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OLLIE DABBOUS B


food on the plate has finesse or femininity. I like that contrast.” And what food it is. Some of the finest cuisine served in a city now awash with Michelin-starred eateries. What is his starting point for making dishes that “have wow factor but look effortless”? “Basically you look at what’s in


season, what’s at its very best,” he says. “Then you ask yourself why you like something. Every ingredient has inherent qualities so it’s about highlighting those qualities in the most concise manner. It’s not taking A and saying that goes well


“I think doing something that looks effortless, but you could never recreate, is a beguiling combination”


with B, C and D. It’s about taking that prime ingredient and just turning it into the best possible form of itself.” Dabbous has described himself as possessing something of a “girly” palate. “In general I like things very balanced, harmonious, delicate,” he says. “A lot of flavours that people might describe as ‘big’ I would describe as clumsy, perhaps. I just like things to taste of themselves,


but very clean and quite understated, even. I like simplicity, not too many flavours at once.”


For Dabbous this approach is all about the chef being “subservient” to the ingredient. “You do as much, or preferably as little, as you need to make that shine,” he says. “It’s not me utilising the ingredient to show what I can do or what equipment I have. It’s me, a chef, taking what I think is a true role, but perhaps the humblest, working to showcase ingredients. “So, I think sometimes you can have a great deal of thought that goes into a dish, but the overall effect will be implicit, not explicit. You have that wow factor because there’s been a long and involved thought process and attention to detail, but in a minimalist way. So, I think doing something that looks effortless, but you could never recreate, is a beguiling combination.”


A world of influences Dabbous grew up in Kuwait, due to his father’s job. Did the culture influence his cooking style? “I don’t think a great deal,” he says.


“I mean, it opened my eyes, I’ve always been interested in trying different types of food. I think that comes more just from an enjoyment of food than growing up in Kuwait. I didn’t come from a culinary family, both my parents worked so cooking was just fish fingers, chips and peas, or stock cubes. The food was always healthy in general, always a lot of fruit and vegetables, but my dad lived abroad, my mum worked, so there wasn’t the time to create any sort of masterpieces.” Fish fingers notwithstanding, a burgeoning interest in food and cooking led the 15-year-old Dabbous to a hugely formative experience of working in the kitchens of a trattoria in Florence where his father’s cousin was a waiter. “I loved it. It was a nice change of scenery from school. As a kid you always get a bit


Ollie Dabbous: re-imagining the kitchen


Why is it important to have a chef’s input into the kitchen design? The kitchen at Dabbous is actually very simple. It’s based on making the best of a lack of space. Basically, it’s ridiculously tight. Obviously, I think the kitchen design comes once you know the food you’re going to serve and the menu format. It’s important to have those two sorted first.


How much freedom did you have in deciding the layout? Here isn’t a great example because we were compromised from the outset by lack of funding and the fact that, with a lot of central London sites, your hands are tied by what you can and can’t do. So kitchen design is often a case of making the best of a bad situation. The key is the flow. You shouldn’t have too many bottlenecks.


What about the equipment? We have pretty simple equipment in general. The food is product-driven. There’s quite an artisan feel to it, it’s just the level of attention to detail we go to within that. So a lot of the techniques will be about using machines that are relatively simple, it’s just that there will be more attention to detail perhaps than the technique. We focus on the thought process behind the recipes.


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