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Life in Dubai: Chef And Steward

by Travelbag on 11 March 2015, 16:03PM

Chef Lij Heron is an award winning head chef at The Lexington Grill, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khiamah. Kari Alana is a noted culinary writer and photographer. Together they run www.chefandsteward.com.

We had a talk with the couple about life in Dubai and how they adapted to life as expats. 

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Where is home for you originally?

We are Jamaicans, born and raised. We have been expats for 15 and 7 years respectively in 4 countries. 

How long have you lived in the UAE and what initially drew you to life in Dubai?

We have been in the UAE for 9 and 5 years respectively. Lij came for work and I pretty much came for love.

What do you enjoy most about living there?

We both love that the world lives here. There are so many people from so many cultures with so many different languages and cultures that we get to make friends from all over the world and broaden our worldview. 

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How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country? Did it take you long to settle into the new life and culture?

This was the hardest transition yet for us in our respective expat experiences because it is so far removed from anything we had ever come across. There are two versions of the UAE- the expat version and the Emirati version. Emiratis are a beautiful people if people take the time to respect and understand them.  They are very warm and hospitable by nature.  

The UAE has a very strong, rich history and a humble, culture that celebrates family and religion is part of the daily way of life. 

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Did you find it important to learn the language or have you got by without needing to learn Arabic?

We have been trying harder to learn more Arabic. Just recently when we had family visiting from the UK, they pointed out that we were using Arabic words in our everyday conversation. Yesterday when I took our son for a walk and was ready to go home, I found myself telling him "Yalla, Habibi!" That means, "let's go my love!"

Is there anything you didn’t prepare for when you first relocated?

Communities here can be cliquish and polarising. Many stick to the people that they share cultural heritage with. I suppose it is a way to feel at home when abroad. Sometimes there are stereotypes of different groups of people and even often by westerners who could not get away with it back west, but I guess everyone has space to grow.

Is there anything you wish you knew about Dubai before you moved?

It can be pretty hard to break through in the market until you build your network. I came at the beginning of the recession so I was duly prepared for the uncertainty I encountered. Lij was secure in his job. The recession didn't last long here by any means but the expatriate packages are not what they once were.  There has been a lot of super fast growth so there are a few growing pains while the country settles into its new normal.

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Is there anything from home that you can't get in Dubai?

Yes, mostly foods and certain basic over the counter medications which are illegal here.  Luckily though we can get quite a bit from the Indian and Chinese markets. 

What are your favourite things to do in Dubai? Do you have any hidden gems for our readers?

Since we are a culinary couple (a head chef and a food photographer/columnist/consultant) we love to dine out and around and to entertain when we can. We have shared a lot of our food experiences on our blog so you can look through there.  

Of course, Chef Lij was awarded "Best Meat Chef" in the Pro Chef Middle East and his award-winning restaurant, The Lexington Grill at the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, is the best steakhouse in the UAE. It is definitely on the top of every discerning Dubai visitor bucket list.

I will also recommend food tours by Frying Pan Adventures, which showcase the small restaurants that give Dubai its soul.

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What tips would you give to Brits looking to make the move?

Be very open to respecting the laws of the land because even though Dubai may be quite cosmopolitan in it's global positioning, it is still a very conservative Muslim culture. Laws governing drinking and against driving after consuming ANY amount of alcohol are very strict. Plus hemlines over here should be a lot longer than the British standard.  As much as we celebrate our western freedoms and privileges back home, when in Rome…

Click here to read more about Dubai or call our travel experts on 0203 944 2201 to organise a dream Dubai holiday. 


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