Soulful food and a squeeze of “Dirty Lemon” with Ruba Khoury

Soulful food and a squeeze of “Dirty Lemon” with Ruba Khoury

Palestinian native turned Paris-trained chef Ruba Khoury combines her refined technical skills with the rustic essence of her ancestral palate to create an elevated form of Middle Eastern soul food that she serves at Dirty Lemon Bar. Here, she tells us how she blends her unique style with her Palestinian heritage in ever dish.

What did you learn by working with renowned French chefs like Gregory Marchand, Bertrand Grébaut and Adeline Grattard?
These chefs taught me the importance of sourcing good products as well as how to process them to obtain the most flavor. Each fruit, vegetable, protein and dairy item must be tested with care and precision for the best results.

Adeline Grattard made me the chef I am today. She pushed me to be the best, and I thank her for the pressure she placed me under.
I always remember my experience with Gregory Marchand with great fondness. It was a fantastic multicultural work environment. His cuisine brings the best of simplicity and creativity.

How were you able to disrupt the male-dominated culture around cocktails and bars?
I was able to disrupt the male-dominated culture by providing an approachable ambience and cocktail culture. Most cocktail bars are super pretentious, somber and dark, with masculine colors and usually a male workforce. My team is all female, and our cocktails are very accessible. Anybody can come in, view the menu and understand the ingredients. It makes you want to try every single one and feel at ease. Most cocktail bars have menus that are concocted by mixologists for mixologists, and that’s not what I’m here to do; I’m here to serve anyone and everyone that enters through Dirty Lemon’s doors.

Do you think that this culture is changing?
I believe that the culture is shifting, but there is still a lot of work to be done. It is still a heavily male-dominated industry. Hopefully, in years to come, that will gradually change even more.

What is the symbolism behind Dirty Lemon?
For me, Dirty Lemon represents the lack of female-forward options in the bar industry. That is the whole reason why I’ve decided to open this concept. It came from an unfortunate food-poisoning experience at a bar serving a compromised piece of lemon wedge in my vodka soda. I was so upset that this was our only option in Paris that I swore that one day I would open a beautiful, welcoming, chic and unpretentious cocktail bar with great food and drinks by women for women and call it Dirty Lemon.

Do you have future plans for Dirty Lemon?
My plan for the future is to open Dirty Lemon in the Middle East. The exact location will be revealed very soon.

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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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