What made you decide to open a Lebanese restaurant?
After falling in love with Lebanese cuisine and hospitality, I wanted to open a Lebanese restaurant and share with the world the delicious flavors of Lebanon.
What fascinates you about Lebanese cuisine?
Many things fascinate me about Lebanese cuisine; the sharing part that brings people closer is one thing, but it is also the fact that the Lebanese cuisine is so delicious, generous and healthy. It is simple yet tasty, because it is all about the ingredients and the fresh produce.
If you were to describe Comptoir Libanais’ clientele, what would say?
It’s very much a cosmopolitan clientele, from all age groups. Whether it’s a nurse, a banker or a teacher, everyone feels at home with us, especially families with kids.
What can you tell us about your latest openings?
We have recently opened Shawa Lebanese grill. Our menu mainly revolves around shawarma and roasted chicken. Shawarma is not very well known in Europe and is not seen as a healthy type of food. I want to change that perception and give shawarma the reputation it deserves. My dream is to make shawarma as popular as burger, except shawarma is healthier.
Is Comptoir Libanais expanding beyond the UK?
We opened Comptoir Libanais in Dubai airport, and we are now working on opening in Doha airport in February 2022 and Abu Dhabi airport. We are talking to some local operators about other potential locations in the Gulf, but it is still early days so nothing is confirmed yet. We are still actively looking for passionate local partners and operators in the food and beverage sector all over the Middle East and North Africa.
Do you have any new cookbooks in the pipeline?
I am about to release the Arabic version of our latest cookbook “Feasts from the Middle East” with the Lebanese publisher Pierre Sayegh of Librairie du Liban. I’m also trying to find the time for my fourth cookbook about Lebanese village food.
Have you ever considered launching your own cooking show?
It’s still one of my dreams, but it’s challenging to find the time when you’re responsible for a group of 30 restaurants. However, I’m working very closely with an extremely talented Lebanese film producer to create a format for a cooking show.
What has the past year taught you?
It has been a very tough year for us and for everyone around the world, but my heart goes out to my colleagues and other hospitality businesses in Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco. I know how much harder it is for them. Of course, we learned a lot from the current situation; we must stay positive, be creative and think outside the box in order to survive.