think is a great sign of our quality. ”
How do you deal with the stress of being a high profile chef?
“You have to think positive. If you’re not finding solutions for the problems, you’re part of the problem. The thing is, I’m not stressed. When chefs only care about being the best, they’re stressed from morning until night. They don’t perform well, they run down their staff and they burn out. What I care about is making our guests happy. I want to inspire my team, give them something to believe in, so that they are motivated to grow every day, and one day they will arrive where they want to be.”