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Giulia Sgarbi – 15/12/2022

Save the date and get planning: as part of the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 events programme in Abu Dhabi, culinary experts Mauro Colagreco, Anissa Helou, Akmal Anuar, Qais Malhas and Maha Dahmash have joined the line-up for #50BestTalks: What is Luxury? on Sunday, 29th January. Meet the speakers and discover how you can attend in person or follow the event online

Luxury has always been a central theme in the conversation around hospitality and fine dining – but these days, it no longer means the same it did 20, 15 or even just five years ago. Much like a traditional recipe, the concept of gastronomic luxury is being analysed, deconstructed and reassembled into new shapes at increasing tempo across restaurants all over the world, leading to fascinating – and sometimes surprising – developments.

Where luxury might have been associated with rare and expensive ingredients, it is also finding new expressions in locality, seasonality and heritage. Customers are flocking to restaurants that elevate informal service and homely recipes into a new form of indulgence, redefining what the word stands for. At the same time, grand theatrical culinary concepts haven’t lost their lustre – so, what is luxury and what will it mean in the future?
#50BestTalks: What is Luxury? will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island on Sunday 29th January

The first 2023 edition of 50 Best’s signature thought-leadership forum, #50BestTalks, will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island on Sunday, 29th January from 15:00 to 17:00 GST and will seek to find diverse answers to this crucial question, with the help of an exceptional line-up of speakers – scroll down to meet them.

Limited free tickets are available for food lovers, media and those in hospitality who can attend in person in Abu Dhabi: please submit a request via this online form to be in with a chance to interact with these exceptional chef in person. Alternatively, set a reminder to watch the #50BestTalks event via livestream on the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channel. Here are the speakers:

Mauro Colagreco
Born in Argentina into a family of Italian heritage, Mauro Colagreco is proving that food is a universal language at his world-renowned restaurant, Mirazur, located in Menton, in the south of France. Passionate about the culinary craft since a young age, Colagreco cut his teeth in Paris with legendary chefs such as Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse before he opened his own restaurant in 2006. Ten years after it first appeared on the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2009, Mirazur reached the No.1 position, earning the title of The World’s Best Restaurant 2019.

Since then, the chef has not rested on his laurels. In 2020, he reopened Mirazur after a pandemic-induced closure with an entirely new menu and a renewed focus on the produce coming from the restaurant’s ever-expanding biodynamic gardens. In 2022, Colagreco was also appointed by UNESCO as Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity – the award-winning chef is always finding new ways to unlock nature’s luxury, a topic he will discuss at #50BestTalks.

Anissa Helou
Anissa Helou once dreamed of writing a book about art collecting, her first passion – but a series of coincidences pushed her towards gastronomy and she never looked back. Born and raised between Beirut in Lebanon and Mashta el-Helou in Syria, she is widely recognised as one of the foremost experts in the cuisines and culinary heritage of the Middle East, the Mediterranean and North Africa, having been among the first to educate the world about the region’s rich gastronomic culture and traditions.

Helou’s first book, Lebanese Cuisine, was a finalist for the prestigious André Simon Award in 1998. Since then, the chef, writer and culinary consultant has penned nine more books, with topics ranging from Mediterranean street food to cooking with offal and the gastronomic traditions of the Islamic world. Through her sensational career, Helou has witnessed first-hand how luxury has transformed both within the Middle East and North Africa region and in its international perception, and she is poised to deliver an unforgettable address at #50BestTalks.

Akmal Anuar
Akmal Anuar’s parents owned a hawker stall in Singapore, so the future chef’s career began when he was still a child, helping run the family business alongside his siblings. A few years later, a short period at culinary school was followed by a job at seminal Singaporean restaurant Les Amis, where Anuar fell in love with kitchen life.

In 2014, the Malay-Singaporean chef moved to Dubai to head up Pan-Asian restaurant Zengo. Here, he found an emerging culinary scene with plenty of potential and, in 2016, he was among the founders of modern Asian restaurant 3 Fils – which went on to earn the crown as The Best Restaurant in Middle East & North Africa 2022 at the first edition of the awards in the region.

Leaving 3 Fils in 2019, he founded his boutique hospitality company, White Rice Co, through which he manages a host of successful restaurants in the UAE such as Goldfish, a modern sushi and yakitori joint; 11 Woodfire, a live-fire-cooking eatery; and Otoro, a sleek Japanese concept. Anuar has developed a unique style of luxury that has been widely celebrated in the food community – and he will share his outlook at #50BestTalks.

Qais Malhas and Maha Dahmash
Shams El Balad isn’t your average restaurant. Set in beautiful gardens overlooking the Jordanian capital of Amman and its Roman citadel, it began when Maha Dahmash founded a small shop selling handmade pots and plants in 2000. That shop developed into one of Amman’s first design concept stores, then into a café and finally into a full-service restaurant when Dahmash’s son, Qais Malhas, joined the family business in 2016.

Now recognised as one of the essential dining destinations in Jordan and a pioneer in the development of the city’s culinary and cultural scene, Shams El Balad weaves a unique idea of luxury through its multi-faceted nature – from the choice of ingredients to the design, and from the restaurant’s setting to the principles that lead the menu development. Luxury here extends to the team too, where Malhas and Dahmash put special focus on diversity, wellbeing and equal opportunities. As they explore how the concept of luxury can be applied beyond gastronomy into an organic business concept, the mother-and-son duo is set to question its meaning in entirely novel ways.

Request a free ticket to attend #50BestTalks via this online form or follow the livestream on Sunday 29th January from 15:30 on the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channel.

The upcoming edition of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, will be announced on Monday, 30th January 2023. To be the first to hear about the latest news and announcements, browse the website, follow us on Instagram, find us on Facebook, visit us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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