Jumeirah adds ex-Michelin director, signaling culinary focus

Dubai's Burj Al Arab, the Jumeirah Group’s flagship hotel.
Dubai's Burj Al Arab, the Jumeirah Group’s flagship hotel.

Jumeirah, which built its reputation on raising the bar for luxury hotels with properties like Dubai's Burj Al Arab, is making a new and seemingly aggressive play in the increasingly competitive culinary arena.

The company last week announced the hiring of the Michelin Hotel and Restaurant Guide's former global director, Michael Ellis, as chief culinary officer. The hiring of Ellis is a first step in new CEO Jose Silva's vision of making dining not only a core pillar of the Jumeirah experience but also its "strongest market differentiator."

Silva, who came to Jumeirah from Four Seasons in January, has tasked Ellis "with developing new restaurant concepts, attracting and [training] culinary talent and enhancing existing restaurants to industry-leading levels," the company said.

With the hiring of Ellis, Silva said, Jumeirah is preparing for "a step-change" in its food and beverage strategy that will "shake the norms, drive creativity and reinvigorate its gastronomic experiences, reinforcing Jumeirah as a national champion."

Food has become a centerpiece of both luxury travel and travel in general, with everything from hotels to river cruise lines adopting farm-to-table and hyperlocal menu options. Meanwhile, meal-sharing services like EatWith and CuisineBlue offer travelers the opportunity to take cooking lessons and enjoy meals in the homes of locals.

An advocate for the restaurant industry and an American with global experience, Ellis "has an unmatched understanding of destination restaurants," the company said.

"Michael and I share a deep passion for food and dining experiences," Silva said. "He is a renowned epicure with 40 years' experience and a champion of food innovators, chef talent and culinary excellence. He has spent his lifetime championing extraordinary food with absolute dedication and has been responsible for introducing dining and food experiences to new audiences across the globe. His appointment is the cornerstone of the vision to put dining at the center of Jumeirah's luxury experience."

Ellis joins the company at a time of substantial growth and change. Jumeirah Group, a member of Dubai Holding, operates and manages 15 properties in the Middle East, including the flagship Burj Al Arab, as well as five properties in Europe and two in Asia. It also has 18 properties under construction around the globe.

The company was led for 18 years by CEO Gerald Lawless, who left in 2016. He was replaced by Stefan Leser, who was there for just a year and is now CEO of Langham Hospitality Group.

Ellis said he is excited to be part of Silva's "bold and exciting vision to energize the hospitality industry."

He added: "The kitchen is where revolutions happen, and as a creative culinary thinker, I am delighted to have an opportunity to test my own and the team's drive for culinary innovation. Jumeirah is synonymous with Dubai, a city that has made the impossible possible, which led the world in many firsts, and I am excited by this zealous can-do spirit."

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