Chef Talk: Emiliano Bernasconi Serves Up Esculent Eats

Chef Emiliano Bernasconi has joined JAS Hospitality as the Culinary Group Director, heading up the Qbara Restaurant, Lounge and Bar and Fume Neighborhood Eatery brands. With his combined management nous, leadership skills, professional approach and hard-earned experience working in 5-star and luxury hotels all over the world, Emiliano will be the driving force behind the team, as he aims to take it to even greater culinary heights.

Emiliano credits his grandmother with his love of cooking. Every day after school he would go to her house, sit in the kitchen and watch her cook. To this day, if he wants a taste of home, he cooks some of her recipes.

Emiliano was so eager to get into a kitchen that at age 12 he started work as a dish washer. While not his dream job, it gave him the opportunity to learn, which he seized. Eventually he left washing the pans and started cooking with them instead. To this day everything Emiliano has learnt is from experience and his constant drive to learn and try new things.

Recently, to further expand his knowledge and expertise, Emiliano visited and trained with the Executive Chefs of some of the United Kingdom’s top restaurants such as The Fat Duck and Ducasse. His encyclopaedic knowledge of culinary skills, innovative creativity, in-depth understanding of banqueting and catering operations and stringent quality control make him one of the most highly sought chefs around.

When the apron comes off, you can either find Emiliano on the golf course or borrowing his friend’s Ferrari to go racing in Abu Dhabi before heading off to try out some of the other fantastic dining options Dubai has to offer.

A man who hasn’t forgotten where he came from or how he got there, Emiliano is also very open in giving opportunities to young and promising cooks to help jump start their careers. He works closely with some culinary schools in Dubai and Italy to bring in the chefs and give them the extensive training and real-world experience they need.

Emiliano sat down with our Nasrine Abushakra to discuss his favorite places in Dubai and what he hopes to bring to the table.

Emiliano Bernasconi
Chef Emiliano Bernasconi has joined JAS Hospitality as the Culinary Group Director.

Emiliano Bernasconi Dishes on Everything Dubai

Tell us about your personal experience of working as a chef out here in the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates.
It has been a great and rewarding journey. I have seen the food quality and offerings improve and the dining scene become more competitive every year. It is amazing to watch Dubai evolve into the global culinary destination that it is today and know it will only continue to improve. The fact that there are great restaurants for so many diverse ethnic groups helps to give chefs the opportunity to improve and learn different cuisines.

Why did you decide to work here in the Middle East? Specifically, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Qatar, or any other city in the MENA region.
I was on vacation in Dubai, nearly a decade ago, and enjoyed the vibe and potential the UAE had to offer. So after a short deliberation I decided to move here and I must say I think it was the best move I have made so far.

For those not familiar with Qbara, what region is your culinary style modeled after?
Qbara features a modern fusion approach to a very sophisticated Levantine cuisine, using the best possible ingredients and spices married with a unique interpretation.

What has been your impression of the local food scene over the years here in the Middle East?
I feel that Dubai offers many cultures the opportunity to understand Arabic cuisine, especially as the local food scene has developed. We also need to keep in mind that European and Oriental cuisines share many similarities with Arabic cuisine, which I think plays a large role in people accepting and enjoying it so much.

When you manage to find a little time out, what are some of your favorite spots to dine or socialize?
I like to visit so many places, especially since there is always something new to experience in Dubai, but when I want to socialize, I go to the golf course.

What is your favorite restaurant, besides the one you work at?
It would be impossible to name just one or even two or three. My dining options depend on what I am craving, who I am with, the occasion… there are so many variables. I also do not think you can have one favorite spot in Dubai; there are too many places and limiting yourself to one would cut you off from everything else Dubai has to offer.

If you had not pursued a career as a chef or the life of a rogue restaurateur, what do you think you would have been?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a football player, but now that I am older, I think I would have liked to be a journalist. I enjoy meeting people, hearing their stories and telling stories myself.

What three ingredients MUST you have in your kitchen?
Passion, happiness and dedication, but if you want food ingredients it has to be olive oil, good quality beef, and Parmesan cheese.

Are you launching any new projects (TV show, cookbook, products etc.) in the near future?
I am busy with a few concepts that I am developing with Jas Hospitality as well as the expansion plans for our current brands.