Meet the chef: Rabeh Adel Amir at Aseelah, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek
The old-world charm of Dubai’s historic districts is brought to life at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek. Making the most of its vibrant location – a short distance from the emirate’s traditional marketplaces and cultural hubs – is the property signature Emirati restaurant, Aseelah. Known for its classic take on regional cuisine, the venue is a local favourite, especially during the holy month, when Aseelah takes on a whole new character to present a spectacular spread.Aseelah’s Arabic sous chef, Rabeh Adel Amir, chats culinary inspirations, menu favourites and iftar plans.
How did you discover your passion for cooking?
17 years ago, when I was on summer break from school, I worked part-time in a restaurant in south Syria. The head chef there told me as a culinary enthusiast, it is very important to add one’s signature touch to every recipe, classic or contemporary. This prompted me to watch a lot of cooking shows and also help my mother in the kitchen. Since then, it has been my dream to run my own kitchen.
What does a typical day at Aseelah look like for you?
For the most part of my day, I’m shuffling between attending briefings or training my team. In addition to this, my role also involves regular quality checks to ensure everything in the kitchen runs smoothly in order for us to craft memorable dining experiences for our guests.
Where do you draw your inspiration from as a chef?
Chef Uwe Micheel, the Director of Kitchens at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, is my idol. It’s a privilege to be working with and learning from a culinary master like him.
What can diners expect at Aseelah this Ramadan?
For iftar, Aseelah, together with the other venues at the hotel, will host a sumptuous spread of over 200 dishes. Visitors can expect an extensive variety of Middle Eastern and international cuisines with our highlight being Emirati, Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian and Moroccoa treats. We are also planning a special live barbecue station and shisha this year.
As a chef, how do you cope with fasting during Ramadan?
It’s very difficult to prepare a meal and fast at the same time, especially since you need to taste the dishes you’re cooking. But when you’re backed up by a trustworthy team of experts, who can step in and check the flavour balance for you, you can make it work.
What makes the perfect iftar?
There are two things to bear in mind when crafting the perfect iftar experience, the first being quality as the meal should completely replenish those fasting and also keep them sailing through the hours to follow. It then comes to variety – an iftar with dates, soups, fresh salads, meats and rice with lots of juices and water makes for a truly sumptuous spread.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
I love the chicken margoogat, a stew-based dished with plenty of vegetables. I especially love preparing this dish as it’s always a favourite with our diners. It’s has the perfect balance of flavours – spicy, salty and sour – bringing all the taste buds to life.
What do you love the most about working in the UAE?
I always tell myself I am lucky to work in Dubai because it is so multicultural. It’s especially rewarding to serve traditional Emirati cuisine to first-timers, who love the dishes so much that they always ask for recipes after their meal. In fact, this prompted us to launch a cooking demonstration experience, where we take visitors through the process of creating a few Emirati favourites. It also serves as a cultural ice breaker.
When you’re not running the show at Aseelah’s kitchens, where do you enjoy dining?
I love going to JBR for the sheer variety of cuisines on offer. Apart from Emirati food, I love trying different cuisines including Italian, Thai, Indian and French. Back home, my favourite restaurant is the Bawabet Dimashq, also known as Damascus Gate, which is the record holder for the world’s largest restaurant.