Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

The decades-old Le Chef restaurant, located in the heart of Beirut's trendy Gemmayzeh district, is pictured on August 13, 2020 following a huge chemical explosion at Beirut's port that devastated large parts of the Lebanese capital. (AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2020

Lebanese restaurant attracts star support following Beirut blasts

  • Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents
  • Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty

LONDON: Lebanese restaurant Le Chef found an unlikely high-profile supporter after a GoFundMe page was set up to save the diner from ruin following the Beirut blasts on August 4.

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to the fund, set up by a group of Beirut-based foreign correspondents.

When Richard Hall, one of the organizers and the former-Beirut correspondent of UK daily The Independent, highlighted the generous donation, Crowe tweeted: “On behalf of Anthony Bourdain. I thought that he would have probably done so if he was still around. I wish you and LeChef the best and hope things can be put back together soon.” Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain took his life two years ago.

Tucked away in the middle of the Gemmayze district, Le Chef – commonly seen as one of Beirut’s must-try hole-in-the-wall diners for tourists – was badly damaged in the recent blast.

The tiny diner with its neon-red logo and checkered tables was second home to many of the street’s residents and the country’s foreign correspondents. It featured in Bourdain’s report from Beirut during his travel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in 2006.

BACKGROUND

The tiny diner with its neon-red logo and checkered tables was second home to many of the street’s residents and the country’s foreign correspondents.

“And yet I'd already fallen in love with Beirut. We all had — everyone on my crew. As soon as we'd landed, headed into town, there was a reaction I can only describe as pheromonic: The place just smelled good. Like a place we were going to love,” Bourdain’s field notes during his time on CNN's Parts Unknown said.

Operating on a plat-du-jour formula, each day of the week would serve a homemade Lebanese specialty – with Thursday’s mloukhiyye and rice a favorite among many journalists, according to Arab News’ correspondent Leila Hatoum.

“When I worked as a reporter based in Gemmayze between 2002 and 2006, Le Chef was the restaurant that provided home-cooked style meals at such affordable prices and in generous quantities…each dish literally could feed two persons,” Hatoum said.

“It was the meeting point for every reporter in the area, be it foreign or local. I would say Le Chef was the ‘it’ place for affordable but great home-cooked food.”

Other dishes include rice and lamb (kharouf mehshi) on Mondays, spiced Lebanese couscous with chicken (moughrabiyye) on Tuesdays, kibbeh bil sayniyye on Wednesdays, rice and fish (sayyidiye) on Fridays and roast lamb with potatoes on Saturdays.

“Le Chef was different, everything they served was as though my mom cooked it,” Netherlands-based designer Rawad Baaklini told Arab News.

“And it was so cheap! Their dishes were big compared to the price they charged. They used to deliver, so for me ordering from them was like eating at home,” Baaklini said, recalling his time working at a studio based in the area.

“My favorite dish was the kibbeh bel sayniyye … It was magical, I don’t know how they made it, but it was every time great.”


Dubai penalizes businesses flouting coronavirus safety protocols

Updated 38 min 31 sec ago

Dubai penalizes businesses flouting coronavirus safety protocols

DUBAI: The Dubai government has penalized 22 commercial establishments for flouting coronavirus safety protocols and risking the heath of customers and staff.

Six of those who have been issued fines were bodybuilding gyms, while some were engaged in retail, textile and fabrics, sewing and embroidery, building materials and general trade, state news agency WAM reported.

The common violations incurred included employees’ lack of commitment to wearing masks and breach of physical distancing guidelines.

Field inspection teams also warned two other businesses for their failure to place the mandatory physical distancing stickers inside their shops.

Compliance is critical to the gradual return to safe and normal commercial activity that Dubai has achieved, leading to the opening of all sectors and the economic reset in the emirate, a statement from the Dubai Economy said.

Stern action will be taken against any non-compliance found during its inspections, or that may be reported by consumers and the public, it added.