Cooking up success from scratch

Cooking up success from scratch

For two years running, a Singaporean chef - the son of a former nasi padang seller - has helped to put a Japanese eatery in Dubai on the list of the world's 100 best restaurants.

Under executive chef Ahmad Refaie Othman, Zuma has been placed 87th in Restaurant magazine's annual world rankings for this year. Last year it was No. 83 on the British trade magazine's exalted list.

The plaudits make Mr Ahmad - or Reif as he prefers to be known - extremely chuffed.

Zuma, which serves contemporary Japanese cuisine, is a high-end international chain with restaurants in London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Istanbul and Miami. But Zuma Dubai is the only one to make the global rankings, not once but twice.

What pleases Mr Reif more is the fact that he is only one of two Singapore-born and bred chefs on the roll call. The other is Mr Akmal Anuar, who helms Iggy's which came in at No. 68. The two remaining Singapore establishments in the Top 100 this year - Restaurant Andre (No. 38) and Waku Ghin (No. 65) - are helmed by foreign chefs.

Mr Reif, 35, says: "I'm very happy with my life right now. I worked very hard to be where I am now and I'm in a very good place."

Indeed he is.

Zuma is one the finest restaurants in Dubai. Designed by Japanese architect Noriyoshi Muramatsu, it features hand-carved granite counters, rusted-steel walls and an arresting bamboo sculpture fashioned from 450 wires and 350 bamboos. The 14,000 sq ft restaurant - which also has a bar and sake lounge - does 1,000 covers daily, with patrons spending an average of $600 on each meal with drinks.

As its executive chef, he oversees a team of nearly 100 international kitchen staff including master sushi chefs. Besides ensuring the quality of its food, he also plans and creates dishes and menus, orders supplies and looks after the financial numbers.

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