Chef Abdallah El Chami
As an on-and-off waitress for the past 10 or so years, I've grown accustomed to late nights. Having an inspiring, go-getter morning ritual is something I've always lusted after, yet haven't quite nailed down. Exploring rituals in my own life led me to ask Vancouver creatives what habits they've developed of their own to help them stay on track. For the first part in the series, I sat down with Abdallah El Chami, the chef behind The Dallah Menu, who hosts Lebanese-themed pop-up dinners and events throughout the city.
What is a ritual you’ve developed that helps you stay inspired in your cooking?
“Going out to eat by myself. I love to go to different restaurants and see what they’re doing. I’m able to be thinking about what each dish tastes like, which not only helps my palette but helps me appreciate the flavours. If you don't think I'm weird yet, I've been known to carry a small notebook with notes on each dish.”
Do you think you notice more than if you were out with other people?
“When you’re alone, with you tea, coffee or food, you can really take it all in, and be at peace by yourself. That is when I truly can just sit and appreciate not only what is in front of me, but all of the things in my life”
Your Instagram feed gives me the impression that you are serious about coffee.
“When it comes to coffee, what matters the most is usually how fast you can get it, but I prefer to spend that time slowly. I often make coffee in a French press. But I also like to drink Turkish coffee and Saudi Arabian coffee - both which require more work and attention that everyday coffee. Having a moment to appreciate all the flavour in a cup of coffee is my version of meditation.”
Can you describe your take on Lebanese food? What are you hoping to achieve?
“What I’m trying to do is take these classic dishes and elevate them. For example, there is a rice dish that is a cousin to paella. A fellow cook and I tried to imagine, what would this dish look like now? It made sense to make it more like a risotto, so we re-created it, and once it was done it, the dish had the same comforting flavours but with new energy."
What have you gotten out of your experience so far?
“What’s been so rewarding about me ‘modernizing’ this food is that I can share it with my family and they get excited about a new way of presenting the food that they have eaten for a lifetime. "