A view from the top with award-winning chef Aïmen Samhoud

A view from the top with award-winning chef Aïmen Samhoud

French Tunisian chef Aïmen Samhoud, winner of MBC Top Chef 2022, now leads the kitchen at Fairmont Grand Hotel Genève. He firmly believes that the key to success lies in approaching everything with love and passion. With over 15 years of experience in luxury hospitality, he reflects on his remarkable journey and how he won the 2022 edition of MBC Top Chef.

What inspired you to become a chef?
My passion for food, which was nurtured by my mother, ignited my desire to become a chef. Growing up in a family that valued home-cooked meals, we rarely dined out or ate frozen food. I consider myself fortunate, as our meals were sourced directly from the farm, including milk, eggs and chicken. As a child, I didn’t fully grasp the importance of this privilege. However, my fascination with the kitchen and the questions I addressed my mother about recipes showcased my budding curiosity. This passion deepened when I enrolled at the renowned Paul Augier College in my hometown, Nice. It was during my first professional experience in the culinary industry that I realized being a chef was my true calling.

What inspires you in the kitchen?
My mother and two-Michelin-star chef Marcel Ravin have been profound sources of inspiration for me. However, my diverse experiences at countless restaurants and extensive travels have shaped my culinary journey. Experiences at renowned establishments in the United States, prestigious hotels in Cannes, Monaco and Sweden, have all contributed to my growth. Yet, my mother and Marcel Ravin defined the person and chef I have become today. I am forever grateful to them, as they have helped me uncover my identity. When you dine at my restaurant, you get a sense of all my experiences, as they have become an integral part of my culinary expression.

What was the greatest challenge you faced on Top Chef? 
Time was extremely hard to manage on Top Chef. I wasn’t aware that one or two hours, even 30 minutes, could pass by in a glimpse of an eye. Furthermore, each challenge had its own difficulties; some of them were incredibly memorable. For example, when they invited two-Michelin-starred chef Sebastien Vauxion, who prepared a three-course menu. I remember thinking that his style of cooking was similar to mine and saying to myself that despite the difficulties, I would win — I was right about that. Finally, preparing 12 courses in two and a half hours with six chefs was one of the hardest yet most enjoyable experiences in my life.

Did you learn anything from the judges or fellow competitors that you plan to incorporate into your own cooking?
From the judges, I learned to temper my creativity, which can be overwhelming at times. I took their advice to heart and became more focused on their needs and likes.
From my fellow contestants, especially Ashruf, Wasan, Majed and Muhana, I learned that one can’t make it without the support of close friends during hard times; they gave me energy and kept pushing me throughout the competition, until they unfortunately left. So, I would like to thank them for being so supportive.

MBC Top Chef is known for its high-pressure challenges and time constraints. How did you handle such intense conditions?
Remaining calm and collected is a mindset, one that I have always had. I find comfort in pausing, reflecting and carefully considering my actions before acting. Life has taught me some valuable lessons, particularly in transforming stress into a source of strength rather than a weakness.
As a chef, battling stress is an ongoing challenge, especially during high-volume services. There are times when it’s difficult to remain calm, as exemplified by the incident during the cold war episode. However, I prevailed, emerging even stronger.

What was the most memorable moment for you during the show?
The most memorable moment was when they invited mothers to the kitchen. My mother hates traveling; the furthest she has ever traveled by plane was from Nice to Tunisia. But because mothers are capable of anything for their children, mine ended up taking three planes and traveling 10 hours to come support me. That is something I will never forget.
I also have fond memories of the second episode, which I won because I love fashion. I love wearing stylish clothes, so this episode suited me perfectly.

How did you use the feedback of the judges to improve your dishes and technique?
I value feedback, even when it is negative, as it helps me get better. I would like to thank the judges for their honesty. Because of their advice, I was able to change things that I didn’t know needed changing at the time, particularly when they said that I am too creative and daring.

Winning MBC Top Chef is a huge achievement. In your opinion, what gave you the competitive edge over other contestants?
It is a huge accomplishment that many can only dream of. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by the show, because I knew that it was the chance of a lifetime. Embracing risks has always been a part of my nature, and I believe it gave me an edge over others.
Participating in Top Chef, one of the most challenging cooking competitions, was an opportunity to push the boundaries, surpass my limits and truly test myself. From the very first episode, I stepped outside my comfort zone. It was this unwavering determination and mindset that earned me the title.


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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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