Blending Cultures & Cuisines: Aleksey Smirnov, Managing Partner of Metafoodies Group on the Story Behind Bisou and Alba in Dubai

Blending Cultures & Cuisines: Aleksey Smirnov, Managing Partner of Metafoodies Group on the Story Behind Bisou and Alba in Dubai

Bisou and Alba are unique dining destinations in Dubai, designed to stand out in the competitive market. Understanding the challenges of attracting attention in Dubai's vibrant restaurant scene, these venues offer distinct culinary experiences without adhering to a single cuisine. Bisou combines French cuisine with Middle Eastern elements, while Alba blends Asian and European flavors, a fusion they call Mediterrasian. The founders believe in the power of community and are driven by a shared passion to create spaces that bring people together.

Metafoodies, the team behind these concepts, consists of enthusiasts and dreamers from around the world, united by their vision to turn their dreams into reality. They see Dubai and the UAE as fertile grounds for talented individuals to achieve their best.

Aleksey Smirnov, Anna Smirnova and Vladimir Chestikov

Metafoodies Group is a partnership founded by three individuals: Anna Smirnova, Vladimir Chistyarov, and Aleksey Smirnov. They share a passion for developing and delivering unique projects within the hospitality industry. While they started as a restaurant group, their vision extends beyond just serving food. They aim to contribute to education, bring in new talents, and build a community of passionate individuals focused on creating innovative concepts. Their motto, "It's time to create," encapsulates their mission to collaborate and continuously innovate within the hospitality sector.

In this exclusive interview, Aleksey Smirnov shares the story behind Bisou & Alba, delves into the philosophy and vision of Metafoodies, and discusses the group's commitment to education, community building, and long-term growth. Discover how Metafoodies is redefining hospitality in Dubai and beyond through creativity, passion, and a dedication to excellence.

Why does Metafoodies prioritize delving into education, considering their primary focus has been on food?

Metafoodies believes that the foundation of a successful restaurant is its people. Regardless of the quality of the interior or equipment, the experience can be ruined without good, passionate staff. They aim to develop and showcase the best in hospitality professionals. Their head chefs and leaders are dedicated to teaching and mentoring their teams daily.

By focusing on education, Metafoodies seeks to set an example in the industry, fostering a community of skilled and passionate hospitality workers. They currently implement this in their venues but aim to expand their educational efforts to share their knowledge more broadly.

You've mentioned that recruiting the right people is the key to success. What are the main qualities you look for when scouting for talent?

The two main qualities we prioritize are passion and honesty. Passion is essential as it drives individuals to excel in their roles and contribute positively to the team. Honesty is equally important because long-term success is built on a foundation of trust and integrity. Honest individuals are reliable, build strong relationships, and navigate challenges with resilience. At Metafoodies, we value creating genuine connections and fostering an environment where people can be themselves and thrive. These qualities ensure that our team remains dedicated and capable of delivering the best possible experience to our customers.

Could you tell us a little about your journey leading to founding Bisou & Alba?

My journey began in the corporate world, starting with a career in investment banking. I was responsible for securing funding for new businesses and assessing their potential for success. Later, I moved into the industrial sector, where I managed significant investment projects and helped corporations deliver outstanding results. These experiences provided me with valuable skills and insights. At some point, I realized it was time to create my own projects. I was fortunate to have supportive friends who were in a similar position. We decided to move to Dubai, recognizing the city's vibrant business environment and growth opportunities. This supportive environment has allowed us to contribute to Dubai and the UAE's ongoing development, leading to the creation of Bisou & Alba.

How does Bisou combine French and Eastern traditions in its culinary offerings?

At Bisou, we've created a unique atmosphere where French cuisine, often seen as a rock star in the culinary world, meets Middle Eastern hospitality to create a magical experience. We focus heavily on the hospitality aspect, blending traditional Middle Eastern flavors with classic French recipes to produce bright, unforgettable dishes.

Our concept is based on a romantic story of an Arabic poet who falls in love with a French librarian and writes poems to win her heart.

This narrative is reflected in our design, which is filled with books, symbolizing the rich history of interaction between French and Middle Eastern cultures, especially in literature and art. This connection is evident in our cuisine, interior, and overall story, depicting a small tale that mirrors a larger historical context.

What’s a must-try item/chef’s special on the menus?

Choosing a few standout dishes from our thoughtfully developed menu is always a challenge. Our head chef often says you should try everything! However, to make it easier, here are some highlights:

  • Zaatar Bread: A staple at our restaurant, perfect to start your meal.
  • Mezze Duck Foie Gras: A unique twist on traditional foie gras, served as a mousse with apricot – a flavor combination you won't find anywhere else.
  • Duck Salad and Onion Soup: Excellent starter options that showcase our culinary finesse.
  • Bread with Cheese Bites: Topped with foie gras and caviar, or special chorizo not available in stores.
  • Lamb Shoulder: A must-try main course designed for sharing, embodying our concept of communal dining.

These selections offer a glimpse into the diverse and innovative flavors Bisou has to offer.

How else have elements of the literary concept of Bisou been incorporated to enhance the story?

Our bar menu and cocktails at Bisou are inspired by French poems and literature. We offer drinks named after classic tales like "Cinderella," "The Three Musketeers," "D'Artagnan," and "Captain Nemo," each with a unique story integrated into the menu. One standout cocktail, "Third Wish," is based on Middle Eastern culture. The theme of this drink is "to be together forever," and it comes with a special garnish—a small note that reads "Third Wish" and, when turned over, reveals a heart painting. This thoughtful touch adds a memorable and romantic element to the drinking experience at Bisou.

How do you anticipate the unique locations of Alba and Bisou within Dubai Opera will influence their revenue performance compared to other standalone restaurants in Downtown Dubai?

Finding the right location in Dubai was challenging due to limited options. However, when we discovered the spot near Dubai Opera and the Plaza, we immediately fell in love with the building and its beautiful surroundings. The unique ambiance of Dubai Opera, a central cultural hub in the city, made it the perfect location for Bisou & Alba. We are passionate about art and community, and we believe these two places can become the heart and soul of the city, embodying our vision and values for our restaurants.

How are you incorporating technology and innovation in the operations of Alba and Bisou to streamline service and enhance customer experience? What role do you see technology playing in tracking and boosting the revenue of your restaurants?

While the hospitality industry's software is quite advanced, there is always room for improvement, especially given the numerous small transactions and interactions we handle. We use the best available POS systems and CRM software with extensive integrations to keep everything well-organized. We're also exploring AI options, although incorporating AI can be challenging. Our goal with AI is to streamline day-to-day tasks, freeing our staff to focus on customer interactions and creative work. We believe that while AI can reduce time spent on repetitive tasks, it will never replace the essential human element that is central to the restaurant business. Ultimately, technology helps us maintain efficiency, allowing our managers and staff to spend more time on the floor, engaging with customers and enhancing their experience.

Looking beyond the initial launch, what are your long-term plans for Alba and Bisou in terms of expansion and scaling the business?

Alba and Bisou are our flagship projects, proudly born in the UAE. We are immensely grateful to EMAAR for providing the unique opportunity to develop these concepts. Our long-term plans include expanding Alba and Bisou restaurants across the Middle East, Europe, and major cities worldwide. We aim to establish these locations as must-visit dining destinations where everyone can fall in love with our dishes and the overall experience.

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Maryam Pervez

Written by Maryam Pervez

Maryam is the Managing Editor at HiDubai, bringing 8+ years of expertise in marketing, social media, and content development. She holds a Master's degree in Marketing Comms from Middlesex University.
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