As a child, Paul Frangie was perpetually intrigued by his mother’s cooking and home made meals. As soon as he was old enough to reach the stove, he followed his mother to the kitchen and enthusiastically helped with basic tasks, enjoying every last minute of it.
Fast forward to the present day and Paul is currently head chef and founder of Hapi, an all-day diner, with locally-sourced, quality ingredients, that serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between. Hapi, inspired by Paul’s vision to bring joy to customers, opened in late 2016 in Alserkal Avenue, the heart of arts and culture in Dubai, UAE.
Hapi, a simplified version of the word happy, signifies the simplicity of the food; which is served without an overwhelming number of flavors. Some of their menu items – which are all made from scratch apart from their bread – include more conventional items like beef burgers, sirloin steak, and grilled charcoal chicken, while others are less conventional like bone broths and salmon burgers.
Hapi’s vision is to serve good food quickly, while consistently maintaining the quality and flavors throughout. One of the most important aspects of Hapi is to provide locally-sourced ingredients and to keep them as fresh as possible. Everything on the menu is handmade from scratch, including its ice cream.
Hapi also likes to focus on zero waste. The packaging that it uses for coffee cups, cutlery, and cups, is made from cornstarch, making it compostable and less harmful to the environment. “As a restaurant, it’s our responsibility to be proactive in this area,” he said.
Paul’s favorite type of feedback that he receives from customers is when they tell him a dish reminded them of a memory of a loved one, a trip, or took them back to a particular memory. “I love that food is something you can share with people; it’s an extension of giving,” he said. “Food can make people happy and remind them of memories of certain times in their lives.”
Paul, whose mother is Dutch and father Lebanese, had not always been set on a culinary path. He studied International Economics and Business in the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, because it felt like the more stable path to take. “It was a very serious field,” he said. He almost switched after a year but decided to keep going because he wanted to finish what he’d started.
After getting a job at a consulting firm in Dubai, Paul decided one year later that this field wasn’t for him. He eventually took a job at a catering company in Holland and loved every minute of it. That’s when he decided to enroll in a culinary course in London, UK, that provided an intensive six month training program for those who want to change their career paths. He also trained at well-known restaurants in London.
Once Paul learned the skills he needed, he set up his own cooking channel on Youtube called, “This Dude Knows Food,” which gained him an audience, specifically people from the food industry. He was offered an international book deal for a cookbook and he pursued it for some time until he decided that his ultimate dream was to open a restaurant.
Born in Amsterdam, Holland and raised in Dubai, it was only natural that he open his first restaurant there. He also felt like Dubai is the type of city that would offer good opportunities for the type of restaurant that he had in mind.
It’s been a learning experience for Paul because he has never been the chef of a kitchen before, let alone opened his own restaurant.“You start with an idea in your mind, do the best you can, launch, and improve as you go,” he said. “It’s a constant work in progress.”
Hapi neighbors art galleries, museums, and is in the middle of the art scene in Dubai. With an industrial feel, Hapi has a minimal interior with a large open kitchen and a large tree in the middle of the dining area. While most kitchens operate behind closed doors, at Hapi you can even talk to Paul while he’s cooking, as well as see everything that’s going on.
Hapi believes in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and have thus subleased the upstairs space to sister company Parkour DXB, an emerging sports company that encourages good food and movement. Together, they want to encourage people to become more confident in their bodies.
“A healthy lifestyle is a mindset,” said Paul. “I feel more positive when I take care of myself and what I eat.”
Words by Ghadeer Al Aradi
Images courtesy of Hapi