Tucked in a corner of JBR, we find a rising star in Dubai’s highly competitive dining scene, talented Head Chef Pierre Wavy.
We are used to fantastic food in Dubai, with some incredible chefs serving up fantastic menus. So it may come as no surprise to discover the French chef at Copper Dog, the Scottish restaurant bar at the Hilton Doubletree, JBR, has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, and alongside some of the world’s leading chefs. He brings classic French training and global experience to this little Marina gastropub. Head Chef Pierre Wavy explains his style, his temperament and his dreams…
If we agree your love of cooking came from your grandmother’s (bread) baking, why aren’t you a boulanger, or perhaps a patissier?
I actually aspired to be a patissier and actively took advice from my family and head chef at that time to know the next steps to take to grow within that frame. I was offered a two-year course which was focused around pastry but after the completing the course, I decided to not restrict myself to that specialisation and learn in a broader environment. Regardless, pastry will always have a special place where my passion is invested, even though I chef broadly as an occupation.
MFMS Executive Chef, Gohei Kishi
You’ve had a successful career – how did you feel as a 16-year-old working at Auberge St Laurent? Especially breaking into a family-run restaurant. What lessons did you learn?
Honestly, it was hard going. I was certainly not the best nor the strongest or most skilled chef at that time. I was extremely naïve and felt inferior to the most senior chefs around me. I was fortunate to meet my now best friend during that time who was my colleague, at the time the Chef De Partie, who took me under his wing and mentored me. 12 years on; whenever I am in Alsace, I visit Auberge St Laurent and reminisce with the owning family.
And what about your time at Maze? How was Gordon Ramsay? How did your fine French training meet with the modern European/Asian food on offer at Maze?
Gordon Ramsay is not the character he is portrayed to be. He is a gentle person who strives to get the best out of people and, even though he was running 12 restaurants in London, took the time when he was at Maze to interact with all of the chefs.
I always had a love for Asian food, and Maze provided a perfect platform to learn about this cuisine and apply French techniques to the precision of Asian food and dishes. By combining the techniques and dishes, it actually produced a great dish.
Hangar 7 sounds like a particularly tough gig for a chef. How was it?
Hangar 7 is a very well oiled machine. There is an unlimited budget, helped along by Red Bull, so the sky was the limit in terms of sourcing and price point. The only tough element was that there was no margin for self-expression because the menu was pre-defined by the guest chefs who worked on rotation. It was amazing to be able to work with many world-famous chefs and learn new methods and see new products that otherwise would not have been used.
I almost feel like this was a second apprenticeship as I learnt so much in the 14 months I worked there.
Now you are cooking ostensibly ‘Scottish’ food at Copper Dog – do you like challenging yourself?
The challenge is that it is a new cuisine, something I have not worked in detail with previously. This is the first time I have managed a full kitchen with ten staff. I do enjoy a sense of freedom as I choose and source the products I see fit. Whilst the menu features signature Scottish dishes, I actually redesigned it in February 2017 to incorporate a broader offering, whereby I can showcase dishes I have picked up through my careers’ path.
What’s your favourite dish at Copper Dog?
The steak and ale pie. The dish is very representative of British food, whilst paying homage to the French pastry element and Australian beef slow-cooked in London Pride hops. It is one of our best-selling menu items.
What was the impetus to move to Dubai?
I actually was head-hunted from Germany and was intrigued to move to and work in an emerging market. Dubai is an evolving city with many competitors.
Describe your style in the kitchen.
I have to say, I’m a little moody. My mood is often shaped by the factors of my day such as the weather, my appetite and the surrounding. I like organisation and work better in an environment that has this. I’m certainly not the shouty, chaotic type.
You’re launching a vegetarian menu at Copper Dog – is this in response to customer requests, or simply a new angle?
I launched the Meat Free Monday menu for multiple reasons. People are becoming more health-conscious and as a chef it is a challenge to not follow taste, but actually adhere to health. I noticed when I started that the menu was predominately meat-led and lacked many vegetarian options, so wanted to broaden the offering. I like vegetarian food and the simplicity of using great, fresh ingredients, enhanced by simple flavouring, which brings out the natural flavours.
Do you admire any other chefs?
Yes, two. The first head chef I had – Bernard Leray (La Nouvelle Auberge, left) and celebrity wise, Chef Michel Bras. They are both successful and I believe, leaders in their speciality.
Are we spoilt for food options in Dubai? Where do you like to eat out when you are not in the Copper Dog kitchen? What do you like to cook at home?
We are overwhelmed with dining options in Dubai, with only a handful of those being noteworthy. My go-to (when not at Copper Dog) is Ramusake. I think most chefs will agree, they seldom want to cook once at home, however, when I do, fresh pasta is my go-to dish.