Meet the Chef and Founder of Reif Kushiyaki Restaurant LLC…

UAE Famous is a What’s On page focusing on people out there making the scene. They’re out there around town, shaping the UAE into what it is, creating the culture, food and life around us. We asked them what’s good in the UAE. We asked them what’s bad in the UAE.

We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves…

Right Reif, we’ve lost track. How many restaurants do you have now in the UAE?

We have three Reif Japanese Kushiyaki restaurants in the UAE – two at Dar Wasl Mall, which includes The Experience, my chef’s table concept – and one at Time Out Market. In addition, I have consulted on the menu for Ikigai, Moonslice and Mimi Kakushi. We’re opening our first international RJK restaurant, a franchised operation in Cairo this month.

Is there one that has your heart?

The OG, and my first baby, Reif Japanese Kushiyaki in Dar Wasl that we opened to queues at the end of August 2019.

You have become one of the city’s brightest F&B stars. How’s that journey been?

What? Really? If it is, thank you. It’s been a 12-year journey here in the UAE with multiple awards and highlights from Burj Al Arab, Zuma and Play to The Experience, and more recently, my own family-run and self-funded business that we opened a few months before the pandemic hit us.

Despite that, we’ve grown the company, and look to expand internationally. It’s never a straight road whenever you drive, but it’s also nothing I couldn’t overcome. I always look forward to new opportunities, never turning back. I have always been a workaholic who lives and breathes cooking. It’s also because I really love my work, and I find that it re-energises me. Being a chef-cum-restaurateur is what I want to do, day in, day out.

Recently you were given the Golden Visa. What did this recognition mean to you?

Both myself and my family have called Dubai our home for the last 12 years, and along with our business expansion plans, we are committed to the UAE long-term, so the Golden Visa recognition is the icing on the cake. An absolute honour. To champion a cuisine, in my case mostly Japanese and broader Far Eastern, one has to innovate constantly, something that requires dedication and hard work.

You were the first to bring the Wagyu sando to Dubai, and many followed. Does that irritate or flatter you?

I’m actually happy and super flattered. The Wagyu sando has been a global phenomenon for a while now – and you do always need to taste the real sandos in Japan to understand the process. I first introduced it to The Experience [at Play] in 2017 and then created a different version for Reif Japanese Kushiyaki in 2019, sparking a Dubai trend, which I will happily take credit for.

And they do say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

What do you love about the UAE?

The way the UAE handled the pandemic is commendable, and as a result, we are one of the few countries in the world where business is booming for all stakeholders. They have shown so much love to us, there’s no reason not to love it.

Do you reckon Dubai is your forever home?

Dubai is definitely home for now. My wife and kids are happy. We are thriving. I have established my own business here to give back what they have given us. It’s a much overused phrase here, but Dubai really is the land of opportunity.

@reifo.kee | @reifkushiyaki