InterviewDubai

Fact Chats: Heinz Beck

The award-winning chef, who helms three Michelin-starred La Pergola in Rome, chats to Fact about his culinary philosophy and the new menu at Social by Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah.

World-renowned Chef Heinz Beck opened his contemporary Italian dining restaurant, Social by Heinz Beck, in Dubai eight years ago and has changed how we think about food. As chef Beck puts it: “It’s a different approach to cooking, it’s about wellness, health, metabolism, and digestion. I believe that I am the only chef working like this, and I have been for over twenty years, working with professors and medical professionals to address my cooking in a proper and healthy way.”

The upmarket restaurant’s relaxed and elegant atmosphere also offers fantastic views of Dubai, but the focus remains firmly on the food despite the chic surroundings. Chef Beck and his team have worked tirelessly to provide diners with the light and healthy cooking of traditional Italian flavours. Creating a dining experience that works with your body and digestive system:

“We are not making heavy food. We are making easy to digest food, and we are very concerned with the cooking techniques so as not to lose too many of the micronutrients. It’s so important for our organs that they get a lot of micronutrients to make the body strong and ready to fight against outside aggressions. If you eat proper food, then your immune system will become more strong, and this for us is fundamental.”

The culinary ethos is an interesting one. The intricacies with which the dishes are planned and executed is quite compelling. Chef Beck looks at his cuisine from a very scientific perspective, and although diners may not necessarily be privy to the thought process, it comes across in the staging and pacing of a meal at Social. “Our food is not filling because of the timing and the way in which the dishes are served. If you take too much time between the courses, it’s not good. Your stomach will start to digest! There are a lot of things we are doing that we are not explaining to our customers, but the best food experiences revolve around not feeling heavy or tired.”

The cuisine at Social focuses on premium ingredients combined with light and healthy options, which has become more apparent in light of the pandemic. “We are not creating plain food. We are providing a nice balance between healthy, digestibility and quality. I think this is important for the future, especially given we’re coming out of a pandemic. People are more aware of their health, social distancing and cleanliness. In the open kitchen, guests can see how the food is prepared. We want you to feel good by the end of it.”

The impact of the global pandemic had delayed Chef Beck’s most recent visit to Dubai. Still, he puts a positive spin on it, “Usually I was coming to Dubai five or six times a year, but even with the pandemic, I will be here at least four times a year.” 

To coincide with chef Beck’s most recent visit, the restaurant has introduced a new menu. When asked to describe the creative process for such an undertaking, chef Beck smiles and states: “First I write a list of ingredients that are available in the market, and then I go ahead with the creation, building dishes from the ingredients.”

The concise new menu focuses on simple yet expertly prepared dishes. “For me, ethics and sustainably are important. I’m very concerned about what we’re doing. The objective is to present a beautiful menu and high-quality service to our customers.” This is achieved through not only culinary techniques but the ability to source local produce. “Year on year, we try and source more locally, but it can be difficult. In the eight years since I opened in Dubai, there are now sustainable farms for produce. Sustainable products are always very seasonal, and it’s fantastic because I love seasonal products. It’s a stimulating move to change the menu and come here more often.”

While the challenge of working with seasonal produce allows the team to re-invent and re-introduce dishes regularly, Social by Heinz Beck offers a slightly different experience to the three Michelin-starred La Pergola in Rome. At the end of the day, it all comes back to the customer experience, and that is something that Chef Beck and his team take very seriously. “In our minds, in the middle of the restaurant is the guest, and we intend to satisfy our guests.”

With simple Italian cuisine at the heart of the experience, we finish by asking the world-renowned chef what it is about Italian food that inspires him. “Good Italian food is all about the ingredients. I think Italy is an Eden on earth. You’ll rarely find a country that has such a variety of food. The culture of eating and the importance of conviviality accounts for Italian cuisine’s success in the world.”

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David Tapley - Editor
Dubai-based editor for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications across Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar. Specialised in food, hospitality, arts, culture, and travel-related content.

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