A true ambassador for Lebanon, chef Youssef Akiki has built himself a worldwide reputation for his creative and purist approach to Lebanese cuisine. Having begun his career at the tender age of 15, Akiki worked his way through the kitchens of renowned chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Joel Robuchon, Nicolas Le Bec and Bruno Goussault. He specialized in gluten and lactose-free pastry at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de la Patisserie before becoming the executive chef at Burgundy Beirut: repeatedly named one of the best restaurants in the world. We learn more about his new projects.
1.This year you’ve turned a page to begin a new chapter of your life. Can you tell us more?
Wrapping up 11 wonderful years at Burgundy, I decided to embark on the next adventure. It was time for me to launch a new concept: my very own kitchen in my beloved hometown, a place in the middle of nature where I truly belong.
I cannot but look back with utmost appreciation for the incredible team that stood by my side at Burgundy and the generous people behind this place that I have called home for so long.
2.During the COVID-19 pandemic you’ve launched your own cooking masterclasses. What prompted you to do this?
With the pandemic hitting the country and forcing the population to stay home, I noticed that people were looking to learn new things, especially online. Launching my own series of masterclasses is my way of contributing to society and sharing my knowledge with professionals and people interested in acquiring new skills. Through these masterclasses I am communicating what I was never taught in the classroom but learned from experience.
3.What has been the greatest source of inspiration in your career?
Definitely nature. A short walk gives me a lot of ideas of new ingredients to try. I always come up with crazy new concoctions to that often lead to amazing new creations.
4.What is Kitchen Backstage?
Kitchen Backstage is a boutique F&B and hospitality consultancy. Our services include consulting, advisory, training and development tailored to the hospitality industry.
Thanks to my extensive expertise, I am able to provide innovative solutions to the F&B industry, from menu creation to consistent application through well-designed outlets, functional kitchens and a well-trained team. I also assist clients with which suppliers to choose, team training, recipe implementation, quality assurance and consistency. We aim to become the partner of choice for the F&B industry. Kitchen Backstage will be located in my own garden in Hrajel.
5.How do you foresee the culinary landscape post COVID-19?
Clients will seek outdoor venues, while restaurants will start sourcing ingredients locally. People have been stuck at home for an extensive period, so they are eager to interact in the safety of an outdoor environment.