Pawel Viktorek
Culinary Boutique Cafe

With Dubai’s growing restaurant scene, we are getting as much diversity in our restaurant choices as all the major cities in the world. One concept that caught our attention lately is Culinary Boutique. It is not just a restaurant, but also a complete food programme for everyone, including kids, professional foodies and chefs alike.
TastedAndRated meets the culinary professional behind this new concept, chef Pawel Viktorek, who talks to us through the development of the concept, his philosophy and experiences.

LUCA: What’s Culinary Boutique & Cafe?
PAWEL: Culinary Boutique is a concept that has been developed by the passion for cooking of Madam Hessa Al Qassim, an Emarati entrepreneur, who with her travelling and love of educating people about food and cooking, Three years ago while she was the leading partner at a Top Chef Cooking Studio, she had the vision of CB & Café and continued to curate the project until last year when she found the location and gave me the opportunity to be part of this amazing team. CB & Café, is a modern twist on culinary arts both in the culinary and café-restaurant service. When we opened last year, we started with coffee shop service on the ground floor and the cooking class area on the first floor and we had only 5 chefs. Today we have a team of 21 chefs in the kitchen, we operate as a bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, plus we supply our baked products to other fine establishments in Dubai. On top of that we have a very large cooking class program for all ages and level of professionalism, and we host spectacular events both internally or in conjunction with other brands like the Dubai 50 Chef culinary experience.

LUCA: What’s the philosophy behind CB & Café?
PAWEL: So far this year we have exceeded in all three aspects of our business, which is to have a great bakery, gourmet restaurant and a culinary school. Each of those aspects of our business has something in common, which is the quality of the ingredients that we have or produce and to educate at the same time the meaning of the quality of that product and how to cook them. If you take for example our bakery, we apply a very strong and rigid process to have an amazing end of the product. We need 3 day’s to make our bread, starting with a very slow rising of the dough, to improve flavor and texture, to let it rest in a fermentation fridge and bake it at night. Then we supply a variety of the bread and sweet pastries to some of the most iconic restaurants in the city. Similarly for our gourmet restaurant, we have created a menu that displays 5 starters, 5 salads, 5 soups, 5 main courses and 5 desserts; it’s a pretty simple idea between their categories. We also take a simplistic approach to the way we blend the ingredients in each dish, never overpowering, only 5 ingredients per dish and easily recognizable by their colors. We know that it’s not enough to source seasonal ingredients but it is mandatory to understand how to perfectly cook them, so we apply cooking techniques that preserves their texture, flavors, and nutritional content.

For our cooking classes, we teach our philosophy and style and we share our cooking experiences. Our cooking classrooms are state of the art kitchens that feature the same attributes of any outstanding restaurant kitchen. As I said at the beginning, the whole ethos of Madam Essa is to educate people to cook, so we take this aspect very seriously. We teach cooking from all ages starting from aged 4 to groups, to moms, to food lovers and semi-professionals. So the philosophy around CB & Café is to build entertainment around the taste of our ingredients.

LUCA: What’s in the heritage of your experience before arriving in Dubai?
PAWEL: I’m Polish-born and graduated as a Chef from the School of Economics & Gastronomy. After the graduation, I moved to London where I started my career from the bottom rank, as a steward in an Italian restaurant. Then in 2003 while improving my English I moved to Ozu, a Japanese restaurant, where I started to learn from their philosophy of ingredients and cooking methods. I became fascinated by their culture and visited Japan often between 2006 and 2010, where I have learned the art, skill, taste and technique of the Japanese cuisine. Meanwhile in London I was getting experience from Japanese chefs such as Ichiro Kubota from Michelin star Restaurant Umu, Lin San from Kizuna restaurant, Daisuke Hayashi from Sake no Hana. Then in 2013 I was handpicked by Chef Reif to come and join his team at Zuma DIFC where I stayed for 2 years before taking on the challenge of CB & Café.

LUCA: After the London experience, what did you learn here in Zuma Dubai?
PAWEL: Definitely in Zuma I have learnt how to manage an operation of a team of 90 chefs where 40 chefs work per service. Chef Reif, helped me to push my boundaries and taught me how to keep up with the schedules of such a busy restaurant. Of course, in term of ingredients, Zuma uses only the best quality and mainly they only import from Japan, so I have learned from where to best source those ingredients.

LUCA: You have a nutrition degree, what is your view on organic?
PAWEL: I can be called an organic certified chef as I have been working and studying the subject. In London I worked for Raw Food Company in Portobello, where I experienced and learnt the meaning of small organic farm business and believe me after you taste this product, nothing will come close. The organic product together with the taste and the sustainability, are products that have consistency, so it is very important for the restaurant business. Unfortunately, many small farm businesses don’t have the resources to be certified organic and in today’s world they are not enough strong to compete with bigger companies. However in my culture, I will always support their business because I have experienced it and for this quality I know first hand the hard work that goes into it.

“We at TastedAndRated don’t do food reviews, however, I want to mention that the food we had was really thoughtful and shows what Pawel said in his interview. Both ingredients, which are essentially the key to the dish, and the way they are cooked, perfectly maintain this high quality. We wish him and his team all the best for this outstanding concept and we fully recommend a visit, even if is not fully licensed.” – Luca Gagliardi