With a career spanning almost four decades, Michelin-starred chef Chris Galvin has enjoyed a stellar career, working with some of the most celebrated restaurateurs such as Sir Terrance Conran, Antony Worrall Thompson, Paul Gayler, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin and award-winning restaurants and hotels including Michelin-starred Maison Troisgros in France, L’Escargot London & the Orrery, as well as Mezzo, Bluebird, the Wolseley, the Ritz London and the Lanesborough Hotel. It wasn’t long before he teamed up with his talented brother Jeff to form a chain of exceptional French Restaurants from Galvin at Windows in Park Lane to The Pompadour by Galvin in Edinburgh and Galvin Demoiselle in Harrods to their latest venture Demoiselle by Galvin in Dubai.
Food and Travel caught up with Chris Galvin in Dubai to discover more about the secret to the Galvin brothers’ success and how they are finding their first foray into the Middle East, with the 11th outpost for Galvin restaurants, Demoiselle by Galvin in Dubai’s City Walk and a 12th, Galvin Dubai set to open in September. Despite his success, Chris hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings which is apparent from his self-effacing demeanour and evident passion for the business. “My gran was forever in the kitchen. She was cooking for a huge family, and I just loved to watch her cook. She’d grow a lot of her own potatoes, rhubarb, gooseberries, pears and she kept chickens. … I loved cooking at school and then, famously, I started washing up for chef Antony Worrall Thompson who helped me move to The Ritz London.”
Both Chris & Jeff have an innate understanding of the fiercely competitive London restaurant scene and know that Dubai is a tough nut to crack too. “We’ve seen too many amazing chefs open in London, the best in the world, and they’ve gone bust within six months because they don’t understand the market. Londoners are too savvy and here in Dubai the food scene is super savvy too. … A good location is critical and we’ve been really lucky.” Chris observed adding. “Lots of restaurants go under; and if you don’t pay attention to detail you will go under too! We have to make sure it’s not us.” Which is why the brothers took almost eight years to weigh up their Dubai options. “We looked and looked and although there were several sites we could have chosen, both Jeff and I are really old now and we have grown to appreciate patience!” he explained. “We initially launched the Demoiselle brand in Harrods as an in-store outlet; inspired by an art-deco theme we discovered during a visit to a vineyard in France.” added Chris. The Dubai venue Demoiselle 2.0 is the ‘Bells and Whistles’ version, an all-day café offering breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
The brothers opened their first joint venture, Galvin Bistrot de Luxe in 2005, “literally on a shoestring” which led to Galvin at Windows on the top floor of the London Hilton Park Lane and their first Michelin star; and it wasn’t too long before they opened in the City of London with Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle and Café à Vin, before venturing north to Scotland with The Pompadour by Galvin and Galvin Brasserie de Luxe in Edinburgh. Given the pressure of working in any kitchen, combined with running their own business, we wondered what is like working so closely with his brother. “I was 15 when I started working in a kitchen and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to start our own business. So, it was great when my younger brother Jeff was 18, left college and came to work for me where I was working at a boutique hotel in Ludlow. And in all our years of working together we’ve never had a cross word.” concluded Chris
Restaurant critics and recognition such as Michelin stars can have an impact on a restaurant; and Chris like many a chef or restaurateur has a firm opinion. “A good review can make your restaurant, but some you have to take on the chin and, most importantly, learn from them. There’s a group of critics who are pretty-well respected, but today we also have the second opinion of social media. I’ve opened many restaurants, and that’s when I know we will be reviewed. In cities like London and Dubai, you’ve got one bite of the cherry. You need to get it right.” commented Chris. Even so Chris is adamant that to be a good chef, a successful chef there is no need to become an enfant terrible. “When I was learning, I hated the aggression; in a lot of the kitchens it was screaming, shouting, and shocking language. I didn’t get a Michelin star until I was 40; but I made it by being decent.” he concluded.