As the Burj Al Arab welcomes two Michelin chefs at its flagship restaurants, the luxury hotel is setting new gastronomic highs for the region.
Towering above Jumeirah Beach on a purpose-built island, the Burj Al Arab’s distinctive sail shape holds sway over the city. The luxury hotel and favorite tourist destination has recently upped its culinary game with two new superstar executive chefs. With a number of Michelin stars between them, chefs Kim Joinié-Maurin and Francky Semblat each bring something unique to the Burj Al Arab, from Asian innovation to French flair and precision.
Kim Joiné Maurin
Kim Joinié-Maurin is still amazed every time he walks up to the Burj Al Arab. “Look at the base of this structure, it’s huge,” he says of his new culinary home, where he is heading up Al Mahara as executive chef. A protégé of Joël Robuchon, Joinié-Maurin joins the Jumeirah Group fresh from stints in Singapore and Las Vegas. It’s Dubai’s diversity of cuisines that drew him here, with his upbringing in the south of France mirroring the emirate’s multiculturism. “As a family, we have always been exposed to different cultures, which has encouraged me to be inspired by a wide range of food,” he says.
Paying attention to details and focusing on building a proper foundation are the secrets to excellent cooking, he believes – nothing can save a piece of meat that was badly cut from the start. Las Vegas also taught him about diners’ changing needs, with more people becoming aware of allergies and intolerances. “It used to be that people perhaps didn’t like something – for instance, they don’t want onions because they’re on a date. But as chefs, we have to be very careful to make sure that every ingredient is fine.” Robuchon also taught him another golden rule: there are no VIP guests. “All your guests should be treated the same,” Joinié- Maurin says. “Why should you treat the family who has saved for a year to be able to come to your restaurant any differently to a famous person?” He’s still finessing Al Mahara’s new menu, not wanting to change up everything before adjusting his palate to the region. “There are beautiful organic products grown locally in the UAE. There’s always something new. You’re always improving.”
As a young apprentice, Francky Semblat never dreamed of working in Michelin-star restaurants one day. “I just wanted to cook, I was happy in a small restaurant in a small town,” he shares. But then he moved to Paris and joined monsieur Joël Robuchon. The 19-year-old Semblat was introduced to a world of prime ingredients – fresh produce, caviar – and his philosophy of cuisine changed totally. “When I met Robuchon in 1996, he was the most famous chef in the world. The details were so important to him; to use the best product, the freshest, and to nd something special. So I started with what’s important: to travel a lot, to use different products, and to create a different kind of cuisine.”
This culinary vision is set to continue in Dubai, where Semblat is executive chef at Al Muntaha and Skyview Bar & Restaurant, Burj Al Arab’s panoramic 27th- floor restaurants. With its sweeping vistas of the city and the Arabian Gulf, they are some of the most popular destinations for tourists – who will now be treated to a culinary experience to rival the view. After 18 years working in Shanghai and Macau, where he was handpicked to run Robuchon au Dôme and received three Michelin stars at age 32, Semblat will be bringing his classic French style to the region. He wants to elevate the level of fine dining in the emirate, starting with the basics: excellent food, cooked at his high standards. “Sometimes, cooking the simplest dish is what takes the greatest effort and skill,” he says. Something delicate like veal, or his favorite, beef. Semblat is a man who likes meat. Ask him about steak and he’ll wax lyrical for 20 minutes. Even a short detour through salmon territory – “It used to only be for Christmas! Now you can find it everywhere” – brings him back to his beloved Kagoshima Japanese beef, “the best beef in the world.” “We’ve just started importing it,” he says. “People are used to mainstream wagyu but this is the real deal. The quality is completely different.” If Semblat has his way, his guests will have plenty new to discover at Al Muntaha and Skyview Bar & Restaurant. “I want to be the best. Not just in terms of getting a Michelin star – I want my customers to keep coming back.
Originally published in the fall/winter 2019 issue of Vogue Man Arabia