Taste of Abu Dhabi 2016 kept giving m opportunities to see the best of food (in and out). Apart from food, the event also gave me the (grand) chance to shake hands with some of the biggest chefs in the industry! You may have read my conversations with Chef Marco J Morana and Chef Ed Baines, I would like to add Chef Mohammad Orfali to the list as well!
He is definitely a vibrant chef, and based on his experience of trying to find true Aleppian Cuisine, I was sure he would have a very interesting story! Learning the basics of French Cuisine in culinary school, he worked through his career to now become an Executive Chef at Fatafeat – an Arab TV show that gave him a platform to display his take on Aleppian cuisine. As his philosophy goes, he strongly believes in creating delicious food that entails an “experience”.
I don’t believe anyone who says being passionate about food is enough!
It’s not. Curiosity, a deep sense of my heritage, and plenty of madness pushed my boundaries to cook with the kind of meditation that transforms food into art and evokes beautiful memories.
– Chef Mohammad Orfali
While his complete story is beautifully written out on his website, I still had to ask him a few (silly) questions. Let’s see how the interview went…
(CO stands for Chef Orfali and T stands for Trevor, that’s me)
T: Well, first of all, How are you Chef?
CO: I’m doing well! So far, so good!
T: And how was Taste of Abu Dhabi been so far?
CO: You know what, when we work with TV, we do not see the problems, we do not see the actual people! Such an event like Taste of Abu Dhabi, Taste of Dubai, DFF we have the amazing of chancing of engaging and participating with people! We love it when we can cook for them, and let them try our food as well!
Getting a bit personal here…
T: Chef, when did it strike you when you wanted to be a Chef, when you wanted to start cooking?
CO: Honestly, it was actually a mistake! I love food, but I never entered the kitchen (with my mom). Because in our culture, it is kind of weird to be a chef.
T: (Interrupting) Yow know what, I will say the exact same thing!
CO: Yes, it is for most of the older cultures/communities. The only thing that allowed me to go ahead with my career was entering a culinary school. And I feel like this is my passion right here! I guess my curiosity has led to my passion! Cause I’m very curious – I’m always trying to find new things. So in a way it has opened a lot doors and windows of opportunity and I felt like “Okay, I guess this is my field!” And this passion allows me to have fun, be creative and feel alive!
Honestly, being a cook isn’t easy. Many people misconceive that “being a chef” is the one who “Appears on TV”, “Cooks for people” and becomes a “Celebrity”. What some people could miss out to see is that we live in the kitchen itself. We work sometimes for 18 hours straight, between the heat and the cold. We’re always under stress. Basically, we’re always working when other people are resting (like on holidays for example). But I feel like, this is my job. I love it. And I never imagined myself to be what I am today! I never thought I’d be someone who would lead the cuisine of my country!
I always seem to need to ask this question…
T: Okay Chef, with this passion that has brought you where you are today, what would you say is your most favorite ingredient to work with?
CO: Well that’s a really difficult question to answer! I guess I will have to say…Onions and Garlic. You can’t cook with either of these! But I do not want to limit my resources to only using Onions and Garlic, since I like to use many other ingredients as well! However, I always try to create a harmony that matches flavors. Since my cuisine is the art of matching flavors.
T: Well, say hypothetically speaking, if tomorrow was the apocalypse of the world, what would be your last meal?
CO: I tell you what, I support the local ingredients. Because it is important to support a sustainable system. Let’s say 15 years ago, there was no tomatoes in the winter, so I guess I would cook with whatever I have available to me!
T: Hehe…Thank you Chef! That’s it!
CO: Thank you Trevor! All the best!
About Chef Mohammad Orfali
You can follow Chef Orfali on his website at –> http://www.morfali.com/
You can also follow him on Twitter at –> https://twitter.com/cheforfali
You can also follow him on Instagram at –> https://www.instagram.com/m.orfali
Until then….that’s me signing off! Shall roll out one more interview over the next couple of days!