A little-known fact is that you used to be a bodyguard back in the day. What had you transition from that to becoming a world-renowned chef?
After the Lebanese war, it was an urge for most Lebanese people involved in the political environment to move outside Lebanon. In 1986, I moved to South Africa where I started my career.
You’ll be serving up at Marble alongside SA’s most popular chef, David Higgs. How did this come about?
My friendship with David started when we met at Les Étoiles de Mougins in 2011. We met again in Amsterdam where we cooked together and judged at the San Pellegrino Young Chef in 2015. Not to mention that he is South African, the country where I first started my career as a chef.
Lebanese cooking is known for its colour and creativity. What other Lebanese influences will you bring to the table? Can we expect any Sheikh Mahshi?
The Lebanese cuisine is well known as one of the healthiest cuisines. I will be serving basic terroir freekeh and mougharbieh mixed with creativity!
You have an interesting cooking style when it comes to respecting tradition but being able to add that Joe Barza twist to things. How would you describe your cooking style?
I am into traditions with a twist of modernity. That’s the secret of my cooking!
You met David Higgs at the annual Les Étoiles de Mougins festival in 2011. Word is that the two of you have become good friends. What makes David unique as a chef?
What I love about David Higgs is his special personality, his discipline and passion in everything he does. He comes from a country which means a lot to me because that’s where I first started my career and that’s where my daughter was born.
Where will you be headed after your adventure at Marble?
We are heading to Budapest for a new Lebanese concept.
Are there any similarities between South African and Lebanese cuisine?
The similarities between our cuisines is the respect of what nature provides us and the way we use it in our cooking.
And, in closing, part of your style is the impressive fedoras that you wear. How many do you have?
I can’t remember when I fell in love with hats! I have a wild collection and I can’t take them off of my head!