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.
Chef Olivier Pallut is a French national with extensive experience in the culinary industry. He has worked for Hotel Charentais, Bistro Le Francais, Le Meridien St Martin, Le Meridien Mariador, Qatar Royal Palace, Mezzaluna and Zoe Restaurants in Bahrain, Thimar Reef Island, Cordon Bleu Istanbul to name a few. His last assignment saw him in the position of Corporate Executive Chef for Bateel International in charge of the kitchens for 16 outlets in Dubai, 1 outlet in Oman, 4 outlets in Qatar and 3 outlets in Kuwait. His profound hospitality background and experience in this industry have seen him working in the UK, France, Russia, Guadeloupe, Chad, Guinea, Ukraine, Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey, Africa and most recently as the Executive Chef at Le Cordon Bleu, Lebanon.
What was the first thing that came to mind when offered the position in Lebanon?
I was very excited as I already had had a very positive experience in Lebanon. After all, I like Mediterranean food so I knew that this location would suit me.
What are your thoughts about Lebanese hospitality?
It truly is great and Lebanese people have welcomed me with open arms.
How many cuisines are you familiar with and what is your favorite?
My passion is the ‘cuisine of the sun’. While my base is traditional and Mediterranean French cuisine, I am inspired by adapting this to the taste of the geographic locality of where I am cooking. I have a strong interest in local cuisine and I make a concerted effort to source produce from the local markets, creating European culture with a local touch.
How do signature menus differ from other menus, especially when it comes to seasonality?
I try to keep the most popular dishes, irrespective of season, top of mind, while offering seasonal dishes that are more appropriate such as soups and stews that are not that heavy to stomach.
What are the important factors to consider when preparing banquet menus for private and corporate events?
Some of the major elements to consider are the hosts’ and attendees’ taste palettes, nature of the event, season of the year and budget. If it is a corporate event with a workshop, I will prepare a menu that is light to stomach, which would enable the client to return to work right after. If it’s a happy event where the guests have more time to spend, I will go for an array of festive dishes.