Newly appointed as Chef de Cuisine on Dubai’s own floating restaurant, Bateaux Dubai, Lebanese Chef Raydan Abou Mahdi. It’s a long trip from his mother’s kitchen that’s seen him cater for the Dubai World Cup, various Royal weddings and numerous dignitaries such as Ban Ki-Moon. And in his fridge?
Back in Bater, a small village in Lebanon, Raydan Abou Mahdi watched his mother expertly cook food for the entire family. Intrigued, by age 14, he was cooking for his family and friends, soon gaining the nickname ‘Masterchef’.
Training at Shouf Technical College was followed by a brief spell with a specialty restaurant in Lebanon, before he moved to Jumeirah as an apprentice cook where he was part of a team that managed daily operations including the region’s first state-of-the-art conference centre with a capacity of 5,000 and an array of smaller venues. The Dubai World Cup and various Royal weddings followed before, aged 22, he became a Sous Chef with Empire Chefs Catering Services, managing a brigade of 45 chefs and assisting in pre-opening preparations.
After that, he worked with Starwood and Moevenpick Hotels before joining ADNEC in 2011 as Executive Chef, overseeing F&B for several restaurants and banqueting facilities that included 19 capital suites, two ballrooms and 12 halls. He also found time to create the Camel meat pizza…
Raydan was invited back to Empire Chefs Catering where he had the opportunity to cater to local dignitaries from HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HE Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein to international stars such as Naomi Campbell and Michael Jackson and from local celebrities such as Hussein Al Jasmi, Nancy Ajram and Mohammed Bin Sulayem to international dignitaries such as Ban Ki-Moon.
At the end of last year, he joined the luxury fine dining cruise Bateaux Dubai delivering a freshly prepared four-course à la carte dinner every evening to diners on Dubai Creek.
But what’s in his fridge at home?
In my fridge
* Bolognaise sauce – I use this in many ways and it’s my favourite dish to make!
* Salmon – My second favourite dish and my wife loves to cook it with coconut milk and almonds.
* Minced beef.
* Chicken breast.
* Vegetarian vine leaves – My wife uses these.
* Stocks – I make chicken, beef and fish stocks to freeze.
* Goat cheese – This is sent to me from Lebanon, made by my mother.
* Saj bread – This traditional and very healthy Lebanese bread is made by my wife and mother back home. We usually keep this for three months in the freezer and we use it one by one.
* Homemade fat – This I use in my cooking. It’s made by my father in his butchery in Lebanon.
* Olive and chili paste.
* Cheese – Parmesan, mozzarella, Baby Bell and creamy white cheese but Irish cheddar is absolutely our favourite for sandwiches.
* Pesto – My wife loves to use pesto in sandwiches.
* Tomato bread
* Vegetables and fruit depending on the season but we love spinach, zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, grapes, kiwis, pomegranates, apples, mint, rocca, rosemary, thyme, basil and so on.
* Mixed nuts and fava beans (in the freezer).
* Dijon mustard
* BBQ sauce
* Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
* Always select fresh ingredients.
* Use all your senses when you are shopping. ‘The eyes are the key of the mouth’ – you touch to make sure that your produce is not spoiled, you use your ear to hear when buying watermelons, you use your nose to smell fresh strawberry or mint, you use your mouth rarely but in traditional souks the seller will ask you to taste to judge his produce.
Where I buy produce
* Fruit and vegetable market
* Spice market
* Fish market