Chef Gökhan of Rüya Dubai on the importance of culture in culinary excellence
Nestled within the elegant premises of The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm, Rüya Dubai, stands as a true embodiment of culinary artistry.
This dining destination has gained renowned acclaim for its innovative Anatolian gastronomy, earning it a recent accolade within the prestigious Michelin Guide’s distinguished list.
At the helm of this exquisite culinary journey is Gökhan Çökelez, a virtuoso in the realm of gastronomy who orchestrates the creation of exceptional dishes. Hailing from the landscapes of Turkey’s Black Sea region, Gökhan infuses his mastery into a tapestry of flavors from the Middle East and Mediterranean, skillfully weaving together the finest ingredients with an impeccable culinary technique.
In a detailed conversation with Emirates Woman, the chef talks to us about his career trajectory so far, his focus in the presence and vision for the future.
What inspired you to become a chef, and how did your culinary journey begin?
My family has truly been my biggest inspiration. Growing up, our home was a hub of food, culture, and togetherness. I’d be right there beside my family, helping prepare meals and soaking in the joy of sharing delicious food. This upbringing ignited a spark within me to turn my love for cooking into a career. That’s why I decided to enroll in culinary school, to take my passion to a professional level.
Can you share a memorable experience or dish that had a significant impact on your cooking style?
One cherished memory that shaped my culinary approach is our family tradition of making Borek on special occasions. Picture this: we’d gather in the garden, and prepare this delicious dish on a flat sheet. The aroma would fill the entire neighbourhood with anticipation. We’d make variations like cheese, meat, and potato, combining flavours that resonate in my heart. This experience instilled in me the art of cooking with passion and soul.
What techniques or ingredients do you enjoy experimenting with the most in your dishes?
My technique involves giving classic recipes a contemporary twist. There’s something magical about picking fresh herbs and produce from the farm that sparks my creativity. When I think of ingredients that are my kitchen favourites, it’s always lemon, olive oil, and sea salt—my culinary trio that elevates flavours in every dish.
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How do you approach creating a balanced menu that caters to various tastes and dietary preferences?
At Rüya, our menu is designed to have a wide variety of signature dishes that range across the 7 regions of Anatolia. From the savoury goodness of traditional meats and kebabs to lighter options like seafood, fresh salads, and plenty of vegetarian dishes, there’s a plate for every palate.
Could you highlight a regional cuisine or cooking tradition that you find particularly fascinating?
I’d like to shine a spotlight on the famous Simit bagel, a culinary tradition which originated in my hometown Devrek, Zonguldak. The secret to creating a truly authentic simit is soaking the dough in grape molasses. It then gets coated in yellow sesame and baked for slight sweetness making the perfect simit; crispy outside, and soft inside.
What’s the most challenging aspect of maintaining consistency and quality in a busy kitchen environment?
Our kitchen is a global melting pot with team members from 12 different nations. It’s a challenge to keep everyone aligned with the Anatolian cooking artistry. While Anatolian cuisine may be less familiar than French or Italian, we ensure consistency and quality through meticulous training and innovative methods.
How do you stay updated with the latest food trends and incorporate them into your own culinary creations?
I love exploring diverse restaurants and sampling the latest trends. Connecting with fellow chefs, sharing insights, and witnessing their culinary stories fuels my creativity. It’s a tight-knit global community that sparks my inspiration.
Chef Gökhan of Rüya Dubai
Can you describe a dish that perfectly represents your personal culinary philosophy and style?
Imagine a dish that embodies simplicity and refinement – prepared with the finest ingredients and impeccable technique. My culinary passion revolves around Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. It’s all about savouring authentic flavours with a contemporary touch, celebrating the essence of good food.
Having been raised in Turkey, how do you infuse culinary uniqueness from your country into the restaurant you’re currently heading?
Anatolian flavours are close to my heart, and I’m thrilled to share them at Rüya Dubai. We’ve gathered inspiration from every corner – whether it’s the fresh seafood from the coast, hearty kebabs from the east, or delicious flatbreads from the north. You can savour Turkey’s rich food culture on your plate.
What according to you is the USP of the dining experience at Rüya Dubai?
At Rüya Dubai, our open kitchen invites guests to be part of the culinary symphony. Our menu thrives on the spirit of sharing, allowing you to embark on an Anatolian adventure through an array of signature dishes. And let’s not forget our breathtaking terrace overlooking Palm Jumeirah and the Arabian Sea – a culinary delight paired with mesmerizing views.
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How do you manage to infuse creativity into your dishes while still respecting traditional flavours and techniques?
It’s like adding a modern twist to a familiar tune. I take the flavours we all know and love from Anatolian cuisine and give them a creative spin. Think of it as paying homage to the classics while sprinkling a bit of my own culinary imagination. The result is a harmony of tradition and innovation that keeps your taste buds intrigued.
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