Charles’ Story: A Testament to the UAE, the Land of Dreams | Savoir Flair
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Charles’ Story: A Testament to the UAE, the Land of Dreams
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by Lydia Medeiros 5-minute read November 28, 2022

From street sweeper to the resident artist in one of the best restaurants in the UAE, this is Charles’ Story.

Savoir Flair first met Charles Goloba at the Michelin-starred Trèsind Studio while filming Chef Himanshu Saini for our original series, Acquired Taste. The first thing you notice about the modest man from Uganda is his warm and friendly smile that lights up a room whenever he happens to toss it in your direction. He is kind, gentle, humble, a little bit shy, and completely genuine. We hadn’t seen him on our previous visit to the restaurant, so we were intrigued to see a new member of the Studio team, which operates very much like a family, or at least very close friends.

As it turns out, Charles is the new gardener who tends the rooftop jungle sprouting herbs, flowers, and vegetables Chef Himanshu uses seasonally in his menus. “But his real job here is to paint,” Heena Patel, the Assistant Marketing Manager of Trèsind Studio, tells us. “Whenever a guest comes to Studio to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary, they receive an original painting from Charles, and sometimes, guests have even requested to purchase one of his paintings, or commissioned pieces, the proceeds of which go directly to Charles himself.”

article @JEANWINTERCONSULTANCY

At the entrance to Trèsind Studio sits Charles’ own little studio, his corner of the world where he can sit and dream, create and paint. He has his chair, easel, canvases, and a cart full of various paints and brushes, along with a pair of headphones that he puts on to listen to whatever inspires him while he works. Once he has finished his morning duties tending to the garden, Charles has the rest of the day to paint. In short, he’s living every artist’s dream.

Charles wasn’t always living the dream, however. He was raised by a single mother after his father passed away mere days before he was born. He witnessed first-hand how hard she worked to provide for him, but even so, he had to drop out of university after his first year due to being unable to meet the payments.

But Charles was determined not to let that deter him. He heard some friends speaking about the UAE, saying it was a land of opportunity, promise, and of the future. So he signed up with a cleaning company, packed his bags, and kissed his mother goodbye as he set out to change his story in a brave new world. 

img @CHARLESPAINTINGS_256_
img @CHARLESPAINTINGS_256_

His first job in the UAE was as a street sweeper. He cleaned the roads for residents living in Dubai neighborhoods such as International CityJAFZA, and Jumeirah Park. One day, one of the residents noticed him. Jean Winter and her husband Andrew came out of their house to speak with Charles, and offer him water, food, or a place to rest should the need ever arise. 

“She wasn’t scared of me,” Charles told us as he reminisced about that first meeting. “She came up to me and I was in my work clothes and I was dirty and sweaty, and she hugged me.” He was too shy and polite to take her up on her offer, but Jean continued to stop him and remind him that he needed to stop by for some water or food. Their friendship continued to grow, but Charles was transferred out of her neighborhood. 

She wasn't scared of me. She came up to me and I was in my work clothes and I was dirty and sweaty, and she hugged me.

article @JEANWINTERCONSULTANCY

He didn’t see Jean for two years. However, he met another couple, Jessica and Robert Stephen, who struck up a similar friendship with the young Ugandan. When they learned he could paint, they asked him to show them some work, but Charles didn’t have any materials to create work for them. The next day, the couple purchased materials — canvases, paints, brushes, and gave them to him. They bought his first three paintings, and encouraged him to start an Instagram account and upload photos of his work so he could sell it to the public. It was then Charles thought to contact Jean again, to see if she’d be interested in his work. It was through these messages that Jean discovered Charles was a painter.

“She asked me to paint something for her,” Charles said. “So I went home and I painted her a painting. Then, she paid me for it.” Jean and Andrew showed off their paintings to their friends, who then commissioned a few more paintings for themselves. 

img @CHARLESPAINTINGS_256_
img @CHARLESPAINTINGS_256_

Suddenly, Charles’ routine changed. He would work all day at his job, then go home to his accommodations and paint for three to four hours at night. This went on until one day Jean called Charles and asked him to send her his CV. She had a job for him and wanted him to meet her at the St. Regis on the Palm for an interview.

“I sat in the garden with Jean and Chef Himanshu. He was a kind and welcoming man. The interview was very short,” Charles laughs. But there must have been something in him that Chef saw right away because the next day, Charles had a new job at Trèsind Studio, not only as the gardener but as the resident painter as well.

“To have someone like Charles, who is an artist, is a great addition to the Trèsind Studio concept,” Chef Himanshu tells us. “We believe that Trèsind Studio is a playground for artists, a place where artists can show their creativity and their professionalism. Anyone who is creative and willing to show his art is always welcome in Studio. So when I got this opportunity to have Charles on the team, it didn’t take too much time for me to realize that he is going to be a great asset. Not just because of how good he is, but also because of what he brings to the team. He opens up so much creativity and adds a small human touch to what we do at Studio.”

The dreams that looked shattered before, I can start realizing now, because things are changing — and changing so positively.

img @CHARLESPAINTINGS_256_

It’s interesting to note that in the chaotic stress of a professional kitchen, just a few steps away is a calm oasis of creative flow. Heena and Laxmi Pillai, another Studio member, shared with us that at times they’ve gone to Charles’ little sanctuary to paint away whatever stress or anxiety they were feeling, finding relief in the steady presence of the artist and the soothing strokes of color on canvas that he offered. Where the energy of the kitchen is constantly in motion, the tranquil atmosphere of Charles’s station creates a clean and perfect balance, almost as if it is the yin to the kitchen’s yang.

“We are not just machines or computers who run without emotions,” says Chef Himanshu. “Every moment, and every feature of our restaurant has human souls attached to it. I think people like Charles complete the whole story, complete the existence of an honest human exchange of souls within the restaurant.”

It’s a testament to Chef’s vision to create a Studio where artists of every kind from culinary artists like himself to visual artists like Charles feel a sense of belonging, value, and have the opportunity to not only create but collaborate together. It is also a testament to the fundamental promise of a country that not only welcomes people from every country, every language, and all walks of life through its gates, but also offers them opportunities to turn their dreams into reality.

“The dreams that looked shattered before, I can start realizing now, because things are changing — and changing so positively,” says Charles, flashing another one of his priceless grins before he kindly lets us know that he really does need to get back to his work.

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