Interview: The Artisan managing partner Firas Fawaz on rebranding and relocating

Interview: The Artisan managing partner Firas Fawaz on rebranding and relocating

Throughout the changes, authentic Italian fine dining remained the pillar of The Artisan providing a stable core

The Artisan restaurant has undergone several changes during its lifetime, from partnering with Florence’s three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri to relocating to the five-star luxury of Waldorf Astoria DIFC. Connecting Travel talks to managing partner Firas Fawaz about the art of adapting to change in the fickle world of hospitality.

CONNECTING TRAVEL: How did you get into the F&B business?
Firas Fawaz: Discovering new cuisines and learning about food always interested me from childhood, it then became a hobby, but as time went on it evolved into a real passion. My appetite for the F&B industry started with my deep admiration for the culinary world and I began to see a real opportunity in this space.

CT: How did your journey with The Artisan begin?
FF: In Dubai, I started to work tenaciously to bring internationally renowned chefs to the region. The culmination of five years’ work materialised when my first project came to life: The Artisan by Enoteca Pinchiorri.

Our original idea was to introduce a true Italian fine dining concept to Dubai’s F&B ecosystem. Our partnership with Florence’s three-Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri and Chef Annie Féolde’s team was an essential step to achieving this goal. As a result of this partnership, The Artisan was positioned as one of the best Italian restaurants in 2016 – an award presented to us after only 12 months of operation.

CT: After the initial partnership with Enoteca Pinchiorri, The Artisan is now a standalone restaurant. Why did you end the arrangement?
FF: As part of the evolution of The Artisan, we learned that the Middle Eastern clientele was seeking a more engaging experience with our product offering; sharing menus and service were key drivers in adapting the concept based on our customer’s feedback and demand. but without compromising on The Artisan’s ethos.

As a standalone flagship, The Artisan relocated in July 2020 from its original DIFC location to the ground floor of the Waldorf Astoria DIFC in Burj Daman tower. We were so excited to partner with the Waldorf Astoria DIFC and have our restaurant positioned as an anchor fine-dining destination in this amazing property, located in a prime area of DIFC in Dubai.

The iconic international hotel brand is so aligned with The Artisan’s future intentions

We reopened with a new interior and aesthetic, but with the same promise: to educate the region on the wonders of Italian food, culture and art, while maintaining a strong commitment to quality of product and service.

CT: What advice would you give to a restaurateur setting up in the GCC today?
FF: I believe having a genuine approach, while being persistent and ambitious, is essential for success. My journey with The Artisan has not always been easy, but I believed in my team and trusted that what we offered was really the best Italian food in the region. And so, I held to my guns and fought through the tough times. It was not without hard work, but today, I’m grateful that alongside my team we continue to build an authentic and truly timeless lifestyle brand and concept.

CT: The region’s culinary reputation is improving at pace; do you think a BYO policy would help improve the wine pairing?
FF: MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants listing is a great testament to the region’s hospitality offering. I believe that fine wine has been available in the region but it’s just not as accessible as it is in other countries. BYO or “bring your own” wine policy can only be successful if there is a demand in the country, retail accessibility and ease of purchase. Internationally, this works for restaurants because the city’s population widely consumes alcohol and rules allows them to drink in all venues. When you operate as the same level as The Artisan, the wine offering needs to be curated and paired with specific dishes by our in-house experts and so BYO would not be a focus for us.

The Artisan, Dubai

CT: What does The Artisan have that no other Dubai restaurant does?
FF: The Artisan is more than a restaurant. We are a lifestyle destination and brand. Our mission is to educate the region on the wonders of Italy and its culture through our thoughtfully curated dining experiences. Our commitment to excellence and craftsmanship is reflected in the product. Our ingredients are sourced from the finest suppliers in Italy, and at the bar, we serve expertly concocted drinks and cocktails including our in-house classic, The Negroni.

When walking into our restaurant we want our guests to feel like they have been transported to Italy

CT: What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
FF: It’s too difficult to pick only one dish. To start, the truffle pizza with dough carefully fermented for 72 hours, resulting in a perfectly light and thin crust, followed by the delicious fassona beef carpaccio. The meat is sliced wafer-thin, topped with a tangy rocket salad and sprinkled with Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s the perfect palette opener.

When I’m not in the mood for meat, I order the octopus; it’s slow-cooked for five hours and the outcome is pure perfection – soft and evenly cooked on the inside with crispy skin on the outside.

For the main course, I love the agnolotti del plin pasta stuffed with pumpkin, sage, 30-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano fondue and almond. For a lighter option, I have branzino [European bass]. For dessert, I like the tiramisu, which is the ultimate Italian classic.

The Artisan tiramisu

Image copyright @david_abdallah. For more information, visit http://www.theartisan.ae



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