The award-winning underwater Ossiano seafood restaurant is one of five celebrity eateries that can be found at the Atlantis Dubai resort, the crown of the iconic Palm Island. It offers diners floor-to-ceiling views into a huge aquarium and the chance to see stingrays, sharks and fish glide past their table.
Simon Wittenberg caught up with Chef De Cuisine Grégoire Berger, who has been at the helm of Ossiano at Atlantis, The Palm for the past four and a half years.
LM: Your passion for the culinary arts stems from your grandmother´s cooking. Did she inspire you to want to be a chef from a young age?
GB: My grandmother was a wonderful cook, and yes, I’d say she was the only one to inspire me really. She used to make this amazing rhubarb tart, and I still remember the smell. It’s my oldest memory. However, I’d say it was the kitchen that inspired me the most. I know it sounds strange, but from the first moment I walked into a working kitchen, I knew I wanted to be a chef.
Aged 16, I had the opportunity to start as an apprentice at La Closerie de Kerdrain (a gourmet restaurant in Auray created by Martine and Fernand Corfmat]), and walking into that kitchen was like experiencing real magic. The smell, the hum, the vibrations. I just watched them create this art from simple ingredients and it blew my mind.
Now 90% of my inspiration comes from my own life and the lives of the people around me. For example, my daughter was eating this delicious looking peanut, banana and blueberry jam sandwich the other week. The flavours and texture just worked so beautifully, and she enjoyed it so much, that I came in immediately and set about reworking a banoffee pie to replicate the sandwich! It was an absolute masterpiece, inspired by a three-year-old child’s lunch!
LM: During your career, you have worked in France, Morocco, and now Dubai. What have been your highlights to date?
GB: Being listed amongst the top 50 chefs at the Best Chef Awards 2019 takes things to a whole new level. Winning this award has absolutely been a highlight of my career. I put 100% into everything I do, and professionally I am always seeking to challenge myself, to constantly achieve my goals and consistently raise the bar. Therefore, to be recognised for an accolade of this level was most gratifying to know that my hard work has not gone unnoticed. To be positioned amongst so many talented chefs that I really admire is a dream come true.
Dubai has also been a real highlight generally. It’s been the place where I am free to express myself, and with the support of Atlantis, it’s this city that has enabled me to get Ossiano to where it is today.
LM: You received the title of 49th Best Chef in the World by The Best Chef Awards, as well as taking home the ‘Fol-LOVERS’ award for the second year running. This must have been a proud moment for you?
GB: I was so honoured to have won the ‘Fol-LOVERS’ award for the second year running. To be recognised by the public, media and my peers as a deserved winner of this accolade meant so much to me.
With something like this, you don’t just compete with regional peers; you are thrown into the ring with all of the world’s greatest culinary stars, so to come out in the top 50 is mind-blowing. It also serves as an amazing opportunity to meet, and be inspired by, the world’s best chefs – such as chef David Muñoz, the creative force behind Madrid’s three Michelin star restaurant DiverXO, and chef Björn Frantzén from Stockholm’s Frantzén/Lindeberg.
LM: How is Dubai’s culinary scene evolving, and what are the latest trends?
GB: The culinary scene in Dubai is still very young. It’s in the process of finding its own personality. The diversity within the city is fantastic, and very soon, the culinary scene will mature into something well rounded and confident. It’s been a pleasure to watch it evolve, and diners are becoming more and more open to new ideas and ways of dining. For example, four years ago, I could never have only served a set/experience menu as we do now.
The vegan/plant-based dietary requirements of guests are also something we see more and more of, and if I’m honest, it’s something we find very difficult to cater for. Whilst we always try to accommodate food intolerances and allergies, Ossiano is a very unique and niche restaurant and it can be a challenge to make something vegan and not compromise on the dish or taste.