UAE Famous: In talks with Joey Ghazal, founder of The Maine
Meet the man behind some of Dubai’s most prolific restaurants, and find out about his new London Mayfair project…
[UAE Famous is a What’s On column focusing on people out there making the scene. They’re out there, shaping Dubai into what it is, creating the culture, food and life around us. We asked them what’s good in Dubai. We asked them what’s bad in Dubai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves…]
Who are you, and what made you famous?
I’m a restaurant developer and have been for the better part of 12 years, but that’s more or less what I do. I’ve always loved hosting and entertaining and the spaces I create are all designed in favour of the guest and making them feel a certain way. I guess people never forget how you make them feel.
What inspired you to make the move to Dubai?
I grew up here, so I was always going to end up back in Dubai. My family has lived here since 1975, and I went to primary and high school here. Besides, Dubai is a dream machine so no better place to develop restaurants than here.
How do you think the industry has changed over the years?
There are a lot more homegrown brands opening up and there are a lot more young entrepreneurs on the scene. The barrier to entry isn’t as prohibitive as before and landlords are more open to supporting and nurturing young talent. It’s really exciting to watch.
What do you love about the UAE?
The UAE is a young country with big dreams, always focused at being the best at everything and never afraid to try something new. It’s really inspiring.
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
My most recent restaurant is always my biggest achievement, but exporting The Maine internationally is by far the most exciting and daunting thing I’ve ever done.
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Yes, The Maine is headed for London’s Mayfair. This is so exciting…
This has been 20 years in the making, believe it or not. I lived and worked in London in my early 20s – working as a waiter at the original Soho House. Going back now to open my own restaurant in London is very much ‘a full circle moment’ for me; a return to where it all began.
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We hear you’ve got some new projects coming up in the UAE, too. Can you tell us a little about them?
We’re working on a new project that is slated to open in the fall of 2021 in JLT. It will be a really exciting and different addition to our portfolio, that’s all I want to say for now, but stay tuned.
Do you think you’ll live in the UAE forever?
I have lived here, on and off, for 42 years, so I can’t imagine myself being based anywhere else.
Images: Jason Knot; supplied