Chef Mohammad Orfali has turned his passion for food into a family affair by launching Orfali Bros with his siblings Wassim and Omar. Their bistro has a loyal following in Dubai and was named the Best Restaurant in MENA in 2023. In this interview, he describes how his reimagined dishes constantly push the culinary boundaries.
Orfali Bros is considered a success story of three immigrant chef brothers from Syria? How does that feel?
Through my culinary endeavors, I strive to bridge the gap between tradition and innovation. I want to showcase the rich culinary traditions of my homeland while adapting to the tastes and preferences of today’s diners. This allows me to pay homage to my cultural roots and introduce those flavors and techniques to a wider audience. It’s a way of sharing a part of my identity and the stories of my family with the world.
I feel responsible for representing my heritage positively, and I am honored to do so through my work as a chef. It’s not just about personal success but about using my platform to promote cultural understanding and appreciation through food. Therefore, I am proud to tell my story and preserve my heritage and culture through dishes with a modern contemporary approach.
Having experienced both, what are the main differences between heading a restaurant and being a TV chef?
Both require meticulous attention to detail. Whether you’re crafting a dish for a televised audience or preparing meals for restaurant patrons, every aspect matters. From ingredient selection and preparation techniques to plating and presentation, precision is key. A slight oversight in either setting can affect the quality of the final product and the overall dining experience. Indeed, both roles demand long working hours as well as problem-solving and adaptability are essential. Unexpected challenges can arise in the kitchen or during filming.
Another common thread is the need for effective communication and presentation. In a restaurant, the chef may communicate with their team to ensure orders are executed correctly and efficiently. On TV, the chef must engage in a clear manner with the audience.
In conclusion, attention to detail and long working hours are common to both.
Why do you believe that storytelling is an intrinsic part of the culinary experience?
While my recipes can be exciting and creative, they might initially appear confusing to those unfamiliar with them. The use of advanced culinary methods or non-traditional ingredients can be puzzling for some guests. Furthermore, storytelling serves as a powerful tool to overcome this barrier. When you introduce a recipe by sharing the story behind it, you provide context. This context not only makes the recipe more relatable. This invites people to explore your culinary world and try out your creations with confidence. It also fosters a sense of community and shared experiences around food.
So, my recipes are modern and sometimes can cause confusion for others. To avoid this, we tell the story to bring people closer to our perspective. Therefore, we explain the “how”, “what” and “why?” In the end, our recipes are inspired by various factors such as traveling, heritage, my roots and my love for food.
What sets your menu apart from your competitors?
At Orfali Bros, our philosophy is rooted in culinary freedom. By avoiding a culinary label, we give ourselves the liberty to draw inspiration from traditional and contemporary sources. This approach allows for a dynamic and evolving menu. Therefore, our dishes are shaped by the collective creativity of your team. This collaborative approach ensures that our menu remains fresh, inventive and open to continuous experimentation. So, each team member brings their unique experiences and influences to the table. This collective inspiration results in a menu that reflects a rich tapestry of flavors and ideas.
Our cuisine is distinctive, non-conforming and guided by the shared creative vision of your team. Consequently, this uniqueness can be a significant draw for diners looking for an experience that breaks away from traditional categories.
In short, we do not wish to fall under any category of cuisine. Instead, we are a cuisine of ideas that is inspired by every person in our team. So, we are Orfali Bros cuisine.
What’s behind your success and how did you feel when you won the prestigious title of “Best Restaurant in the MENA 2023”?
Our approach at Orfali Bros is deeply rooted in a genuine love for cooking. Our mission has always been to prepare and serve food that resonates with our own passion. So, our aim is to share our love for food with those around us. Our culinary creations reflect our culinary identity, driven by the pure joy of creating dishes that we love.
We relish the opportunity to provide memorable dining experiences to our clients. Therefore, we didn’t cook with the intention of receiving any award; we just cooked and served the food that we love to eat to our lovely community in Dubai.