Recipes for Success: Chef Libor Dobis offers advice and a tasty spicy beef fillet recipe
DUBAI: For Slovakian-born Libor Dobis — corporate chef for ROKA’s Middle East outposts, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dubai and Kuwait — the opportunity to mentor to up-and-coming chefs holds a great deal of meaning, and is a responsibility he takes seriously.
“I have been fortunate to work alongside remarkable head chefs who have served as mentors,” Dobis tells Arab News. “I hold immense respect for them, and I strive to provide the same level of guidance and support to my own team, if not better. My ultimate goal is to empower them, helping them become better, stronger, and more successful. Once this foundation is established, everything else falls into place.”
In 2014, Libor joined ROKA — known for its unique style of contemporary Japanese cooking and its robatayaki (charcoal-based cooking) concept —in London, working his way up to head chef. He moved to Dubai in 2019 to head up the launch of ROKA’s branch there, before being corporate chef for the Middle East as a whole.
Here, Dobis talks sharp knives, respect, and keeping calm, and provides a recipe for spicy beef fillet.
What’s your top tip for amateur chefs?
My top tips for successful cooking are organization, cleanliness, and sharp knives. These three elements contribute to a smoother and more efficient cooking experience. Additionally, it’s crucial to remain calm while cooking. Taking things one step at a time is key, so I recommend starting with familiar and comfortable dishes like a nice salad or simple pasta. It’s important not to feel overwhelmed by challenging recipes initially. Then you can gradually build confidence and expand your skills at your own pace.
When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made?
I faced numerous challenges in the pastry department, where I made several mistakes, often due to not following recipes accurately. But mistakes are valuable learning experiences, and I used them as opportunities to refine my skills and deepen my understanding of the craft. Over time, I developed the discipline and attention to detail required to consistently produce exceptional desserts.
What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Soy sauce or fish sauce are two of my favorite additions. Both have distinct umami flavors that can elevate a dish. I consider them prime ingredients and treat them with great respect, as it’s important to find the right balance. Adding too little may result in a lack of depth and complexity, while adding too much can overpower the dish and ruin it.
When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? What’s the most common issue that you find in other restaurants?
One common mistake I have noticed is an over-reliance on sauces or garnishes. My personal preference is that food should be allowed to shine in its own right; allow the ingredients to speak for themselves with flavors that are balanced and not overwhelmed by excessive condiments.
What’s your favorite cuisine?
ROKA was actually my go-to restaurant long before I began working there, so it’s perhaps serendipity that I ended up working with my favorite cuisine! In addition to Japanese cuisine, I have a deep appreciation for Thai food. The incredible flavors, freshness of herbs, and the unique balance of spices make it truly special.
What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home?
I absolutely love spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino. It’s a simple and traditional dish that never fails to satisfy; a classic combination of garlic, olive oil, and chili flakes. Its simplicity and versatility make it one of my all-time favorites.
What customer behavior most annoys you?
It can be frustrating when customers request items that aren’t on the menu. Like, asking for bread and olive oil in a Japanese restaurant. It’s important to respect the cuisine.
What’s your favorite dish to cook?
I have immense respect for dumplings, specifically gyoza. This dish holds a special place in my heart as it incorporates various culinary traditions and can be prepared in countless ways across different cultures. As a chef, I find great joy in creating dining experiences centered around dumplings. They offer a delightful combination of textures, flavors, and shapes, always bringing a smile to my face. Working with these beautiful little parcels of magic brings me immense pleasure and satisfaction.
What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right?
Cooking dishes that involve eggs requires a precise level of consistency, which can be quite challenging, especially when preparing larger quantities. Achieving the perfect texture can be tricky.
As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Or are you more laid back?
As a young head chef, I struggled with organization. I’d say I’ve learned the importance of remaining calm and not succumbing to excessive stress. Additionally, humility and taking care of my staff are essential. A strong, unified team is the key to my own success. The adage “One team, one dream” may be a cliché, but it holds true value for me.
Chef Libor’s spicy beef fillet with ginger and spring onions
INGREDIENTS (serves four):
For the beef: 4x 200g beef fillet steaks; flaky sea salt; black pepper; vegetable oil; 4x green spring onions
For the spicy yakiniku sauce: 50g green chilli, sliced, seeds removed; 10g red chili, sliced, with seeds; 60g ginger, peeled and sliced; 10g garlic, peeled and crushed; 50g red miso paste; 80g reduced salt soy sauce; 400g mirin; 10g lime zest; 30g roasted Japanese sesame seeds
For the sauce:
1. Place the chilis, garlic, ginger, and 200g of mirin into a blender. Blitz until a paste is formed.
2. Remove into a large bowl and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
For the beef (for best results, use a very hot charcoal grill):
1. Season the beef fillets with a little vegetable oil, and season well with salt and pepper on both sides of the steak.
2. Sear each side of the steak on a hot grill or pan, then brush with the yakiniku sauce and keep turning. Cook to your desired degree. I recommend cooking to medium-rare, about 2-3 minutes each side.
3. Remove from the grill or pan and allow to rest for 3 minutes.
4. Brush with the sauce, then slice into thin strips.
5. Plate the beef, then brush again with the sauce.
6. Slice the green part of the spring onions and serve on top of the beef with a few of the sesame seeds.