It’s Celebrity Chef season in Doha – and we couldn’t be more excited for what it means for Doha’s culinary scene.
With a rising local interest in fine dining, Doha has become a fantastic showcase for global chefs to highlight their talents to the Middle East market. Although Qatar is not quite at the scale of its more popular gastronomy neighbour Dubai, it is making a name for itself on the international culinary map.
With the opening of IDAM in 2012, Alain Ducasse’s only Middle East restaurant, the city has seen an increase in globetrotting gourmands who visit Doha specifically to eat at this restaurant.
Although many of the chefs we are going to mention have had restaurants open in Doha for some time now, there are a few new openings that have created a media storm both here and overseas. This international appeal is best epitomised by the varied dining openings that Doha has seen open this year including the world’s largest Nobu restaurant to more popular F&B outlets such as PF Changs.
Celebrity Chefs Doha – The ‘Hit’ List
A few weeks ago Doha also saw world-famous Indian Chefs such as Chef Vineet Bhatia and Chef Sanjeev Kapoor visit their respective Doha-based restaurants. Michelin-starred Chef Vineet joined his Doha culinary team in the kitchen when he came to oversee his Katara restaurant, Saffron Lounge by Vineet. His restaurant has been open for a few years now and he is a regular visitor to Qatar, giving cooking workshops at QIFF.
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor was here for the official opening of his Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor restaurant in the brand new Westbay-based Melia Hotel. Conceptualised as a modern elegant dining experience for Indian cuisine, the restaurant has been received well by locals. Chef Sanjeev already has a restaurant in Souq Waqif, Khazana, offering Indian cuisine in a casual dining environment.
Meanwhile there has also been an increase of Chef-Owner F&B ventures with the opening of Richard Sandoval’s Toro Toro and Phillip Chiang’s PF Changs. Both Chefs made an appearance at VIP openings of their latest restaurant openings which has heated up the dining scene here in Doha.
There is also an increase in Celebrity Chef collaborations such as the IHG Culinary Journey which highlighted the signature dishes of several world renowned Chefs such as Chef Takagi Kazuo and Chef Sam Leong at Crowne Plaza Doha’s Aramede Restaurant. A special dining event was also arranged by Banana Island Doha and the Qureshi Brothers, who brought their Mughal-inspired Indian cuisine to the island’s Q Lounge.
These type of events are usually available for limited time periods only as a popular method of bringing a food menu conceived by world famous Chefs – and some Chefs may even cook the dishes for the opening night.
But what has really enthused Doha foodies is the increasing trend for Celebrity Chefs to visit their restaurants here in Doha and invite diners to a special evening dinner with the Chef.
Tonight (Tuesday 20th October) sees Chef Gordon Ramsay – famous for his strong personality and modern flavours – visit his Opal by Gordon Ramsay outlet, with tables booked in advance by local diners. Whilst Chef Nobu will bring his business partner, Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, with him when he visits Nobu Doha this November.
Let’s be a little realistic though – the costs of some of these dinners are (understandably) quite expensive and we have to recognise that you may not necessarily be eating dishes cooked by the Chef’s very own hand. The Celebrity Chef will be there to oversee the kitchen team and to play host for the evening along with the local management team.
However, this hasn’t dimmed the enthusiasm from residents, mostly from the expat population. Chefs such as Ramsay have harnessed the power of globalisation to create phenomenal brand recognition. This results in increased table bookings as the local F&B industry utilise this star power to encourage more local and overseas diners to eat out at their venue, as Qatar’s dining and restaurant scene becomes increasingly populated.
Celebrity Chefs Doha – What To Expect?
We expect more franchise F&B venues to hit the country as seen by the latest opening of Japanese contemporary restaurant Nozomi, founded by restauranteur Marios George. Although not a Celebrity Chef venture the brand has earned its accolades with award-winning venues in London and Riyadh.
However, the market demand is for mid-priced casual dining venues as evidenced by the huge interest from residents for the recent PF Changs and IHOP Doha openings. Whilst the Mall of Qatar is expected to open next year with a Cheesecake Factory outlet, and the Harry Ramsden’s Qatar opening has caused some expats to rejoice.
Conversely, there is a high demand from a significant part of the population for more healthy eating F&B outlets. A demand for healthy quick lunches has seen new sandwich and bagel eateries such as Monte’s, Bagel Bar Coffee House and Which Wich Qatar, whilst burgers have gone gourmet.
We here at Qatar Eating would love to see a few home grown talents elevated (more on that in a future post) but would also appreciate accessible international culinary brands in Doha such as:
- Jamie Oliver for his hard work and campaigns for food revolutions…seriously every country needs a Jamie Oliver!
- Yotam Ottolenghi for his focus on flavours and casual affordable eateries.
- Silvena Rowe for her take on Ottoman cooking.
- …the list could go on!
We’re interested in finding out which food restaurant, eatery or Chef you would like to see in Qatar?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Pic Credit: St Regis Doha; Four Seasons; Saffron Lounge; Chef Vineet Bhatia; Signature by Melia Doha; Nozomi Doha; PG Changs; Harry Ramsden’s Qatar.