EXCLUSIVE: Afternoon Tea with Gary Rhodes
Gary Rhodes has jetted into Dubai for the launch of his latest culinary venture, Rhodes English Afternoon Tea at Rhodes in Residence, Grosvenor House Tower Two. The quintessential dining experience is set to be the hottest new afternoon tea when it launches this November. With plates piled high full of smoked salmon sandwiches, strawberry and cream scones as well as miniature gelato ice-cream cones, this mini-feast of fine food is as traditional as much as it is contemporary – much like the rest of Gary Rhodes’ gastronomic menus worldwide.
Ahlan! Live's Shannon Wylie chilled out on the sofa at Rhodes in Residence with the in-demand chef who spilled all on eating in Dubai, his cooking secrets and why he loves Marilyn Monroe.
“I spend about 90 percent of my time in the kitchen when I’m here in Dubai,” said Gary. But when his taste buds call you can be sure to find the Michelin star chef settling into one of the many restaurants across the city. “I love Indego by Vineet at the Grosvenor. Vineet Bhatia, the chef is a good friend and somebody I very much admire. It’s great food. But in Dubai I love the great variety of restaurants. Obviously where I live, I live outside of London and locally there might be a Chinese restaurant, maybe Indian, a French style restaurant but here there are restaurants from across the world.”
Born and raised Londoner, Gary explains that his days at home generally start at the crack of dawn with a train into the city. “One thing I really adore about London is being able to get the train into the city and I usually get into town about 6 o’clock. So it’s quite early in the morning. I like it when it’s during the summer, when the sun is coming up, and you’re walking across one of the bridges looking at all of the beautiful scenery that London has to offer. Then I'll walk through some of the little streets and I can suddenly smell coffee. This is what I love about Paris as well. I know there is going to be a baker around the corner and I can smell fresh croissant.”
Gary's taste buds already have the master chef thinking about his next move too. “When I get back to London I’m only back for about a week and then I’m flying out to Auckland. I’ve never been but I’m going to a culinary event and I’m going to be cooking there. I want to take in what New Zealand has to offer, in the culinary world, as well as its natural beauty.”
Speaking of beauties, Gary spilled that if he could cook for anybody it would be, “well, I’m going to say somebody that is no longer with us. It would be Marilyn Monroe.” The food expert jokes: “I’d like to sit there on my own and have dinner with her, but don’t tell my wife!" Gary then quickly whispers, "No, she knows how I feel about Marilyn Monroe. I just think there’s something about that lady that I found stunning, so yes I would love to cook for her.” But Gary doesn’t stop there. The thought of cooking for people has sparked his imagination and before he I could stop him, he’s blurted out his perfect dinner party guest list. “If I could have a table of invited guests I would have, without any shallow of a doubt, George Clinton, who I’m an admirer of; Martin Luther King who I believe is one of the greatest men of all time; and I would definitely have Stevie Wonder playing the music for my evening because I’m a big fan of his. Marilyn Monroe would be there and I would probably have Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchestur United, because I’m a freak Manchester United fan. I think that would be quiet a nice table.”
The thought of cooking for other people is what kick started Gary’s career as a chef. “I remember the days when I was leaving school and I dare tell any of my friends I even cooked. In fact many years before that I started cooking at home when I was a very young boy. At about the age of 13 I remember my mother had shown me how to make this steamed lemon sponge with lemon sauce and we had it for a Sunday lunch pudding. I remember turning out the pudding that I’d been steaming for several hours and pouring the sauce on top and my whole family smiled. And I thought, I want to cook. That’s all I want to do. It was the pleasure of other people that really inspired me to come into this industry. But I couldn’t go into school the next day and say 'I cooked a lemon sponge and lemon sauce'. This is going back into the very early 70s so you couldn’t tell everybody that in those days, now, young guys are cooking all the time. How life has changed.”
From cooking in the kitchen to plating up some of the most well respected dishes in the world, Gary has one simple tip for anyone wanting to cook well at home. “I think it’s about being simple with your food. Putting lots of ingredients together does not make you a better cook. Understanding simple basic rules when cooking will make you a better cook. Just get your simple basics right and you will cook great dishes. And never forget, the main ingredient has to stay the main ingredient of that dish. If you’re cooking a piece of salmon, anything you put with it is purely there to compliment it, to help bring out its flavor, rather than to mask it. And quiet often people forget that and they put together things that are clashing and fighting with it. So it is about balance.”