The JAS Hospitality group, known for its ‘out of the norm’, edgy and innovative food concepts including Qbara Restaurant Lounge & Bar and Fümé (at Pier 7 and Manzil Downtown Dubai), has recently appointed Chef Emiliano Bernasconi as their Group Director of Culinary.
Italian born Chef Emiliano Bernasconi has an impressive track record in the world of fine dining, having worked with big names including Heston Blumenthal, Alain Ducasse, Armani Hotel as well as catering to the Arsenal and Chelsea football teams.
Warm, suave and ever so friendly, Chef Emiliano has a candid chat with The Tezzy Files on his food journey so far, and his aspirations with Jas Hospitality.
Did you always have a penchant for cooking? When did you decide to turn your passion for food into a career? Please give us a glimpse into your 20-year career.
As a child I thought I wanted to be a footballer but when I was older I took a job in a 5- star restaurant and discovered my passion for cooking.
I started my career in London at The Four Seasons Hotel as a banqueting sous chef, before being promoted to Restaurant Chef of the hotel’s food and beverages outlets. In 2006 I transferred to the Four Seasons Gold Club in Dubai Festival City (now Al Badia Golf Club) and in 2007 I was promoted to Executive Chef and headed all 5 food & beverage outlets.
Later I was given the opportunity to be part of the opening team of Armani Hotel in Dubai and after the successful launch I was involved in the opening of the second property, Armani Hotel in Milan. In 2014 I was promoted to the Directory of Culinary, overseeing all the brands handled by Armani Hotel including At.mosphere Burj Khalifa and the Burj Club.
You are an Italian national, and you have worked in some of the world’s finest kitchens creating dishes from all over the world. Does your Italian heritage influence the dishes you create?
I believe so as I try to apply the same basic principles, which are to use the best and freshest ingredients and to cook any dish as simply as possible to respect the flavours and textures.
What is your favorite cuisine, and why?
Apart from Italian, I enjoy oriental cuisine. I am fascinated with the mix and balance of spices and the intense aroma of the dishes.
You have worked in Heston Blumenthal’s “temple” of innovative British cuisine, ‘The Fat Duck’. What was it like working with Heston, and what are some of the key lessons you learnt from him on British fine-dining?
The main things that I took away from the experience was the perfection and continued research that is done to improve recipes that are already great. I feel that this lesson can be for general life as well, to continue to look at how to improve things.
You also worked at the Michelin Star restaurant, ‘Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester’. Did you work closely with Alain himself? How did this experience of working in a Michelin-star restaurant influence your culinary journey?
The experience to work in a Michelin star environment taught me not to take shortcuts be it in my food, work or personal life.
You catered to the Arsenal and Chelsea football clubs! What do footballers like to eat? Which other celebrities have you created dishes for? What did they order?
It was interesting to see how different their menu and diet was. I found that Arsenal enjoyed cuisine that is more French while Chelsea enjoyed more European style dishes. The commonality for both was the emphasis on quality products and healthy dishes.
I have been lucky to cook for many different celebrities, and hopefully many more to come, but what I cooked will remain my secret.
As JAS Hospitality’s Group Director of Culinary, you will have the trendy new fusion-Arabic restaurant Qbara under your portfolio. Have you worked with Arabic cuisine before? Can we expect to see some of your innovative touches to the menu selection here?
Yes, I am very familiar with Arabic cuisine but we also need to remember that Mediterranean food was influenced by Arabic flavours. The collaboration between the newly appointed head chef, Mohannad, and myself will make a great partnership that will elevate the already great food concept of Qbara.
In contrast to your experience in the fine-dining scene, you will be handling Fümé, JAS Hospitality’s casual dining concept in Pier 7 and Manzil, Downtown Dubai. Will this be a challenge for you? What have you got planned for Fümé?
Casual food has the same importance, attention to detail and quality of fine dining cuisine. I do not see any difference apart from simpler and different presentation (and cooks that smile). Fümé is very popular so we are looking forward to see what the future holds for the brand.
Finally, what is your all-time favorite comfort food?
I know you think it is too easy and obvious but my favourite dish has to be Spaghetti al Pomodoro.