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Food & Drink

RestaurantsZuma Dubai 10 Years On

Words by EDGAR Daily

Chef Rainer Becker reflects on a decade of Zuma Dubai, from vintage Porsches and feng shui to burning out.

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Chef Rainer Becker, Founder of Zuma

Opening a high-end restaurant in Dubai can be a perilous business. Such is the saturated marketplace in the emirate for world-class restaurants, many fall by the wayside, up and relocate or don’t do as well as they perhaps should. Zuma Dubai, despite some inevitable ups and downs, has become a mainstay and go-to high-end restaurant for sushi and food lovers. 10 years after opening, the founder of Zuma, Chef Rainer Becker, takes us through a decade in Dubai.

  • The location

The first time I came to Dubai and saw the proposed restaurant location in DIFC, I wasn’t sure. There was nobody here, literally nobody. But I thought it people come for lunch and like it, they will come back for dinner. I was confident.

  • The opening

We opened in 2008 and – boom – the crash happened. I wondered if we should put it on hold. The world was changing, but I asked my business partner if he was going out to dinner that night. He said he was. I thought, people won’t stay at home, they will still go out.

  • The fear

Every restaurant opening I have doubts, but I believe it will work. It’s the positive fear of failure – you need to have that. You can’t be over confident, even after 18 years. We still put our heart into every opening.

  • The layout

Restaurants are all about energy, and that’s largely to do with the layout. I believe in feng shui and the energy of places. For me, energy starts when you see the building. When I saw the empty building in Dubai I felt it had good energy.

  • The chat

People in restaurants today have their heads down looking at their phone – it’s alarming. I see families, with kids on iPads and the parents are on iPhones. It reminds me that when I go out, I should focus on my family.

  • The posts

Instagram does not affect the way I make dishes – no, no, no. I should not talk about Instagram. I love it for commercial uses but I have zero posts. I follow my restaurants and that’s it.

In Pictures. Zuma In

Photos. Zuma Dubai

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  • The layout

Restaurants are all about energy, and that’s largely to do with the layout. I believe in feng shui and the energy of places. For me, energy starts when you see the building. When I saw the empty building in Dubai I felt it had good energy.

  • The chat

People in restaurants today have their heads down looking at their phone – it’s alarming. I see families, with kids on iPads and the parents are on iPhones. It reminds me that when I go out, I should focus on my family.

  • The posts

Instagram does not affect the way I make dishes – no, no, no. I should not talk about Instagram. I love it for commercial uses but I have zero posts. I follow my restaurants and that’s it.

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Zuma Dubai

  • The celebrities

There are two sides to celebrities in your restaurant. One, they’re normal people. Two, it’s nice to have celebrities who enjoy your food and they are quite important to your business. Everybody loves sitting next to Justin Bieber at dinner.

  • The leadership

With my team, it’s sugar and the whip. I’m approachable and flexible but I’m also determined and stubborn. Restaurants are a high-risk business – look at my wrinkles! In London for example, every year 400 restaurants open and 400 restaurants close. You have to move with the times and push forward, you cannot go backwards. Always try to analyse what you can do better.

  • The mentor

My father was very strict. Punctuality – woo! Lunch was at 12 o’clock. If I was there 12.05 – trouble. Punctuality is now embedded in me.

  • The burnout

In the next few years I want to do less work. Restaurants are tough. When I started as a chef there was not a day under 12 hours, it was hard. In my early days work came first and family came second, I leaned from that. I had a time when I didn’t enjoy it anymore, it was too intense. Today, it’s nice to see the other side of life and family is the most important thing. Keeping balance between work and family is difficult but I’m almost there, I just need some more fine-tuning.

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