Taste of culture: Dubai Food Festival

As the inaugural Dubai Food Festival prepares to open its doors, Vision considers how the event will enhance and celebrate Dubai’s position as the gastronomic capital of the region

The capital of England boasts Taste of London, while San Francisco is the place to go for the best street food festival. In Australasia, Melbourne’s Food And Wine Festival draws the biggest chefs from around the world every February. Celebrating a city’s culture via its cuisine is becoming increasingly popular - so when the Dubai Food Festival launches its inaugural edition on 21 February, it will not only be a chance to savour some of the most mouth-watering treats created in the Emirate, but also confirmation that this part of the world is becoming one of the most interesting gastronomic destinations on the planet.

And the varied, 23-day programme certainly reflects the eclectic food available in Dubai’s restaurants. DFF organisers believe that they are representing the cuisines of over 200 nationalities at the festival, and given that it’s possible to enjoy the French masterpieces of multi-award winning Jean Christophe Novelli, the Peruvian creations of Roberto Segura Gonzalez and the Thai food of Chaiwat Kawikitpraphat within one weekend, that’s unlikely to be an exaggeration.

“The festival is designed to showcase the wealth of flavours and cuisines on offer in Dubai,” confirms Her Excellency Laila Mohammed Suhail, the CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment. “It will promote the diversity, creativity and multi-cultural nature of Dubai’s culinary offering.”

The recipe for the success of this festival is surely the way in which it will bring existing events such as Gulfood (the world’s largest food and hospitality trade show) and Taste Of Dubai (the annual al fresco food festival at Dubai Media City) under the DFF umbrella. And by adding exciting new events like the Dubai Food Carnival - an entertaining celebration of food at the Dubai World Trade Centre - and The Big Grill, a meat and music extravaganza featuring as many top chefs as DJs and musicians at Emirates Golf Course, it’s certainly a packed three weeks.

The intention is also to involve the entire city, which is why DFF is also collaborating with two other major festivals taking place over the same period. Greg Malouf, the Australian chef who is something of an authority on Middle Eastern cuisine, will be at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to lift the lid on the art of food writing, while food photographer Matt Armendariz leads seminars and workshops at Gulf Photo Plus’ 2014 festival.

All of which suggests DFF has the potential to make a lasting impact on not just the local, but regional and even international food scene.

“It is a platform on which to showcase the world-class restaurants and chefs in our city,” agrees His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. “Dubai’s status as a culinary destination is one that has risen considerably in recent years and the creation of a city-wide food festival will contribute to enhancing this further.”

Dubai Food Festival runs from 21 February until 15 March. www.dubaifoodfestival.com