Teya Mikhael, head chef at Maison Libanaise

Where do the notable cooks and bartenders of Hong Kong’s F&B scene wish to eat once they’re not cooking? What is their greatest home-cooked meal? Cheat Day goes behind the scenes with the town’s culinarians and tastemakers to seek out out precisely what their private favourites are throughout their days off.

For any newly arrived chef to Hong Kong’s plentiful world of food and drinks, issues can really feel a slight bit overwhelming — from the benefit and accessibility of a large number of cuisines to the provision to a plethora of recent world produce. As Maison Libanaise’s latest head chef Teya Mikhael places it, “There are so many great [Hong Kong ingredients], I’m still learning all the amazing ways I can integrate them into my work.”

Chef Teya Mikhael of Maison Libanaise

Fortunately for Mikhael, she’s already an professional in delicacies that has little to do with native Hong Kong flavours. As she dips into the pool of recent produce in a brand new overseas land, she’s already comfortably replicating the scrumptious serves of earthy, spice-filled Middle Eastern meals that she’s fond and conversant in at Black Sheep’s Lebanese canteen, and in her kitchen, the place she’s added tweaks to on a regular basis condiments, like butter, for a style of dwelling. Which for Mikhael, is the northern a part of Beirut in Lebanon’s Qobayat, a luscious forest-bordering village with undisturbed stretches of inexperienced.

It has all the time been the convivial sense of group that defines a memorable eating expertise, a collective occasion shared throughout cultures and household traditions, very similar to how Mikhael is used to again in Lebanon. Inspired by her personal reminiscences of night dinners with family and friends passing round beneficiant parts of comforting home-cooking, it’s an ethos she hopes to instil at her Maison Libanaise.

“I am excited to bring a new menu that’s focused on recipes from my childhood, from my home,” Mikhael shares. “My grandmother and mother are my inspiration, but what truly inspired me is the food culture I grew up with. I am sharing with guests even more of my culture through food and experience.”

Mikhael’s love for meals started younger, because it so typically does. She grew up round comforting household recipes ready by her mom and grandmother earlier than getting her begin in eating places as a waitress. Then got here a level in Hospitality and Events Management, adopted by stints at five-star motels, corresponding to Athanasios Kargatzidis’s BARON, and finally touchdown a place at famed The Lebanese Bakery, opened in 2016 by brothers Samer and Bassam Chamoun and gained immense following with its rustic Lebanese baked bites and flatbread, the place Mikhael finally took the lead as head chef.

At The Lebanese Bakery, which owns outposts in London, Bahrain, Riyadh and Cairo past its unique location in Beirut, Mikhael honed her ability and information in conventional Lebanese bakes (TLB is a recreation of conventional furns, or neighbourhood bakeries in Lebanon), particularly with two delicacies staples: mouajjanet (pastries) and manoushe (flatbread). The latter, a rolled-out flatbread sometimes served with a smattering of toppings, additionally occur to be considered one of Mikhael’s personal beloved snacks, which she has since created and designed a full menu of at Maison Libanaise.

Souvenir de La Maison (HK$688/individual)

“Lebanese cuisine is incredibly distinctive,” says Mikhael. “While I have studied many different cuisines, I always find myself coming back to the kind of food that is shared at an unhurried pace over a drink or two — something that the food culture of Lebanon is all about.”

Also at Maison Libanaise, a spectacular 13-dish showcase of Mikhael’s genuine Lebanese flavours in a beneficiant mezze menu, Souvenir de La Maison. Among the highlights, Baba Ganoush made with pomegranate salsa, charred eggplant, yoghurt, tahini and a drizzle of olive oil; the normal salad of Tabboulé; Hummus Awarma, minced lamb with chickpea pureé; Arnabit Meshwe, roasted cauliflower; and a hefty serving to of selfmade pita bread.

The subsequent time you do pay a go to to Mikhael’s new Maison Libanaise, deliver pals and a giant urge for food.

What was the final meal you had?

For breakfast this morning, I had toasted sourdough with spiced butter. I like my butter blended with sumac, Aleppo chilli and sea salt.

What does being a chef imply to you?

Being a chef is a type of self-expression. It is the place I can actually present who I’m — my character, my heritage and historical past, the issues I like — and that is all expressed by means of the dishes I create.

Tell me a few of your signature dishes/ creations?

I attempt to cook dinner each dish as if it’s the greatest model and hope that each dish I make has part of it that makes it a signature for me. I’m nonetheless engaged on my recipes and tweaking them to perfection; it’s a endless course of! Recently we did a extremely wonderful rooftop barbecue at Maison Libanaise the place I used to be in a position to strive a wide range of totally different and new spice mixes, and the Manoushe pop-up was a method for me to place my very own twist on my favorite Lebanese avenue meals.

cheat day teya mikhael
Mozzarella and Chilli Manoushe (HK$128), Lahm Bi Ajeen Manoushe (HK$188)

What was the perfect piece {of professional} recommendation you’ve ever acquired?

I like to learn and discover loads of inspiration in books. One of my favorite authors is Yotam Ottolenghi; I’ve learn so lots of the issues he’s written.

Honestly, what’s it like working with you within the kitchen?

People come from so many various locations and experiences, they’ve such totally different histories that I attempt to be affected person and understanding. I do my greatest to be sure that my crew is working in a snug atmosphere and information them as a lot as I can. The relaxation is as much as them, however hopefully, they fall in love with cooking in the identical method I’ve!

Do you cook dinner at dwelling? If so, what’s your go-to home-cooked dish?

Yes, truly! I do wish to cook dinner at dwelling, however typically simply with how busy I’m, it finally ends up being one thing simple and lightweight, often a salad with recent, seasonal greens.

You have half-hour. What will you make?

I default to pasta once I’m beneath a time constraint! Just one thing mild and refreshing, often with a bit of olive oil and lemon zest.

Name the highest three favorite substances/condiments you at the moment personal in your pantry.

Olive oil, Aleppo pepper, lemon.

cheat day teya mikhael
Salatat Shamandar, beetroot lentil salad (HK$148)
cheat day teya mikhael
Bizre (crispy whitebait with tahini, tarator, herbs and coriander seeds)

What are your responsible pleasures?

It must be a tie between pizza and chocolate!

The greatest meal you ever had?

I’ve a lot extra to eat and expertise I truthfully imagine that it’s nonetheless to come back!

What was your most memorable meals second?

There was this small family-run restaurant in Como, Italy known as Trattoria Baita Belvedere. I used to be there with my entire household for a shared meal, the climate was good and there was simply an infinite quantity of excellent meals and good wine. It was numerous enjoyable.

What is one dish/snack/meals you’ll be able to’t stay with out?

Salt and Vinegar Pringles!

cheat day teya mikhael
Kabse Tiger Prawns on the La Fête des Mères menu

Savoury or candy?

I take pleasure in savoury a bit extra — however in fact, if it’s chocolate…..

Where do you wish to go in your day without work?

Regardless of the climate or time of yr, I like to search for a restaurant the eating places which have the perfect view. Usually, I spend my day without work attempting to find the perfect spots or revisiting my favourites — it doesn’t matter what metropolis I’m in!

The 5 greatest dishes/drinks you’ve had in Hong Kong?

Sadly, I haven’t been right here lengthy and I’ve been at Maison Libanaise basically day-after-day since I acquired out of quarantine, however I can title two issues that I’ve completely cherished up to now: Maru De Sankaku Ramen and the Boulevardier that my pals over at Buenos Aires Polo Club whipped up for me one evening.

Something you need to strive whereas in Hong Kong?

I simply hope that I’ve the chance to actually be taught extra about Cantonese delicacies and Hong Kong tradition. I hope that the chums I make right here can introduce me to alternative ways to rejoice the native delicacies and luxuriate in it.

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