In our new series, EW eats with, the Restauranteurs deliver their know-how in easy to follow recipes to ensure your dining in is the new going out.

This week, The Restauranteur – Chef Izu Ani, partner and concept creator 

Chef Izu Ani is an extremely well-known Dubai celebrity. Royalty and celebrities are constantly found frequenting his various eateries. Previously head chef at La Petite Maison and La Serre, Chef Ani currently has Izu Brasserie and Bakery at City Walk, Carine at Emirates Golf Club, The Lighthouse in Dubai Design District, Fika at Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the divine Greek restaurant Gaia – a favourite of Sheikh Hamdan’s – in DIFC, all fighting for a place of pride in his amazing portfolio.

While he may have stumbled into cooking having chosen home economics at school simply because it was popular with the girls, it’s a passion that evolved into something greater than he could have ever imagined.

“Cooking is a way of expressing happiness and sharing it with others,” he says. “Those who underestimate their food, underestimate the essence of life.”

While he definitely takes his role seriously, humour and a good laugh are never too far from Chef Ani. It’s something that’s essential to have in the busy environment of a busy restaurant kitchen, something he knows all too well when he was launching La Petite Maison in Dubai.

With perfection in the art of food being at his core, he’ll never serve something that isn’t up to scratch. So, when he found an overcooked piece of chicken in a dish, he just flung it across the room and it hit his long-time colleague Osrestis Kotefas – who is now the head chef at Gaia – in the face. Thankfully that did not sour their friendship and the pair have gone on to work together for years.

As for his advice to budding young chefs looking to break into the industry, Chef Ani’s advice is simple. “When starting out, do not look at prestige, position or money,” he says. “Extract as much information as possible.

“Question, investigate, learn, absorb everything and try to experience it all.”

This week, Chef Ani shares his famous harissa prawn recipe that is bursting with flavour and is available in all his restaurants. He loves that its very appeal lies in its simplicity and not too much of spice, but of course, you can add more heat if you’d like.

Harissa prawns


  • Whole prawns (6 per person)
  • 2-3 sliced Sliced chilli
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4-5 medium cloves of raw Garlic
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-3 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1-2tsp roasted cumin seeds


For the rosemary marinade:

1. Fill a large oven pan with olive oil, sliced chilli, rosemary and two raw garlic cloves (crushed).

2. Peel the prawns, saving head and tails and devein them.

3. Place the whole prawns in the marinade and cover with clingfilm, leave to soak overnight.

For the Harissa:

1. Slice two cloves of garlic thinly and fry in olive oil. Ensure the colour stays light for the best flavour.

2. Once cooled, add the fried garlic to a pestle & mortar along with flaked chilli, roasted cumin seeds, salt and half a clove of raw garlic, and crush together.

For the Prawns:

1. Remove the marinated prawns from the pan, and place into a deep cooking tray. Chefs tip: I would recommend a serving of 6 prawns per person with good quality olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon and salt.

2. Layer the prawns with the Harissa mixture

3. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius and place the prawns under high heat for two to four minutes

4. Remove from the oven and add another generous squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of Harissa before serving

5. Serve alongside toast, to soak up the juices and enjoy.

Gaia Dubai, Gate Building 4, DIFC, Dubai, 12pm to 10pm, Sunday to Saturday. Tel: (04) 241 4242.

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Images: Supplied