It’s the summer of 1983, school holidays, 14 years of age and not wanting to go to our summer house in the mountains, I secure a day job at a beach restaurant near our place in Beirut.
My dad thought it was a joke and that I should go back and tell them that I will not be taking the job, my mum thought “It’ll be good for him, it’ll keep him away from politics”.
(This is war torn Lebanon and everyone is into politics, even kids).
So I start my first ever job, in a restaurant. The rest is history.
I loved every single minute of it, learned to serve, wash up, prep vegetables as well as clean and prepare the freshest fish delivered daily by the very fishermen who caught them that morning.
Needless to say, I went back every summer holiday for more, I even managed to get weekend stints during school terms.
I knew that summer that I am going to open my own restaurant, and I thought I’d better practice, so I invite 8 of my friends to dinner cooked by me.
I mean how difficult can it be?
After all, I grew up watching the best cook that ever existed, my mother.
It is no exaggeration that this lady could give the best chefs a good run for their money.
She could feed 20 people turning up unannounced without breaking sweat, making sure
they have plenty and finish with sweets and coffee afterwards.
She cooked traditional dishes to perfection, but she also invented dishes that would be
worthy of any restaurant, and I particularly remember my cousins (lots of them) asking their
mothers why couldn’t they cook stuff like that for them.
So my palate had a very early training to enjoy the traditional and savour the new and innovative.
As for my first dinner party at the ripe age of 14, it went very well and my friends’ mothers couldn’t wait to tell my mum you have a talented one there.
Admittedly, there were a lot of fried dishes, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.