Colin Clague

The Chef Who Makes Flavours to Speak

Colin Clague is a much acclaimed and award-winning Chef, renowned for bringing the breadth of his knowledge & skills into any cuisine, handling it with absolute ease, and also giving it a flair of his Midas touch to make that all-important difference.
With over 35 years of experience and an illustrious career in culinary, Colin at present is at the helm at the Rüya, the Anatolian-inspired restaurant chain from Dubai, which is all set to fast expand and on that note, let us learn more about Colin as he opens up to the ICCA Morning Post about himself, his career, and thoughts on the industry, education and more.

Early Days of His Humble Beginnings

Born on the Isle of Man, in the British Islands in 1965, Colin spent his early childhood amongst the island's fishing and farming communities. Greatly inspired by his mother, who was a passionate home cook and also a qualified Chef, Colin developed a deep sense of food and also the local produce, thus imbibing the importance of food dishes based on the seasonality of ingredients from a very young age itself. These intense influences led him straight from the school to a catering college, helping fuel an unwavering desire to further expand his culinary knowledge and his growing enthusiasm to travel the world. 

1-1

“I had a perfect childhood, and I feel so lucky to have been born on this island, which not only shaped my personality but also made me who I am today. I come from a working-class family, certainly didn’t have loads of money for fancy restaurants etc. but what I ate was as fresh as it could be, straight from the rich sea around and the farms on the Island.”

I was also not the most studious of children, and if anything wasn’t about history, then it wasn’t of interest at all.  I never aspired to go to university, and having a mother who was a great cook, most certainly inspired me to take up cooking as a career”, said Colin.

Getting the Foundation Right

Having been born on an Island, and realizing cooking is what he wanted to do as a career, Colin applied to the Royal Navy to join in as a cook, however, was turned down for not meeting the mandatory physical fitness requirements. Thereafter, he went on to get trained in Catering at the Isle of Man College for Further education, where he worked very hard and learned every nuance of professional cooking in the best way possible.

“My Chef Lecturer Mr. Bernie Ogle would always curse, thump and kick you up in the backside if you ever stepped out of line.  I was always very terrified of him, but then I wouldn’t be where I am today if he had not pushed me hard, to prepare me for the very tough kitchens of those days.

He is no more now, and I will always remain indebted to him.  He meant so much to me that he was always the first person to meet, every time I returned home, after starting my career,” said Colin while talking about his college days. 

Colin strongly believes in the importance of getting trained professionally and being well qualified before stepping into the industry. For him, this is a good step in the right direction.

“Honestly, when somebody is professionally trained, I only take the time to review their certificates for their first and second jobs after graduating, after which it is only about their experience and craft”, added Colin.

His career as a Chef

On completing his culinary education, Colin moved to London, where he got his first taste of the discipline and rigors of the professional kitchen. He got to work with some of the biggest names then — Anton Mosimann, Peter Langan, Gary Hollihead, and Sir Terence Conran, through which Clague gained much experience, confidence, and also rich exposure through his extensive travel across Europe and also the Middle East.

Colin’s professional growth over the years has been both fast and as well as steady. Some of his notable stints include being on the pre-opening team of the prestigious Burj Al Arab in Dubai, as the Executive Chef of the award-winning Japanese izakaya restaurant, Zuma in London and Dubai, being in charge of the pre-opening and opening of Michelin-starred restaurant Pollen by Chef Jason Atherton, before moving to head the iconic Q’bara, where Colin went to win several awards, including The Pro Chef Middle East’s ‘Chef of the Year’, Award.

Frame-653

“I have been fortunate to have to see so many countries and also get to meet numerous wonderful people around the world, something astounding since having come from a small place back home.  

Opening the Park Hyatt in Sydney, then Mezzo in London, which was amazing under John Torode, Opening the Burj al Arab in 1999, then starting Zuma with Rainer Becker in London in 2002, that eventually led to me return to the UAE to open Zuma in the DIFC, from there to the Q’bara, Jean Georges and now Rüya, it has simply been an amazing journey, but it is not over yet!”

Colin’s dedication and passion for food, also his vast exposure over the years, have seen him acquire extensive industry knowledge and experience. Being food-focused, his creations are all ingredient-driven; as he believes in using only the best to create sublime flavors that are executed with absolute simplicity and finesse, which have become his signature.

The Industry Before and After COVID

According to Colin, the industry has certainly changed in some ways for the better and some for the worse over the years. He says it is much less brutal as compared to what it was in the earlier days, and says that the London kitchens during the ’80s and ’90s were just not for the faint-hearted!

Colin is happy about the fact that there is a better work-life balance now, and many women are coming to the fore in the industry, which he believes is a great change but then on the downside, he also thinks that the work ethic has taken a back seat, especially in Europe.

When asked about the aftermath of COVID, Colin said, “Like the vast majority of people, for him, the COVID period is a nightmare. Both the restaurants in Dubai and as well as in London had to be shut down temporarily, and the industry had to say adieu to many of its fantastic people as well. However, I believe that at the end of every tunnel, there is light, and the good news is that Rüya is all set to expand in the Middle East and Europe over the next two years, so with this ordeal now over and I can't wait to get back to my kitchens soon!”

“Well, the last 18 months have been hideous, as we have all hit rock bottom, but if you are still standing, the only way now is up. I think the industry will roar back; travel will hopefully resume to the previous levels, and we can all soon look forward to putting all this behind us”, he added.

Next in Line

As Colin is getting ready to be busy with the expansion of Rüya, he also says, “If the last year is what retirement is like, you can keep it! It was fantastic to spend more time with the family, but it is time to get back in the kitchen now. With the expansion of Rüya in the anvil, I for sure will be swamped for the next few years and can’t wait!”

Inspirational Quote

"Nothing is going to fall in your lap; you can never rest on your laurels as somebody younger and better will pass you by. Hard work is the only way to succeed in this career, and ultimately it is so rewarding as well.”
rya120117-27

Let's Stay In Touch

Everyday before the crack of dawn, our team carefully curates and sends a fresh bunch of culinary stories, so that you can start your day fresh with the 5 minute culinary inspiration you need.

Zero SPAM, promise. Interested?

worldclassculinary
International Centre for Culinary Arts Dubai
Block 8 Dubai Knowledge Park

+
971 445 78811
UAE TOLL FREE: 800 CULINARY
facebook-logo-light
instagram-logo-light
youtube-logo-light
Copyright © 2020 ICCA Dubai. All rights reserved.