FACT caught up with celeb chef David Myers as he visited Doha to launch his new restaurant, ADRIFT, at Le Royal Méridien Doha.

You originally went for business studies. What tempted you out of the office environment and into the kitchen?
Growing up, I always envisioned myself having this big, important job that would allow me to travel around the world, which is why I chose to go to school to study International Business at OSU. But, once there, I found myself spending way more time reading cook books than studying for my actual exams. I would spend most of my days experimenting in the kitchen and then hosted these big feasts in the evenings for all my friends. Eventually it just hit me that ‘this is exactly what I want to do in life!’. So, I quit international business and started working in a kitchen to train to be a chef. Today, after having opened restaurants in different countries across three continents, I often joke and say that those semesters of studying international business did at least pay off in the end, and my job most definitely involves travel!

Who were your main mentors and what were the important lessons you learned from them?
I consider myself to be a lifelong student, and I always look for places and people to learn from wherever I go. But the one mentor who’s had a huge influence on my career as well as my personal life is the late Charlie Trotter. His restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, was the first restaurant I worked in. It was considered one of the best kitchens in America – and the world – at the time. It was an absolutely life-changing experience, like getting my MBA from the Harvard of kitchens. Charlie was a meticulous teacher and mentor who taught me about resilience, grit and the pursuit of excellence in the kitchen. I’m forever grateful for everything that Charlie taught me.

Why are you known as the Gypsy Chef? And is this where the concept for Adrift came from?
I’ve been travelling extensively across the world for the past 15 years, it’s my number one passion that really fuels my creativity as a chef. Before the pandemic, I would be on the road nearly 50 weeks out of the year, boarding a new flight every few days. So, a few years back, I was talking to a friend of mine back home in LA, and told him I’d just got back from Singapore and Tokyo and was off to Dubai and Sri Lanka next. And he just said ‘man, you’re such a Gypsy Chef!’. And it just stuck with me since then. It’s a sort of nod to my nomadic life and love for the open road. I’m in the process of launching my new YouTube channel, GC Studio which will feature all of my travel videos and other food- and travel-related content. ADRIFT, on the other hand, is a restaurant brand that I first created in Singapore in 2015. The original ADRIFT restaurant at the iconic Marina Bay Sands was this playful Californian izakaya that showcased some of my influences from Japan, but also from across Asia. The idea behind the name ADRIFT is that it’s created for the wanderers, dreamers and explorers who seek the thrill of new and unexpected experiences. ADRIFT has since grown into a collection of different concepts that all share the same core and DNA, such as our service ethos and overall ambience, but that showcase different cuisines that I’ve come across during my travels.

We understand the idea was born on a journey around Italy. Please can you tell us a bit more about that?
A few years ago, I was asked to create a new Italian restaurant concept for a hotel in Dubai and, having travelled to Italy previously and being a big fan of the food, I jumped at the opportunity. Knowing how serious and passionate Italians are about their cuisine, I wanted to ensure that what I created was authentic and honest, and that it celebrated the very best of Italy rather than trying to reinvent a wheel that’s been working absolutely fine for centuries.
So, I travelled to Italy together with the head chef of the restaurant – who was Italian himself. Italy is known for its rich and diverse culinary traditions that are heavily based on the best produce that’s available in each of its regions. I knew that there were three signature styles of Italian cooking that I wanted to showcase: the famous Roman pastas, the Neapolitan-style pizzas and the Bistecca Fiorentina.
So, we first travelled to Naples where we enjoyed some of the best pizzas I’ve had. They’re known for their pizzas that are cooked for a minute, tops, in a really hot oven, resulting in a slightly burnt crust but a thin centre, topped with just a few ingredients. We then went on to Rome to experience their traditional pastas, which are typically made up with just a handful of ingredients but pack a tonne of flavour. We finally headed for Florence to learn more about the local traditions around the famed Bistecca Fiorentina.
On the train back to Rome from Tuscany, filled with inspiration from our journey, we drafted the core idea for the menu on a napkin. And that very same menu now makes up the foundation for our menu at ADRIFT Anda.

What made you decide on Qatar for your next venture (and why the addition of Anda to the name)?
I got approached to do this project thanks to an existing relationship with Marriott International in the Middle East and Asia. They were familiar with my other restaurants and asked if I would bring an ADRIFT concept to Doha, and I was thrilled for the opportunity to dive into a new market! ADRIFT is what I like to call an ‘umbrella brand’ that houses a number of different sub-brands that each showcase a different type of cuisine. For example, our most recent project was ADRIFT Kaya, a modern Japanese izakaya in New Delhi, and prior to that we launched ADRIFT Burger Bar in LA and Dubai. We have a couple of other ADRIFT brands in the making that we can hopefully reveal more details about very soon.

Will you be making any adjustments to the menu specifically for the Qatar market? And, if yes, what will these be?
One thing that I have learned over the years while opening restaurants across three continents is that you have to learn to adapt and be flexible in how you execute your vision. Not necessarily in terms of the core identity of your menu, but rather in what type of ingredients you use based on what’s available locally and what’s in season. One thing I never compromise on is quality, so if we’re not able to get the right ingredient for a dish, then we replace that dish with something different instead. I also make an effort to learn a little bit about the local palate and understand if guests prefer their food with a bit more salt, or perhaps have a sweet tooth or like a bit of spice. But we never waver from the brand itself and the DNA of the restaurant concept. We stay true to who we are and share the ADRIFT dining experience in its most authentic form with our guests for them to enjoy.

Have you had much chance to get out and about in Qatar and, if yes, what would you recommend all visitors to see or do?
Let me tell you; I’ve had some fantastic experiences in Qatar so far! Of course, there is a lot of work involved in opening a new restaurant but I’ve had the opportunity to go and visit one of the farms that we source some of our vegetables from and meet the people who cultivate the crops. I also went to the famous Souq Wafiq, where I got to meet the first ever female business owner in Qatar. She was one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever come across, her story was so inspiring and I was so moved by her hospitality and generousity, so I invited her to be one of the first guests to experience ADRIFT Anda! In general, people have been so hospitable and welcoming here in Doha. I can’t wait to spend more time here!

When you are not in the kitchen or travelling, what are your favourite pass times?
Next to travel and food, surfing is my passion. I love the sea, I live near the sea. It’s a place where I can truly connect with nature and wind down. Some of my favorite places to surf are Sri Lanka and Bali.

What dish would you serve to friends/family at home? And why?
Whenever I’m back home in LA, the first thing I do is fire up the grill and invite my friends and family over for a laid-back steak dinner. I love cooking with live fire, both at home and at my restaurants, so this is the ultimate home-cooked comfort meal to me.

Three words you would use to describe the food in all your many kitchens?
Fun, fresh and vibrant. ✤