My First Run-In With A Michelin-Starred Chef

It’s not every day you have the privilege of meeting a Michelin-starred chef. Now add to that a Michelin-starred chef on your home turf, here in Beirut, cooking up a storm and treating you to his culinary majesty. Pretty extraordinary, huh?

Well, last week I had the honor of one such encounter at Lebanese fine dining restaurant Liza in Achrafieh, a beautifully restored 19th-century palace with Lebanese quintessential motifs in each room. 

Orchestrated by ChefXChange, an online platform that allows you to invite a private chef into your home, the dinner drew out nearly 130 guests who gathered to share in the original mezza dishes of Greg Malouf, an Australian-Lebanese chef renowned for his innovative take on classic Middle Eastern fare.


The main dining room at Liza Beirut


On the menu, things as imaginative as organic salmon raw kibbeh; chicken and date fatayer; pickled, smoked ox tongue on a bed of carrot labneh with fresh spinach; and lentil tabbouleh. Mains included wild sea bass smothered with tarator, coriander, walnuts and chili, as well as lamb shoulder on porcini freekeh. A duo of desserts was offered, featuring muhallabieh drowned in Arabic coffee with cardamom. Chateau Marsyas wines helped wash down the feast.

The menu of Chef Malouf's dinner at Liza

Pastries stuffed with minced chicken and dates, topped with a dollop of labneh

Zahra cauliflower, sesame sauce and Parmesan-cumin wafers


Malouf, who was born in Melbourne to Lebanese parents, knew early on that he was suited for the apron and toque. Against the wishes of his parents, he served out his apprenticeship in several of Melbourne’s distinguished restaurants, before setting sail to the culinary mecca that is Paris.

There, however, Malouf fell prey to the cholesterol-rich world of unpasteurized cheese and foie gras. Suffering from familial hypercholesterolemia, Malouf was admitted to the hospital for triple bypass surgery. He returned to Melbourne to recover before moving on to Austria and Hong Kong. At the age of 30, he fell ill yet again and required a heart transplant, an operation he’d repeat 14 years later.


Michelin-starred chef Greg Malouf
(photo source: http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/chefs/greg-malouf)


Between 2001 and 2012, Malouf was Executive Chef at MoMo restaurant in Melbourne, where he racked up “two hats,” roughly the equivalent of two Michelin stars. He thereafter relocated to London to take the reins as Head Chef of Michelin-starred Petersham Nurseries Café, where he regained the Michelin star in the span of six months.

More recently, he has been associated with Clé Dubai and the Six Senses Resort in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula.

Last week at Liza, the chef spoke to us about his preference for tabbouleh over fattouch, his immense dislike of the color black – he refuses to integrate it in his cooking – and how differently Lebanese are than any breed he’s worked with. Friendly and good-naturedly meddlesome, they contrast starkly with their European counterparts, who tend to be more distant and isolationist.


Dinner was dubbed "The Art of Mezza by Chef Greg Malouf"


ChefXChange (CXC) is to be commended for attracting such talent to Lebanese shores, and it doesn’t stop at Greg Malouf. In fact, on the very same evening, Mario e Mario was animated by the presence of Michelin-starred Maxime Le Van, who hails from Provence, France, where he was inspired by the fresh Mediterranean products and flavors of Italian cuisine. Chef Maxime also graced La Paillotte du Chef in Halat with an exquisite seafood dinner just days after his Mario e Mario stint. You can intercept him at the Mzaar Festival in Faraya beginning today and through August 15 in collaboration with Junkyard Beirut, LiveLoveBeirut and CXC.

Let’s hope Lebanon continues to be an essential destination for culinary geniuses like Malouf and Le Van. Given that we’ve made it on the map for our gastronomy and love thereof, I should think we have little to worry about.  


A gourmand anticipates Chef Malouf's cuisine



ChefXChange
+961 1 324 360


Liza Beirut
+961 1 208 108


Chef Greg Malouf
www.gregmalouf.com.au


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