Okku Dubai scores hat trick at Caterer Awards

Home-grown brand bags best restaurant, chef and bartender titles
Okku operations manager Ross Ledingham.
Okku operations manager Ross Ledingham.

Okku Dubai, the luxury Japanese restaurant and lounge, won three sought-after accolades at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2011 last night.

The home-grown restaurant, independently run and located within The Monarch Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road, was the only outlet to take home more than one award from the ceremony, held at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.


Okku beat off stiff competition from restaurants such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Cavalli Club, Restaurant and Lounge, and Bussola at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi in Dubai to be named Restaurant of the Year 2011.

The Caterer Middle East Awards judges praised the outlet for continually innovating over the two and half years since its launch and commended the enthusiasm and passion of the team delivering consistently high quality service, food and beverage.

Head chef Hugh Sato Gardiner won the coveted award for Chef of the Year — Standalone Restaurant and mixologist Graziella Nieto was crowned Bartender of the Year.

Commenting on the three award wins, Okku operations manager Ross Ledingham said: "One is more than enough, two is great and three is just flattering so obviously this is a great team effort and it is nice because sometimes it’s not always about restaurant of the year – its about bartender of the year and it’s nice to bring a chef or a kitchen hero in to win those awards".

He attributed the Restaurant of the Year Award win to the entire team at Okku.

"Okku is a family – I have 91 members of staff and we make that family, and we are all equals. There is no who’s who – we are all equals and we can all learn something from each other. The idea behind it is that the only way we are going to be great is by learning from each other and providing the best ambience and dinner theatre for the guests," said Leddingham.

Okku was also highly commended in the Bar of the Year category.

Okku Dubai opened early in 2009, soon after international Japanese restaurant names such as Nobu and Zuma entered the Dubai market and at the peak of the global economic crisis.

Despite the obvious challenges, Okku has developed a successful business model and is widely credited for raising local standards in Dubai’s hospitality sector.

The brand is now embarking on a regional and international expansion that will see a new flagship venue open in Mayfair, London —Okku London — and two alcohol-free ‘O’ by Okku restaurants open in Saudi Arabia. The first restaurant in Saudi Arabia is expected to open in Jeddah in early 2012.

Talks are also underway for Okku restaurants in Cairo, Amman, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Mumbai, Barcelona, Toronto and Las Vegas, with openings planned over the coming few years.

The Caterer Middle East Awards 2011 recognise the best F&B professionals and outlets in the industry, based upon nominations from the outlets themselves which must address a series of business issues, from financial performance to investment in training.

The nominations are shortlisted by the Caterer Middle East team and judged by an independent panel of experts.

There were 14 winners at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2011, announced on September 7 at the Awards ceremony at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray.

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