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Abu Dhabi plans seat at world’s culinary top table

abu dhabi food Reuters/Sandrine Roudeix/
Abu Dhabi's plans to rival Dubai as a culinary powerhouse include launching an academy run by Michelin’s most decorated chef Alain Ducasse
  • Huge new food hub in progress
  • Le Cordon Bleu Institute arriving
  • Michelin star for fourth restaurant

Work has begun on the infrastructure for a huge new food hub in Abu Dhabi, while plans have been revealed for the UAE’s first Le Cordon Bleu Institute.

The 3.3sq km Abu Dhabi Food Hub is being developed at Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi, as the emirate seeks a place at the world’s top table for gastronomy.

Design and infrastructure contracts have been awarded for the project, which is intended to boost food security, cut waste and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

It is part of Abu Dhabi’s ambition to rival its neighbour Dubai as a culinary powerhouse and plans include the launch of the Le Cordon Bleu Institute on Saadiyat Island in early 2025.

The campus wants to attract local and international students to help create the next generation of culinary talent. Le Cordon Bleu was founded in 1895 in Paris and now runs more than 35 institutes in 20 countries.

Last month, the Michelin Guide praised Abu Dhabi for its “impressive” culinary scene.

“Our inspectors continue to be impressed by the dynamism of Abu Dhabi and the sheer variety of cuisines on offer,” said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of The Michelin Guides, as he revealed that Erth has become the fourth restaurant in the city to receive a coveted Michelin star.

Erth, which offers Emirati dishes with a modern twist, joins three restaurants awarded stars in last year’s inaugural Michelin guide: Talea by Antonio Guida, Hakkasan and 99 Sushi Bar. 

Abu Dhabi announced plans in October for a culinary academy to be run by Michelin’s most decorated chef, Alain Ducasse.

The emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism has partnered with Erth Hospitality to launch École Ducasse Abu Dhabi Studio, which is scheduled to open in December.

The stated aim is to produce “the next generation of culinary excellence” as Abu Dhabi accelerates efforts to secure a place on the global gastronomic map.

Under the leadership of Ducasse, who has won 21 Michelin stars, the studio will transform the local sector while contributing to the growth of the hospitality industry in the region, said Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, director-general for tourism at DCT Abu Dhabi.

Last year, the $100 million Abu Dhabi Culinary Investment Fund was launched to attract leading food brands to the UAE capital over the next five years.

Abu dhabi foodSupplied
The Erth team at the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi ceremony
Ambitious goals

Max Grenard, corporate F&B director at Wasl Hospitality and Leisure and also a board member of the UAE Restaurants Group, told AGBI that Abu Dhabi has set ambitious goals trying to rival Dubai.

“While Dubai has long been recognised as a gastronomic destination with a diverse range of dining options and celebrity chef restaurants, Abu Dhabi is making significant strides to catch up,” he said. 

Grenard said that one of the key strategies Abu Dhabi has employed was attracting renowned international chefs and restaurant brands to establish a presence in the city. 

“This approach has led to the opening of Michelin-starred Gault et Millau and 50 best restaurants and innovative dining concepts, enhancing Abu Dhabi’s culinary offerings,” Grenard said.

Culinary excellence

Abu Dhabi has also been investing in culinary events such as the Abu Dhabi Food Festival and the Gourmet Abu Dhabi festival, while the Abu Dhabi Culinary Season ended last week with more than 2,000 restaurants having taken part.

“Looking ahead, Abu Dhabi’s prospects as a culinary hub seem promising,” Grenard said. “The city’s commitment to culinary excellence, coupled with its strategic investments and international partnerships, is likely to further elevate its status in the culinary world… Abu Dhabi’s dining scene is definitely becoming stronger by the day.”

However, Grenard said, challenges remain, including intense competition that can make it difficult for restaurants to maintain profitability; the impact of seasonal tourism in Abu Dhabi and talent acquisition and retention.

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