On Wednesday 17/03 at 14.00 (11.00 Italian time) was held the Facebook live on our page with Marcello Vigano’, chef of Eataly, one of the most renowned chains regarding Italian food excellence and restaurants in the world.
With the aim of proposing the culture of good food and high-quality Italian products, Eataly is present with two stores in the city of Dubai: in the prestigious Dubai Mall and in Festival City Mall.
You can find the live recording on: https://www.facebook.com/ItalianIndustryCommerceOfficeInTheUae
How long have you been Chef at Eataly?
I’ve been here for 3 years. Unlike other hotels and restaurants, I’ve worked for in the Emirates, at Eataly I feel more at home: I can find typical Italian products at my fingertips such as pecorino, parmesan, salami etc. We also make fresh pasta. My mission is not only to cook Italian dishes but also to introduce Italian products to the international clientele.
What are the ingredients you mostly use in your dishes?
Of course, all Italian products. I’m from Milan, Brianza, so I definitely focus on products from my area to introduce people to the local cuisine, but I use a bit of everything like rice, fresh pasta, flours, cheeses, etc. Another chef, a colleague of mine, is from the south, and together we manage to bring together the two cuisines, proposing the typical Italian cuisine as a whole.
Is your cuisine traditional or do you accept some variations?
I am a traditionalist person. I was born and grew up working in my hometown and therefore everything is centered on tradition – the cuisine of the past, the cuisine of my grandmother, of my mother – the fact of being in Dubai is in some ways complicated because every now and then we have to meet the needs of the local and international population. I would like to remind you, in fact, that most of the population of the UAE are Expats. When I prepare a dish, I have to find a compromise that suits everyone. At Eataly we still try to maintain traditions, we have pasta with tomato sauce, arrabbiata, bolognese, lasagna, fresh ravioli, but certainly with some reinterpretations.
Even with pork, you manage to find a compromise…
Yes, we cannot use pork because we are in an Arab country, but fortunately we have alternatives. We have excellent beef, so our bolognese is very good. I mean, we always try to do the best we can with what we have. Now Halal is recognized much more than before in Italy. This certification is very important in Arab countries and in order to obtain it, a certain procedure must be followed, such as obtaining approval from mosques. Halal means Allowed, Approved in the Muslim religion.
What are the tastes and preferences of the local clientele?
The simplest dishes are normally the most popular, so pizza margherita and pasta with tomato sauce. But recently we have changed the menu and we have added a special pizza such as pizza with sausage (Halal) and friarelli that has been very successful.
Which are the most successful food products here in Dubai and in the UAE in general?
Certainly, the typical Italian raw materials such as:
tomatoes (peeled or puréed), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and in general both fresh and aged cheeses and pasta.
If we were addressing Italian companies that want to export their products, in your opinion which are the products that have the most market share? What advice can you give as a chef?
After the pandemic, something positive happened in the food sector: people have started to ask more information about the quality and origin of products, so I would recommend exporting authentic and quality products ranging from tomatoes, mozzarella, pasta and even halal cold cuts that are similar to the original ones. People now have knowledge, they ask where the products come from, from which region… The quality of the product is very important.
Going back to the topic earlier mentioned, you recommended importing niche products. However, we know that niche products imply a higher market price and in a competitive market like the one of the Emirates, how could companies approach this?
I would suggest having different level products, niche products but also products at lower prices. Above all, I recommend coming to the area in person and bringing samples for people to try out and test. In Dubai and the Emirates, unlike other countries, there is a lot of everything, so it’s good to have selected products, it’s a very competitive market and to enter you have to do it with really interesting products. Other countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait are easier to enter because there is less variety. For example, in Saudi I have only one supplier of fresh cheese from Italy. The fact that there are fewer products, makes it easy to enter the country because there is less competitiveness. I would recommend Dubai as an entry point and once you have a solid base in Dubai, move on to the other Gulf countries that are still in that phase of development in which the Emirates were in 20 years ago. Plus, there are so many Italian restaurants in these countries looking for a variety of ingredients.
We have in fact noticed this difficulty when at food fairs many distributors from other countries have come to Dubai looking for Italian suppliers because in their own countries they couldn’t find contacts.
How important is the Chef’s voice in the choice of Italian products?
Certainly, it is important because it is the chef who must first try the products. At Eataly, for example, there is a Purchasing Manager who is responsible for finding and identifying new references. It often happens however that I myself go to the Purchasing Manager because I need a certain product and therefore certain procedures are initiated. Definitely contact the chefs, propose the products and make sure that they are good, very good and of high-ingredient quality!
We would like to remind you that the agreement with Eataly and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in the UAE has been renewed: members of the Chamber can, therefore, take advantage of a 20% discount in the restaurant and a 10% discount in the retail outlets at the two points of sale in Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City.
Thanks to the availability and professionalism of Eataly’s staff and Chefs.
In the pictures:
Sheren Khalil: Project Manager della Camera di Commercio Italiana negli EAU
Alan Furlon: Brand Manager
Argiris Tragoutsis: F&B Field Operations Manager
Katia Naji: Events and Marketing
Kacem Nasri: F&B Brand Buyer
Marcello Vigano: Eataly Regional Chef
Daniele Scotto: Eataly Dubai Chef