Executive Pastry Chef Mohamad Abbas Breaking The Mold at Four Seasons Beirut
Mohamad Abbas is not a man you should take lightly. Soft-spoken and modest he may be, with eyes gleaming and cheeks ruddy as he gushes about pastry making. But the executive pastry chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut has the power to render you speechless with his butter-kissed croissants and sugar-glazed cinnamon rolls.
|Sugar-glazed cinnamon rolls and butter-kissed croissants|
If you’re dining in the Grill & Lounge on the 2nd floor, you’ll probably retract your hefty order after you try the filling bread loaf that lands on your table. That’s Abbas’ doing, baked in-house using imported French flour and homemade yeast. Nothing but a smear of Échiré beurre demi-sel and coarse sea salt could make it any more delicious.
Abbas has been the resident sweets-smith since the hotel opened in 2010, working alongside illustrious pastry chef Charles Azar. In 2013, after Azar’s departure from the Four Seasons, Abbas assumed the reins, hand-selecting his team of eight and committing himself wholly to gourmet pastry-making. Executive he may be, a title which typically transforms one’s functions to the managerial and diminishes involvement in the actual making of.
|Executive Pastry Chef Mohamad Abbas of Four Seasons Beirut|
But Abbas will have none of that. He lives and breathes couture patisserie, a passion that dates back to his days at the Hotel Management School in Dekwaneh (al fondokieh). There Abbas found his calling in pastries, which he felt conferred upon him a certain freedom and flexibility to design as he envisioned. Cooking, on the other hand, is far more rigid and structured.
Abbas’ pastry-making journey is illuminated by stints at the Hilton Metropolitan Hotel, followed by Phoenicia Intercontinental. His career is dotted with innumerable trips to France to train rigorously with the pioneers of his field, and as I write this, he is in fact in Paris pour une formation.
When you stroll into the Four Seasons’ lobby, dubbed The Boulevard, you witness a collection of Abbas’ signature cakes on display behind a glass vitrine. His style is immediately recognizable: velvety textures; quilted patterns; bubbly or wavy surfaces. The shapes of the cakes are riveting 3D objects you’d perhaps behold inside a calculus textbook but never in real life.
|A selection of Abbas' signature cakes (Photo credit: Four Seasons Press)|
|A custom-order chocolate mousse cake by Chef Abbas|
For the occasion of Valentine’s Day, Abbas crafted a furry heart-shaped gateau, but your eyes would fool you into believing it were actually a jewelry box. Edible art at its finest is the best descriptor for Abbas’ work.
|Edible art: this is actually a cake and not a jewelry box|
|Individual sized couture cakes|
Besides exquisite cakes, bread, and viennoiserie, Abbas has been dabbling with chocolate production for nearly a year and half. Only the most premium ingredients are sourced, including Valrhona and Caraïbe chocolate, fresh milk and cream, nuts, fruits, and delicate liqueurs.
The output of the pastry team’s artisanal efforts can be admired and savored at The Boulevard over a cup of tea. From intense dark studded with dried figs and raisins, to creamy milk with hazelnut and orange peel, to white with pecans and almonds, these chocolates can also be boxed up in gift form. The truffles, boasting a croquant shell that gives way to a moelleux core, are sublime.
|Handmade artisanal chocolate (Photo credit: Four Seasons Press)|
So what’s next on the menu for Chef Abbas? What divine delights can we look forward to from Lebanon’s premier pastry architect? Well, we’ll just have to wait for his return from the City of Lights. I for one wouldn’t mind a humble Cannelé bordelais or two.
Follow Chef Abbas on Instagram.