Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach
- Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 2, PO Box 128777, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2008
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Executive Chef, Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
- Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel); Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora; Renoir at the Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile; Hotel Sofitel Los Angeles; Café des Architectes at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower
- Brittany, France
- French, English
“For me, service is almost as important as the cooking part.” That’s Gilles Arzur on his priorities – both of them – as Executive Chef of Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. While top chefs rule the back of the house, superlative chefs put effort into the front, too. “Everyone needs to know where the food is coming from, what’s on the plate, and how to share that information with the guest,” he continues. “It is not just about getting the food to the table, but using service to share our passion for the food.”
Arzur has plenty to be passionate about in Dubai, where he oversees five restaurants as well as in-room dining and banqueting. Foremost on his plate is the signature dining experience, Sea Fu – the name riffs on Cantonese for “master” as well as “seafood” – a stunning venue perched on the Resort’s private beach with an open kitchen, live fish tank, sidebar lounges, and a menu gleaming with Asian and Mediterranean inspirations.
There is also Souk, inspired by traditional Arabic marketplaces, with five live stations – “the kind that make you say, “wow!” – dishing regional and Asian specialties food truck style; Shai Salon, a lobby lounge serving light fare and Arabic coffee; Mercury, a rooftop lounge, the jewel of the crown offering unique ocean and skyline views with sophisticated bottle service, inventive hors d’oeuvres, and cool verve; and Hendriks, a gentlemen’s-style cigar club manned not by mixologists but by trolley servers who light with style and prepare cocktails tableside, the better to draw guests into the essence of the offerings and create a sensuous ambiance.
The hook of Dubai for Arzur was the sheer effort that goes into launching a hotel restaurant operation in one of the world’s most dynamic destinations. “I left an icon in Los Angeles for the buzz and challenge of Dubai,” he says with a laugh, recalling his five-year turn as Executive Chef of Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel). “My clientele has gone from celebrities and high-profile chefs to corporate leaders and heads of state.” The competition in Dubai is “huge” he continues. “I keep bumping into people I knew 10 years ago. It’s a magnet for the restaurant industry, which is fine because big competition is what I like.”
So how to stand out in a city with 700 hotels and counting? Arzur points again to service: “Personalization is what sets ‘us’ apart from ‘them.’ I’ve been to too many restaurants that have a great chef and great food but the service is lacking. Vibe goes a long way – it’s all part of the puzzle.”
Raised in small oceanside community in Brittany in the northwest corner of France, Arzur began cooking for his family at an early age and went on to train in the classic French culinary tradition. Following hotel school, he toured for apprenticeships before being plucked from a pastry kitchen by his mentor, Paul Bocuse – aka the “pope” of modern French gastronomy – who tapped the young chef to open a restaurant in Moscow.
Arzur’s talent for contemporary cuisine continued to grow through work with sous chefs from around the world, and he fell hard for the joys and challenges of creating menus with locally sourced ingredients. He held three executive chef positions with international hotel groups before being appointed to the same at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. “It was extraordinary what they used to bring me from the sea,” he recalls of the productive relationships he developed with local fishermen in French Polynesia. “Parrotfish, red mullet, red tuna, mahi mahi, spiny lobster and shrimp. I’d never seen anything like it.”
His romance with local ingredients continued in Los Angeles, where he took advantage of California’s abundance of fresh seasonal products to incorporate unique flavours into the menus of THE Blvd and the Pool Bar & Café.
So what are his plans for local products in Dubai? “Well, that’s another challenge,” he says with another laugh. “We’re not in LA anymore.” Apart from some seafood, dates, and nutty camel milk – “which is not that bad, actually” – Arzur’s kitchen relies primarily on imports from France, New Zealand, Australia and beyond. No problem, of course: “I just have to be careful with the consistency of the product.”
Meanwhile, there is one local product Arzur is pleased to have found in abundance thousands of miles from Los Angeles. “I’ll admit if there weren’t so many yoga places, I might not have been as interested in Dubai.”