Award-winning chef Heinz Beck drops in at his Dubai venue, Social by Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, to chat Michelin stars, menu inspirations and more
Chef Heinz Beck is a busy man. When he isn’t creating new recipes behind the scenes in his kitchen, he’s hosting exclusive chef’s table events at his sought-after restaurants. The award-winning culinary genius has fronted several eateries all over the world, from Tuscany and Algarve to Rome, where he is currently based at the three-Michelin-starred La Pergola Restaurant. And he recently made a special appearance at his Dubai outpost, Social by Heinz Beck, to host an exclusive culinary experience featuring never-before presented dishes.
His popular Dubai venue is a firm favourite on the emirate’s dining scene, championing contemporary, high-end Italian cuisine. There is a lightness and freshness to the menu that puts it a cut above its contemporaries. Here, the convivial chef tells us about his menu updates for the season, his thoughts on the city’s dining scene and the philosophy at the heart of his culinary creations – health and wellness through food.
Three Michelin stars to your name… how does that feel?
“We have three Michelin stars in Rome for La Pergola Restaurant. It was the very first restaurant I opened in Italy and I am very proud of how far we’ve come.”
Do you think Dubai is ready for the Michelin guide?
“I’m not sure if and when the Michelin guide will come to Dubai, but when it does, it will be ideal for us. However, at the end of the day, it’s your customers who 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 did you discover your passion for cooking?
“I always wanted to be a painter but my father didn’t agree with my decision to pursue the arts. Instead, he asked me to study something ‘serious’ like medicine or economics. But I remained firm and said that if I couldn’t go to art college, I wouldn’t go to university at all. He then recommended that I take up a summer job and the first thing I turned to was cooking, which then took me to hotel school. At first, I simply studied without believing in the potential of the work but then I began to see the creative side of the culinary world and its connection with nature. I would visit food producers and suppliers in Italy to source fresh fruit and vegetables, walk into their fields, look around and taste the ingredients. It revealed a different way of life that I was fascinated by.”
Tell us more about your culinary philosophy.
“We are a bit different from the others because we champion a more creative approach to Italian cuisine. For the past 20 years, I have been working with health and food researchers who study how we must eat in order to live better. This makes a lot of difference because I strongly believe that we are what we eat. The Greek physician Hippocrates said, ‘Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.’ Unfortunately, this knowledge was lost somewhere along the way. But, eating healthy has always been important, especially with everything going on in the world. And that is why the concept of health and wellness through food is at the core of our operations in the kitchens.”
What’s new on the menu at Social by Heinz Beck?
“Whenever I visit, we prepare new dishes because I time my arrival with the change in seasons. With winter soon approaching, it’s the perfect time to put something new on the table. And so we are currently working on a sumptuous winter menu at Social by Heinz Beck. As with all our restaurants, the role of science and health is becoming increasingly influential in our decisions, where the concept of quality now includes a lot of new and different perspectives. Every time I come back to Dubai, I try to visit local farmers and suppliers to gain a better understanding of their work ethic and farming techniques, and to select the best ingredients. We must respect the raw material and its seasonality to get the best flavour and the best nutritional intake as we head towards the cooler months. Through our menus, our guests will enjoy the best flavours of the season: from pumpkin and kale to beetroot and white truffle.”
So do you have a favourite dish on the menu?
“Would you ever ask a mother to choose her favourite child? If I wouldn’t love all my dishes, I wouldn’t have put them on the menu. Add to this the fact that we change menus frequently and you might not find the same dish on your next visit. I personally would eat them all, so maybe I would suggest coming more often instead to taste all our dishes, and then you wouldn’t have to choose a favourite.”