Binging on new trends: In conversation with Silvena Rowe, celebrity chef and restaurateur
Much has been said about the region’s burgeoning dining class and the constant craving to explore new experiences, however, Silvena Rowe sheds a wholesome light on future trends. In conversation with the Gulfood team, the queen of culinary talks about dining habits coming full circle – with focus back on locally-produced seasonal ingredients and plant-based diets – while also sharing a mouthful of insights on the next superfood, the power of flower and how food is now ‘the original medicine’.
Gulfood: How do chefs respond to evolving consumer trends? Are menus constantly in development, in order to cater to shifting popular tastes and preferences?
Silvena: Consumer trends change very fast, due to various influencers and varying lifestyles! But the two are very much connected - big name chefs also influence dining habits by cooking and serving food trends of the future. Though, in my opinion, such chefs represent a very small percentage. By and large, most chefs do not respond to changing trends, as we can very well see from the unchanging menus!
Thankfully, at Omnia, innovation is something we take seriously and I am proud to have won many awards, especially the Top Chef Innovation Award … you only need to look at our Instagram and social media pages, @omniabysilvena, and check out the various new and quirky innovations and inspirational foods we come up with. Yes, perhaps not all of our innovations take off, but even if they don’t, they do generate a fair bit of buzz, excitement and constant support and curiosity towards my brand.
Gulfood: How well do international chefs adapt to the region’s tastes and enable creation of new food experiences?
Silvena: While most chefs do agree that they need to create new ‘food experiences’, the reality is that most of them find it hard to leave their comfort zone and explore new recipes.
I strongly believe that menus need to be constantly updated, modified, developed and ideally also reflect local seasonality, which again might be challenging for chefs in Dubai where most food is imported. Which is why, I am such an ardent fan and supporter of the UAE farmer’s market and the organic movement, where I usually source my culinary inspiration.
I see myself very much localized now, infusing over 60% of local Emirati produce with my international experience to serve fresh and contemporary cuisines addressing the wide palate of the audience that resides here.
Gulfood: Whole Foods predicted the number one trend to be the rise in floral flavours. This trend seems to hit the spot with fine dining restaurants, doesn't it?
Silvena: Yes, floral flavours have been part of my repertoire for a long time now – I even have a local farm supplying us with locally-grown, fresh edible flowers.
But I am more excited and eager about another trend predicted by Whole Foods – the rise of superfood powders or superpowders – which I have been talking about for the last 3 years! I have devoted a lot of time in the superpowder arena, researching and understanding their source, effects and benefits. I have discovered a few of them that have high anti-oxidant levels, increase collagen, enhance energy and vitality.
Gulfood: Looks like you are quite keen on bringing superfood powders into your dining experience …
Silvena: Absolutely! Through my social media posts, I have shared about GLOW – smart, healthy and delicious ‘omniastyle’ foods with added superpowders that aim to slow down aging and improve health in the long run. Within the Gulf region, Omnia is the only dining destination that has explored this new area which is still catching on within the region and globally. On a personal note, I have managed to increase my own skin collagen through a delicious regime of various superpowders – clearly proving the adage that ‘food is the original medicine’.
Gulfood: Label transparency is each day a bigger concern for both businesses and consumers. How can HORECA businesses convey this transparency to the end consumer?
Silvena: With regard to label transparency, there are two major ingredients, or threats for some, that should be clearly conveyed in our case – the amount of Sugar and Salt. Indeed, label transparency is a welcome step and also whipping desserts that are sugar-free, gluten-free and even dairy-free.
Gulfood: Plant-based dishes. Is every restaurateur jumping on this trend, or is this a growing trend only in the West?
Silvena: I think it’s more than just a fad; plant-based food is the way forward. In fact, at Omnia, we try to ensure that 90% or at least majority of the diet be plant-based, while the remaining includes healthy meats.
Gulfood: Lastly, are there any trend predictions by Silvena? Does 2018 hold any surprises for the fans of Omnia’s menus?
Silvena: My prediction for 2018 is that healthy and organic food is here to stay in one form or another, so assuredly we will see more forays and innovations in this regard. Yes, a vast majority are still used to the salty, sugary, addictive fast food, but it’s a habit that can be changed and might soon wear out. Moreover, we might see more superpowders added into the mix and a game-changer for daily diets and better health. I am quite pleased to know that Omnia is very much making headway when it comes to banking on the power of superpowder, and hopefully our menus will continue to be delicious, healthy, full of flavor and goodness, as always.