An interview with DRIFT Beach Dubai’s Chef de Cuisine Sylvain Noël
The luxurious beach club and Provençal Restaurant are located at the One&Only Royal Mirage, which enjoys a stunning infinity pool, a kilometer of prime beachfront, and some of the best Mediterranean cuisines in the city.
The DRIFT Beach new Spring Menu is where Provençal cuisine meets Middle Eastern tastebuds: ‘La Salade De Lentilles’, a lentil’s tabouleh, ‘Le Croustillant De Chevre’, a warm goats’ cheese in a crispy filo pastry with walnuts, endives, and a truffle-maple vinaigrette and ‘Le Crabe Royale’, a whole king crab legs, poached and grilled with a lemon butter sauce. There are far too many to list, but these were some of our favorites.
Economy Middle East’s Alp Sarper spoke to Chef Sylvain Noël about his secret blend of personal passion and the emphasis on using the finest organic ingredients, freshness, and simplicity that makes his restaurant a firm favorite year after year.
Since its opening, DRIFT Beach has managed to remain one of the most popular venues in Dubai. What’s your process while curating the menu?
When curating a new menu or adding new seasonal dishes, I go through a few stages. The initial idea needs to be aligned with DRIFT’s French and Mediterranean concepts. We then tweak the dish to ensure it fits well with our guests’ palettes, and has a ‘Dubai taste’, meaning it’s balanced enough in terms of its offering but has a depth of interesting flavors.
I then need to make sure we can find the ingredients on a daily or weekly basis and guarantee we will never run out of the required produce. And finally, it is important that my team executes each dish perfectly and delivers the same constant quality no matter how many covers we do.
How much does the local produce play a part in what you put on the menu?
Local ingredients definitely play an important role when creating new dishes. They are usually fresher, more cost-effective, and naturally, much more sustainable as they are grown right here in the UAE.
I like to work with fresh produce as it reminds me of my childhood. I would spend hours trying to make new dishes with my father, learning about the importance of fresh, organic ingredients, many of which I had chosen myself at the market earlier that day. Therefore, I try to adopt the same concept at DRIFT, and normally change dishes on the menu depending on the season, and what is available locally.
We really pride ourselves on using the best ingredients available, so at this stage, we do have to import some of our produce from France. This includes dover sole, seabass, and seabream so our guests always receive the freshest and highest quality dishes.
You have worked in many locations around the world. What are your culinary inspirations?
I love spices which is why I am really drawn to South American and Asian cuisines. But often, it’s more about the various people I have worked with throughout my career that have inspired me. For example, I know a few Latino chefs in New York, who I met when I spent three years working under Michelin-star chefs at La Panettiere and Citigroup. I also have a very close Indian friend who used to let me try his mother’s homemade chutneys, and those flavors have always stuck with me and continued to inspire me.
Recently, I was finding it tricky to find a new tuna tartar sauce. However, when one of my Nepalese cooks made a sauce from back home, it motivated me to try completely new flavors.
You have been in Dubai for many years. Why did you come here first?
I was part of the team at Nikki Beach, opening new branches across the world, including Marbella, Cabarete, and then Miami Beach. I then got the offer to open Nikki Beach in Dubai, and after 15 years in the USA, I was excited for a new challenge, especially in this part of the world. Since then, I haven’t looked back and really enjoyed living in this city and all the excitement it brings.
What are some of your favorite dishes at the restaurant?
This is a tricky question as it really depends on the season or the mood of the moment. However, to start, I love the Les Crevettes (Obsiblue prawns cooked in garlic and chili oil, lemon, and basil) and L’Artichaut (the whole artichoke with truffle vinaigrette).
For mains, the Le Poulpe Grille (grilled octopus with Spanish potatoes and beef chorizo), Les Ravioles Provençales (South of France ravioli style), and Linguine con le Vongole are my personal favorites. And of course, a light and delicious Mille-Feuille to finish.
What are your go-to dishes at home?
In France, we prefer to cook from scratch and use fresh ingredients with very few (if any) additives, no chemicals, and no packaged foods. So, I usually like to keep things simple and nutritious, grill a piece of fresh fish, or some Calamari, and have it with grilled vegetables and a refreshing salad.