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As little Claudio Dieli enjoyed mama’s fresh baked pasta in his hometown of Sicily, he never imagined that one day, he might be the one drizzling cheese atop choice Mediterranean creations and running the kitchen for some of the most exclusive luxury hotels… most recent being Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain.
This week, as GulfWeekly sat down with Jumeirah’s new executive chef for an exclusive interview, he reminisced: “I had my heart set on art school but I took a seasonal job working on the floor of a local restaurant and fell in love with it. I told my parents and when they went to sign me up for an internship, the only spots left were in the kitchen. So there was some destiny at play.”
Also, Claudio does hail from a family of chefs. His great-grandfather Rocco cooked for some of the beau monde families of Milan. Hence, he brought his passion and seemingly endless energy to the culinary arts.
After starting at La Bussola, a traditional Sicilian restaurant in Italy, Claudio cooked in London, Dubai, Amman and Hong Kong, working with several triple Michelin-starred chefs including Chef Jean Georges Klein, Chef René et Maxime Meilleur, Chef Christian Bau and Chef Massimo Bottura.
With more than 24 years of working for the crème de la crème of hospitality, Claudio developed an eye for detail when it came to the food and beverage flow of a place. To this day, he stays committed to keeping his ingredient list simple but his crafting of the overall culinary experience is anything but.
When asked about his most important spice of all time, he thinks for a few minutes before answering, simply saying: “Salt. You can’t do anything without salt.” However, when he starts talking about the holistic restaurant experience, one realises quickly that a dining encounter at Jumeirah is much more layered, a perfectly crafted experience invisible to all but the keen eyes of Chef Claudio.
Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s marketing & communications manager Melissa Lalande said: “Even though he started only a couple of weeks ago, Chef Claudio has been refining and adding his touches to almost every aspect of our guests’ journeys. He pays attention to the subtlest aspects and we have been on our toes trying to keep up with his infectious energy.”
For starters, he has changed the welcoming experience at the front of the hotel, replacing the familiar and overdone welcome dessert with a new trademark touch that has to be experienced first-hand.
This vigour comes from a persistently hands-on approach to his work. Even as he walked with us, he paused to direct one of his team members regarding the placement of a food counter.
It is also easy to observe the chef’s global exposure as he started talking about his new menu at Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s Brasserie Royale restaurant, with a childlike spark of delight. His seaside upbringing is evident as he discussed the ‘Deep from the Sea’ dish of his Mediterranean food adventure, noting the crescendo between the sweetness of the seared Langoustine and creaminess of the avocado with undertones of acidity courtesy of the pickled onions and just a touch of bitter brought to the show by red chicory leaves.
As he moved on to discussing the Business Lunch, which comes in either North or South Mediterranean variants, his 12 years of Asian and UK culinary experience shone through as he talked about the braised Wagyu beef cheek.
Having enjoyed this creation earlier, Melissa’s eyes lit up as he described its layered yet simple flavours. “This dish is about the variety of technique,” he said. “You have the Irish-style braised Wagyu beef cheek, with a French excursion into Dijon mustard and top it all off with a sunny-side-up egg, which is something I saw and imbued from Hong Kong.”
At this point, this ravenous reporter had to ask the palate poet to halt the culinary cajolery, lest the rules of his self-imposed diet are forgotten. Speaking of diets, it is difficult to collate Chef Claudio’s ample albeit healthy menu with his lithe figure. Most in his position would gain weight merely from the tempting tastings of each menu.
“I stay fit with yoga whenever I am able to make time,” Claudio added. “I prefer to get an hour in when I wake up, but sometimes, the work can be very demanding, so I do it in the evening.” He also eats simple, enjoying a plate of spaghetti tossed in olive oil with garlic and chilli peppers when his schedule gets particularly demanding, saving the decadent dining for special occasions.
Coming back to Jumeirah is the perfect call back for Chef Claudio. He got his start in the Middle East as a Junior Sous Chef at Jumeirah Dubai before moving on to Amman and Hong Kong where he capped off his three-year tenure at Rosewood Hotel Group before re-joining Jumeirah group in Bahrain.
Away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, the chef hopes to make more time for his wife and son who have moved to Bahrain with him just in time for AMA International School’s semester start. Yet nothing, not even time constraints will stand in Chef Claudio’s way as he embarks on a journey to make Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain the finest dining experience on the island, one small bite and one menu overhaul at a time.
Try out Chef Claudio’s new Business Lunch menu as well as his special tasting menu and travel the world with his palate by visiting Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s Brasserie Royale restaurant!
For more details, call 77707070.