The Big Climb: Rob Rathbone
What attracted you to the position of executive chef at Solutions Leisure?
Joining such a fantastic, driven and motivated group offers me the opportunity to grow and to push boundaries, developing my own skill set to branch into a diverse portfolio of cuisines and dining-styles. In my short time with the group, I have learnt a tremendous amount, from leadership skills across a major group, to expanding on my cooking styles to bettering the brand menus at hand.
How have your past experiences lent themselves to this role?
I am fortunate to have worked under some of the most recognised and respected chefs in the world, including at Michelin-starred London restaurants such as Sat Bains, Trinity and the Greenhouse. The more experience you gain in your industry, the better, so I have always said yes to opportunities, to learning and educating myself to better my craft.
What are you most looking forward to as part of this new role?
Definitely the challenge of putting myself across such a diverse portfolio of venues — from homegrown restaurants all the way to internationally acclaimed, fine dining brands. I look forward to growing with a fast-paced group that has ultimately changed the game in the F&B industry in Dubai.
How do you intend to make the venues popular and profitable?
My experience of running top tier venues internationally involves planning and implementing affordability for consumers, making accessible quality venues in a luxury market. Since joining Solutions Leisure, I have focused on reducing food wastage and supplier costs, driving costs down significantly.
We have deals with four main suppliers, with our strong relationships helping to cut costs and save revenue across the board. I have also changed a number of our suppliers. For instance, we were previously paying US$5 (AED 18) a kg for our potatoes previously, and after reworking that relationship, we secure the same quality of produce for a third of the price. This focus on cost allows us to offer better value on our F&B, for example, the meal deals we do, like Sushi Saturday at Asia Asia, or our Roast of the Day with a beverage included at Lock, Stock & Barrel. Relationships are key in this industry.
What are your thoughts on ingredient sourcing?
I use a number of warehouses to assess the current seasonal produce and keep updated on new products and their origins. Again, relationships are everything! There is so much food produce imported to Dubai from overseas destinations such as the UK, Japan and Australia; however we strive to work with local produce and support the economy. For example, we contract the oyster farm in Fujairah for our oyster supply at STK and Asia Asia. Maintaining our relationship with produce companies like these is super important to us, for sustainability, freshness, and the economy. Our key places of import are the USA for USDA meat cuts, Japan, the UK and France.
What is your favourite thing about the brands you oversee?
The challenge that comes with the diversity; jumping from an Asian perspective one moment, to planning the menu of an American steakhouse the next, before left-winging it to redesigning the delicious, finger lickin’ foods at our party bar, Lock, Stock & Barrel.