Last Bite: Heinz Beck

The chef talks about micro seasons, not reading reviews, and going back to school

You’re based in the Italy. How often do you come to Dubai?

At least six times a year. There are months when I don’t come. I don’t come in January because that’s my holiday month.

Describe your cuisine?

Light and healthy Mediterranean flavours.

What are some standout dishes on the menu at Social by Heinz Beck?

Do you ever ask a mother which is her favourite child? If I put a dish on the menu, I’m convinced that it’s a good dish. Otherwise it wouldn’t be on the menu. The operation is a three-year operation now. Of course maybe on the first menu, there were some dishes that were not suited to the market but now they’re gone. We are continuously adding and removing dishes. If we see that a dish is not working then we very quickly change it. We are very flexible because we print the menus in-house. We can change the menu every day.

When you’re in Dubai do you get the chance to try the restaurants?

Not really. When I come it’s between two and four days. This time it’s only two days but even if it’s four days there’s always so much to do in the restaurant. Instead of going to eat at restaurants, I prefer to go and meet the suppliers. Talk to them and see how the products are changing. That’s more important than to see what other people are doing.

Do you ever read reviews?

The reviews are relative. It’s personal. If you look at why certain people write bad reviews, you would never look at reviews.

What are the main differences between running a restaurant in Italy and the UAE?

The accessibility of the products. The last four years there’s much more product coming in and the quality is going up. This is good but of course a lot of the products have to travel for a long time and this for sure is decreasing the quality of the products.

The micro products, you won’t find. In Europe in autumn you’ll find the cabbages, the roots, the beetroots and there are 60 or 70 varieties that you can get every day. Here if I get five, I’m lucky. In Rome, we not only follow the seasons but the micro seasons, using products that are in season for one month or six weeks. This is the main difference.

Do you have any new restaurant openings planned in the region?

Maybe. I cannot share it yet. I’ve learnt not to talk about new openings before they open.

Can you tell us what are you working on next?

My wife and I will open a restaurant in Milan in March and then in October we will start The Heinz Beck Master of Food Nutrition course at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome. You have to have a medical degree to take the course. It’s authorised by the ministry of education and it’s a 600-hour course. I’m not the only teacher. I am one of 12 and the only non-doctor.

If you hadn’t become a chef what would you be?

A painter. I didn’t want to become a chef.  I ecame a chef because my father didn’t allow me to become a painter.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring chefs?

Don’t cook for yourself, cook for your guest. Young chefs today say in three years or five years, I have to be a chef. They are seeing all of these beautiful pictures and want cook with all these crazy techniques but they don’t have the skills to do it. Then you go to restaurants and you are eating dishes that don’t make sense. This is a problem. First you have to study. You have to learn the basics of traditional cooking — how to make a stock, how to make sauce, how to make a hundred thousand things, not spherifications and foams. This you can make afterwards. The higher you go, the deeper the foundation.

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