F&B Focus: Kitchen convergence at Cucina
The culinary careers of Courtyard by Marriott Dubai Green Community executive chef Rosalind Parsk and Artyom Hakobyan, chef of Cucina, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, could not have had more disparate origins.
Parsk traversed a path that would be regarded as fairly traditional for an international hospitality career, beginning in the UK with stints at Gordon Ramsay in London working under Angela Hartnett at the revered Connaught Hotel before moving on to the UAE. Here, she steadily proceeded on an upward trajectory, working with Gary Rhodes at Grosvenor House in Dubai, moving on to private members’ clubs Capital Club and Cavalli, before her last position at Pierchic with the Jumeirah Restaurant Group.
Hailing from Armenia, Hakobyan did not realise his calling for the kitchen until he was called to serve in the army in his native country.
“Actually the first time I knew that I wanted a chef’s career was when I was serving in the army,” he recalls. “I was working in the kitchen there and realised that I enjoyed cooking, enjoyed cooking for other people.”
Hakobyan served for two years as an army kitchen chef. Armed with a degree in culinary arts, he caught his first break at the Mama Mia Pizzeria in Yerevan, Armenia. He then moved to Ankyun in the same city as demi chef de partie where he discovered a love for Italian food. After a year, Hakobyan travelled to Abu Dhabi to join Italian restaurant Porto Bello at the Grand Millennium Al Wahda as demi chef de partie. After five years, Hakobyan then joined Mazina at The Address Dubai Marina as chef de partie speciality where he worked for almost two years. During his years in the UAE, he has been recognised by Sial Middle East Abu Dhabi with medals in La Cuisine as well as by the Emirates Salon Culinaire Dubai.
The paths of the two chefs finally converged at Courtyard by Marriott Dubai Green Community, where the Italian restaurant Cucina encapsulated both chefs’ advocacy for fresh ingredients and pure methods of preparation, as well as a shared sheer passion for quality.
“I believe that the ingredients, the quality of the ingredients should match with the technique and method for the preparation of the dish,” Hakobyan declares, in summing up his culinary philosophy. “As much as possible, the ingredients should require minimal preparation.”
When translated to Cucina, he points out: “At Cucina, we make the menu suitable for everyone. We try to find the freshest ingredients to try and showcase our dishes accordingly.”
Parsk mirrors Hakobyan’s sentiments. While cognisant that kitchen management, especially in mid-scale hotel operations, frequently means walking a financial tightrope between cost management and food quality, she stresses that, ultimately, quality wins. Especially if the end goal is to entice customers to return.
“There is a fine line between cost management and quality. But you just cannot compromise on quality. People can taste it,” she says.
Parsk confesses that naturally, this perfectionistic streak bleeds into the service side of operations as well.
“We’ve really worked hard on the menu to make sure that it ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people. We’ve made sure that we get the freshest ingredients and that we’re using the quality produce to be putting on the plate,” she explains. “So, we’re also working with the concept and the service to make sure that we’re doing in the kitchen translates on the floor with the service team.”
Both chefs are highly aware that the Italian restaurant landscape in Dubai is fiercely competitive, which is why both echo each other in confirming that Cucina is upping its game.
“We just recently changed our menu. There’s a few dishes on the menu which I really like and which I would highly recommend,” Hakobyan says, adding: “For example, our bruschetta, we have a different view as to how to serve it, with a big tray containing different ingredients which the guests can choose. The second dish I would recommend is the filletto Rossini, a really nice balanced dish which is really tasty. Another dish I would like to recommend is the salt-baked sea bass, which is a very traditional dish in Italian cuisine but we do it in a little bit different way here at Cucina.”
Parsk chimes in by highlighting that Cucina is disrupting the traditional weekend brunch with a new ‘linner’ concept.
“’Linner’ basically means lunch and dinner – instead of doing brunch, which is massive in Dubai, we wanted to do something different,” she explains, continuing: “We’ve gone towards the opposite end of the spectrum and gone with lunch and dinner. So you come at 3:30pm and stay up until 7pm. It’s a sit down family meal, with a fun and friendly atmosphere and everything comes to your table. It’s basically the same as brunch, it’s just the timing has changed.”
When asked as to how Cucina’s ‘linner’ has been received, Parsk confirms that the welcome, especially from families and residents in the Dubai Green Community neighborhood, has been nothing short of rapturous.
“Feedback has been very good. It gives you the morning and afternoon to do what you need to do. You come here for ‘linner’ and can still tuck in the children at a reasonable hour, or if you have no kids, you simply carry on.”
“What’s not to love?” she beams.