Hailing from Serbia, Biljana Nava Villarreal brings something unique to the kitchen of ME Dubai, where she holds the position of executive chef. We caught up with her to hear about her culinary influences and the latest food trends in Dubai.
How has your background influenced your culinary style?
My Serbian heritage has had a profound impact on my culinary style. Growing up on my parents’ farm, we cultivated an array of fresh ingredients. Furthermore, in winter, my dad would smoke meat. Thus, we produced delicacies like chicharron, bacon, lard and smoked meat loin. We would also bake our own bread. Having a deep appreciation for homemade goods ignited my passion to create dishes using natural, homegrown ingredients. These were instrumental in shaping my love for food deeply rooted in Serbian culture.
For a chef, how important is it to ensure a high level of hygiene and safety in the kitchen?
Maintaining a high level of hygiene and safety in the kitchen is crucial for a chef. It’s not just about creating delicious dishes; it is also about ensuring that what’s being served is safe for consumption. Prioritizing cleanliness not only upholds professional standards but also protects the well-being of customers. It’s a fundamental part of responsible and ethical culinary practice.
Having been awarded silver medals at international competitions, how do you continue to push the boundaries as an executive chef?
Evolving in the culinary world after receiving awards demands dedication to learning and innovation for sustained growth. As an executive chef, I consistently seek new challenges. So, I explore emerging food trends, experiment with innovative techniques and delve into diverse cultural cuisines. Collaborating with culinary experts, attending workshops and keeping up to date on industry trends are all crucial to expanding my skills set. Additionally, I encourage my team to contribute their ideas and foster a culture of creativity in the kitchen. Furthermore, this ongoing pursuit of culinary excellence drives me to push the boundaries. Thus, ensuring that I deliver unique and exceptional dining experiences to guests.
What culinary trends or innovations are you currently exploring at ME Dubai?
In my role as an executive chef, I’m dedicated to exploring culinary trends and innovations. I experiment with sustainability practice, in addition to fusion cuisines, plant-based menus and interactive dining experiences. Additionally, we’re passionate about exploring innovative cooking techniques. Thus, we emphasize the use of local, seasonal ingredients to elevate our culinary offerings.