Andrea Gaia is Chef de Cuisine of Vanitas Restaurant, at the Palazzo Versace Dubai – the ultra luxury hotel situated in the heart of the city with exclusive views overlooking the Dubai Creek.
Vanitas is known for its merging of authentic, rustic and traditional Italian cuisine with a Michelin Star-level, fine dining experience. Originally from the Italian town of Rimini, on the country’s East coast, Andrea first took an interest in becoming a fine dining chef at the age of 19 while in Canada.
Having already travelled and worked in Australia, Andrea was the Chef de Partie Saucier at Toronto’s Romagna Mia, the renowned Italian-themed fine dining restaurant (and probably the furthest North of its kind – worldwide!).
The lure of his “mother country” drew Andrea back to Italy in 2004, where he embarked on the first of many steps that have seen him go on to work at a series of Michelin-Star rated establishments.
Andrea has held positions at some of the most renowned Michelin Star rated hotels and restaurants in Europe. These include the Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli, Gargnano, Italy (2 Michelin Stars); Hotel Carducci, Cattolica, Italy (1 Michelin Star); Grand Hotel Bauer Spa, Venice, Italy; Georges Blanc, Vonnas, France (3 Michelin Stars); and most recently Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France (3 Michelin Stars).
With 16 years of hospitality experience and a thorough understanding of the Italian-themed fine dining experience that Vanitas wishes to deliver, Andrea was seen as a natural choice to take up the demanding position of Sous Chef by Palazzo Versace Dubai’s management.
Tell us about your personal experience of being a Chef de Cuisine here in the Middle East & the United Arab Emirates.
When I first arrived at Vanitas in Palazzo Versace Dubai, I knew it would take a little time to adapt. Being new to Dubai, I had to learn what the customers wanted and build a menu around them. I learnt that guests wanted a simple, but delicious menu comprising of authentic Italian food.
Why did you decide to work here in the Middle East?
The opportunity to work with a hotel as prestigious as Palazzo Versace was definitely the deciding factor for me. The weather in Dubai helped too. Having spent two years in Paris in rainy and cold weather, I wanted to make the move to a warmer climate.
For those not familiar with Vanitas what region is your culinary style modeled after?
My culinary style is Italian fine-dining through and through. I was born and bred in a beautiful town in Italy, close to Bolognia, so I was brought up cooking these incredible Italian dishes.
What has been your impression of the local food scene over the years here in the Middle East?
Dubai has become such a melting pot of different nationalities and cultures, that the food offering has become so vast and diverse. People in the Middle East are becoming more educated in food and therefore the standards are improving every day.
When you manage to find a little time to step away from Vanitas what are some of your favorite spots to dine or socialize?
I love the food at Enigma, which is also in Palazzo Versace Dubai. Björn Frantzén is the current chef and the food there blew my mind – each dish was a masterpiece. I’m a big seafood fan and outside of the hotel I enjoy the food at Zuma.
What is your favorite restaurant, besides the one you work at?
As before, I think outside of Palazzo Versace Dubai, it would be Zuma.
If you had not pursued a Chef career or the life of a rogue restaurateur, what do you think you would have been?
I can’t imagine a life where I’m not a chef, but I think I would have pursued a career as a footballer. I love playing the sport, but I don’t think I was ever good enough to play professionally!
What three ingredients you MUST have in your kitchen?
Garlic, basil and capers.
Are you launching any new projects in the near future that you’d like to share with us?
My focus for the foreseeable future is to ensure Vanitas is perceived as the best Italian restaurant in the region.