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Bringing The High Heat

Bringing The High Heat

Diners are busy searching out new superlatives to describe the just-opened At.mospheres in Dubai. Sitting 1,350 feet above the ground in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, it’s the highest restaurant in the world. But all its chef can talk about is how great his stove is.

At.mosphere is located on the 122nd floor of the just-opened Burj Khalifa, a building that modestly defines itself as “The Center of Now.” Arriving guests are whooshed by elevator from street level to the 123rd floor, then descend by cantilevered staircase to the restaurant’s “arrival lobby.” From there they can opt for a table in the 80-seat Adam Tihany-designed dining room or a spot in the 130-seat lounge.

Executive chef Dwayne Cheer describes his menu as “seasonal and contemporary.” The idea is that the food has to stand up to the location and the unmatched view, so the restaurant promises “an emphasis on the highest standards of food quality using only fresh ingredients serving modern eclectic European cuisine with an emphasis on grilled items.”

Ever work in a restaurant where the kitchen and storage areas are just one level above or below the floor where the food is received? If so, you can imagine the logistical challenges of hauling each day’s food shipment up to this restaurant. But at least guests are paying the restaurant for its trouble. The opening menu had starter courses going for $50 and main courses for $90. It costs $176 per guest to book a party into the private dining area.

What’s unusual here is that you don’t often see a dining spot at this level of luxury and pricing go with what is basically a grill concept that relies on open-flame cooking. Yet that’s what they’ve done at At.mosphere.

Ah, but what a grill they’re using. It’s a Josper (pronounced “Hosper”) grill oven, described as “a closed BBQ dual oven powered by Binchutan charcoal and designed in Spain.” This dual-function oven and grill promises more heat and faster cooking speeds than similar equipment, and claims to be so efficient that the savings on charcoal will pay for the unit within 18 months.

That’s a tall promise, considering that a Josper retails for as much as $24,000, although smaller models go for much less. But it’s a unique piece of equipment that could soon be finding its way into a handful of U.S. kitchens.

London’s Financial Times describes it this way: “Burning top quality charcoal, the Josper is, in layman’s terms, the hottest indoor barbecue available. It has a front door that, when closed, ensures none of the natural moisture or flavour escapes from the food cooked in it. More often than not, a Josper is described as an oven, though its primary role is as a grill.”

The paper also quotes Raphael Duntoye, Josper user and chef at Mayfair’s La Petite Maison, as lamenting that he only bought one unit, not two. “Every chef who has come to his kitchen to check out the Josper has ended up buying one,” the Financial Times reports.

Jospers are big in Europe, but have yet to catch on in the U.S. Chefs there swoon over them because they allow them to use simple, traditional cooking techniques in a contemporary commercial kitchen setting yet produce food at the breakneck clip a busy restaurant requires.

We note on this year’s product roster at the upcoming NAFEM show that U.S. manufacturers are starting to market another piece of cooking gear that has roots in Spain—the plancha—to U.S. customers. The Josper could be next. It would make a worthwhile addition to many high-volume kitchens, particularly steakhouses. Next time you’re in Europe, ask around to see if you can see one in action. When a restaurant at the level of At.mospheres brags about having one, you can be sure it’s worth a look.