Interview with Mansour Memarian

Despite the well-known grandeur of Palazzo Versace Dubai, when it comes to dining, Mansour Memarian, the hotel’s director of culinary and F&B, insists the focus is on simplicity. 

What inspired you to follow this career path? 

“I have always dreamed of becoming a chef, and I’ve had to work hard to accomplish it. Back when I was living in Germany, it was difficult to secure a job as a chef in well-established restaurants, so I chose to start as a server and learn everything possible, from operations and service to the kitchen. At first my family didn’t encourage me to pursue this career, although this made me even more ambitious. Then after my first few successes, they began to realise how much I loved cooking and the catering at our family gatherings was sorted.”

You describe yourself as an Iranian chef with German origins – how do those two nations influence your cooking? 

“Cooking is storytelling, and it’s been my wish to bring Iranian food to fine dining restaurants, sharing with guests the rich flavours of Persia and my childhood memories. While the cooking techniques are simple, mostly grills and stews, this made me more innovative with the presentation of traditional dishes. The other half of my DNA has made to love German food. I cook German food, but I love to eat it even more.”

What food philosophy do you bring to Vanitas at Palazzo
Versace Dubai? 

“The philosophy is ‘keep it simple’. Authenticity and simplicity are the elements that make Vanitas so desirable. Everything comes together here – the food, the ambience and the interior design. The attention to detail is very important and there’s nothing overpowering. It is a chic restaurant, simple, yet so elegant.”

Dubai has many Italian restaurants, what makes Vanitas stand out from the crowd? 

“Besides the authentic Italian food, Vanitas was designed to recreate a ballroom feel on a smaller scale. The interiors are beautiful and intricate, you feel like you’re in a fairy tale. Dining at Vanitas is a true Versace experience, from your arrival to the last course. The crockery collection we use, the Medusa Blue Rosenthal by Versace, is a unique touch that our guests simply love. It is an intimate experience ideal for a day or night out. The restaurant also has a beautiful terrace overlooking Dubai Creek, it’s the perfect backdrop for a fabulous evening.”

What are some of your favourite dishes on the menu? 

“I love the lobster ravioli and the beef carpaccio. These two dishes can be hit or miss in an Italian restaurant, but I strongly believe we’ve got them right.” 

If someone was new to your restaurant, what should they order?

“We make everything in house, from pasta to the most sophisticated sauces and trimmings. I’d recommend our signature dishes – branzino in crosta di nocciole or risotto agli asparagi.”

What are the two ingredients that you can’t live without? 

“Tomato and basil are very important in Italian cooking. They are always first on my kitchen checklist.”

What is the secret to a perfect meal? 

“I think it is the hard work that goes into developing a recipe. There’s nothing more important than spending time perfecting a dish.”

What makes a good restaurant? 

“Simplicity and authenticity are the new buzz words in the culinary world and I hope the emphasis on being over creative will disappear soon. I completely love this new trend that encourages chefs to go back to basics, focusing more on taste.”

If you could escape to one city in the world for a weekend of eating, where would you go and why? 

“Picking just one is hard. I am happy to discover every culinary destination. I have so many memories related to good restaurants around the world. At some, I’ve experienced fantastic service, at others, memorable dishes. There are also places where I’ve had the best conversations and moments that I’ll cherish all my life. Every restaurant should enhance the guests’ experience not only by feeding them but also by leaving a lasting impression.”

What are the best and toughest parts about your job?

I have spent 15 years of my career working in Michelin-starred restaurants and professional kitchens are renowned stressful environments. It’s a harsh world, but, at the same time, the most beautiful one. It allows you to grow and learn and only the strongest survive in this field.”

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