Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene
Chef Alan Geaam in one of his casual restaurants, Qasti Shawarma and Grill. (Sadik Sans Voltaire)
Short Url
Updated 25 June 2022

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene

Lebanese chef Alan Geaam: From below zero to hot property in France’s culinary scene
  • The Tripoli native arrived in France in 1999 with 30 Euros. He now runs a Michelin-starred restaurant

PARIS: Chef Alan Geaam has two flags sewn onto the collar of his white coat: The Lebanese — representing his homeland, where his love of cooking began — and the French, symbolizing the fact that Paris has been his adopted home for the past two decades, the city where his dreams came true.  

Geaam grew up in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli during Lebanon’s disastrous Civil War. His mother’s cooking provided some respite from the horrors.

“Despite the war, my mother was always cooking over a pot, adding spices, and the smell of the food would emerge,” Geaam tells Arab News. “Everything that we lost in the war was compensated with my mother’s cooking.” 




In 2017, Geaam opened Restaurant Alan Geaam. (Anthony Rahayel)

From a young age, Geaam had high ambitions. “French food is internationally famous. I would see it in magazines and on the television, and I said to myself that someday I would go to Paris and learn,” he said. “Some children want to go to the moon or be Superman. I wanted to learn about cooking in Paris.”

Within his family, some members of which were engineers or doctors, there was skepticism about Geaam’s career choice.

“I told my mother that I wanted to become a chef,” he says. “(I explained that) in France, a chef is very respected, like a lawyer or a doctor.”

Geaam finally made his life-changing move to the French capital in 1999, when he was in his twenties. It was anything but easy. He traveled by himself, he didn’t speak French, he didn’t know anyone, and his visa was valid for just seven days.

“I had 200 Francs — that’s 30 Euros — in my pocket,” Geaam recalls.




Alan Geaam is a fine-dining concept that presents Lebanese cuisine in a sophisticated French style. (Anthony Rahayel)

He landed his first day job cleaning out workshops, in which he also slept. At night, he worked in a Lebanese snack bar, helping out and learning from the chef, until one day things took a turn.

“The chef didn’t come to work and I said, ‘This is my opportunity.’ I jumped right into cooking and did the service,” said Geaam. 

Over time, Geaam’s situation slowly improved. Aside from his professional growth, he received a residency permit and started teaching himself French by reading books. He also changed his name — from Azzam to Alan. “It was easier for people to pronounce,” he says. “Honestly, I didn’t have confidence in my story. I didn’t learn at school and I was ashamed of that. Eighteen years later, I broke that barrier and I’m proud of my story.” He adds that he hopes others will find inspiration in that story.




Geaam’s Qasti Shawarma & Grill is a casual diner. (Sadik Sans Voltaire)

“I was a young Lebanese man with no money and no education,” he says. “I started from zero — even below zero. All of us can reach our goals, but we need to wake up in the morning, work hard, and not give up.” 

In 2017, Geaam opened Restaurant Alan Geaam, a fine-dining concept that presents Lebanese cuisine in a sophisticated French style. The following year, something of a miracle happened. “I got a phone call at 6:30 and they told me, ‘Welcome to the Michelin family. You got a star this year,’” he said. 

In the country that has the most Michelin-starred restaurants, Geaam claims he is the first Lebanese chef to have his restaurant attain the most-coveted honor in the gastronomic world. The French press has taken note too; Geaam has received mentions in Le Figaro and Libération.




Hummus at Qasti Bistro. (Suppplied)

“It’s a dream to open a restaurant, but what’s even nicer is when you open a restaurant that gets a Michelin star,” he says. “It’s proof that your food is delicious and you’re clever.”

Geaam has also set up a number of casual eateries in the city’s third arrondisement — Qasti Bistro, Qasti Shawarma and Grill, and Saj, la Galette Libanaise — as well as a small food store, Le Doukane, providing products imported from Lebanon, combining to create what Geaam calls “a Lebanese neighborhood.”

With its authentic Levantine flavors and generous hospitality, Qasti Bistro has proven very popular and is often packed with customers munching on warm shawarmas, falafel sandwiches, or hummus.The wavy blue patterns of its interior are reminiscent of the Mediterranean waters off Lebanon.

Geaam clearly likes to keep busy. Aside from his Parisian enterprises, he recently launched a new branch of Qasti in the coastal town of Marseille. With an autobiography/recipe book in the making as well, it seems Geaam’s story is only just beginning. 


‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears
Updated 30 June 2022

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

‘It was way overdue’: Sam Asghari opens up about marrying Britney Spears

DUBAI: US-Iranian actor Sam Asghari has opened up about his marriage to pop superstar Britney Spears in his first interview since their June wedding.

The actor and dancer appeared on “Good Morning America” in a segment that aired Wednesday to promote his film, “Hot Seat.”

“The husband thing hasn’t hit me yet,” Asghari said, before discussing the wedding and saying, “It was way overdue for us. We imagined this thing being a fairytale, and it was. And we wanted to celebrate with, you know, our loved ones, our close people. We wanted to just celebrate, and that’s what we did.”

Until November 2021, Spears was under a conservatorship, which was handled by her estranged father Jamie Spears, and was unable to get married.

 

 

Following the termination of the conservatorship, the pair wed on June 9 in an intimate ceremony at their Los Angeles home. Guests included Madonna, Selena Gomez, Drew Barrymore, Paris Hilton, and Donatella Versace.

The up-and-coming actor is starring in the film “Hot Seat,” in which he plays a SWAT team officer alongside Shannen Doherty, Kevin Dillon, and Mel Gibson.

“My wife gave me, like, this amazing platform to work with,” he said. “So I’m always appreciative of that. And I’m always so grateful for that. I don’t take any opportunity that I have for granted, and I really try to stay positive with everything that’s happening.” 

They began dating in 2016 after meeting on the set of her “Slumber Party” music video.


Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih invited to join Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)
Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)
Updated 30 June 2022

Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih invited to join Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Famed composer Hesham Nazih. (Supplied)

DUBAI: Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih is among 397 individuals invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this year.

The organization that puts on the Oscars said Tuesday that 44 percent of the 2022 class identifies as women, 50 percent come from outside of the US and 37 percent are from underrepresented ethnic and racial communities. If the invitees accept, which most do, they will have voting privileges at the 95th Academy Awards.

Nazih, the only Egyptian invited this year, joins Oscar winners Ariana DeBose, Troy Kotsur and Billie Eilish, as well as Iranian actor Amir Jadidi on the list.

Other actors invited this year include Anya Taylor-Joy, Jessie Buckley, Gaby Hoffman, “Belfast” co-stars Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, as well as Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, both of “The Power of the Dog.” 

The 95th Academy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on March 12, 2023.

Across more than 40 films over an award-winning 20-year-span, Nazih has heightened each project he’s scored, from “Son of Rizk” to “Blue Elephant.” Now, the composer for Marvel’s TV show “Moon Knight,” Nazih has officially made the crossover that only a handful of true international greats, such as Ennio Morricone and A.R. Rahman, have pulled off before him.

“I knew this was huge step for me,” Nazih previously told Arab News. “Working with Marvel was a game changer for my career. I had countless thoughts in my head, and I had to fight a lot of them off.”


Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists
Updated 30 June 2022

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

Dhahran’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ exhibition highlighting 28 Saudi, international artists

DUBAI: The 9th edition of the 21,39 Jeddah Arts exhibition is travelling to Dhahran’s Ithra — or the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture — for the first time.

Inspired by Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu’s popular song “Al Amakin,” the exhibition opens at Ithra on June 30 and will run until Sept. 30.

Asma Bahmim “Wandering Walls.” (Supplied)

Leading art historian Venetia Porter curated the exhibition, which includes 28 regional and international artists who explore the notion of what “makan,” or place, means to them, demonstrating how their life experiences have shaped their relationship to different places, real and imagined.

“The notion of makan, or place, fell into sharp relief with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns around the world,” Porter said in a released statement. “That place where we live and perhaps took for granted became, for some of us, another country as we discovered familiar streets as though for the first time, observed in minute detail the changing of the seasons or listened to the birds. For others, our makan became a trap – a place to escape from that now caused us trauma and stress.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by #SAC #ساك (@sacsaudi)

Saudi artists Safeya Binzagr and Abdulhalim Radwi headline the show, which also features works by Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, a Sharqiyah-based Saudi modernist, as well as a bevy of other creative talents from Chile, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon and Palestine.

Badr Ali, notebooks and sketches. (Supplied)

“This exhibition is a source of inspiration, and will evoke emotions within each visitor; emotions they did not know were lying dormant at the back of their minds,” said Farah Abushullaih, head of the Ithra Museum, in a released statement.

This is the first 21,39 exhibition to travel beyond Jeddah.


Opera icon Andrea Bocelli to perform in Abu Dhabi

The opera star has sold more than 90 million records worldwide. (AFP)
The opera star has sold more than 90 million records worldwide. (AFP)
Updated 30 June 2022

Opera icon Andrea Bocelli to perform in Abu Dhabi

The opera star has sold more than 90 million records worldwide. (AFP)

DUBAI: Lauded Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will return to the UAE for his fifth concert in Abu Dhabi in November.

The opera star, who has sold more than 90 million records worldwide and has been nominated for six Grammy Awards, will perform at Etihad Park on Yas Island on November 24.

No stranger to the region, in January, Bocelli performed to a packed auditorium in the iconic mirrored Maraya venue of Saudi Arabia’s AlUla.

“It is always an incredible experience to sing in the middle of the desert in AlUla,” he said at the time. “Coming from the noise and chaos of the big city, it is an educational experience for me to find myself in this idyllic and peaceful place away from the world.”

It was Bocelli’s fourth performance at Winter at Tantora, the Kingdom’s original music and cultural festival. He was accompanied on stage by Italy’s Asti Symphony Orchestra and sopranos Christine Allado, Serena Gambero and Clara Barbier Serrano.


Review: ‘Love & Gelato’ is a sweet, endearing romp through Rome 

Review: ‘Love & Gelato’ is a sweet, endearing romp through Rome 
Updated 30 June 2022

Review: ‘Love & Gelato’ is a sweet, endearing romp through Rome 

Review: ‘Love & Gelato’ is a sweet, endearing romp through Rome 

CHENNAI: In many ways Rome plays second fiddle to Paris, a city that is often lauded as the most romantic and picturesque in the world. But if one were to watch Brandon Camp’s “Love & Gelato” — and read the novel by Gina Evans Welch upon which the movie is based — the Italian capital could soon replace Paris as the internationally recognized city of love. 

Indeed, Rome is a principal character in the film, with its aura of twinkling magic, imposing structures and grand Colosseum, as well as the haunting ruins of the world’s first shopping mall, Trajan’s Market (built between 100 and 110 AD). Wide-eyed Lina Emerson (Susanna Skagga) is so overwhelmed by these magnificent sights that it eases the pain of the recent loss of her mother, whose last wish was to see her daughter visit Rome where the older woman found her first love — Lina’s father.

The movie is based on the novel by Gina Evans Welch. (Supplied)

When a paranoid Lina, whose list of fears is seemingly endless, meets Lorenzo Ferrazza (Tobia De Angelis), she finds the pull of adventure so hard to resist that she jumps on his scooter as he races across a magically lit city, brought alluringly to life by cinematographer Thomas Scott Stanton. The initially hesitant Lina is also given a journal that her mother had kept when she lived in Italy, leading our protagonist to uncover a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries chock full of traditional Roman sweet buns called maritozzi.

“Love & Gelato,” now streaming on Netflix, may seem like a silly portrait of a young woman’s first flirtation, but Camp and author Welch transformed it into a story that will resonate with audiences due to Lina’s relationship with her late mother pushing the narrative forward. 

For cinema lovers, there are call-backs that make the movie a delight to watch — scenes of the Trevi Fountain will remind you of Federico Fellini's 1960 classic “La Dolce Vita,” with Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg taking a midnight dip in the historic site. Meanwhile, seeing Lorenzo and Lina zip along on a scooter will remind ardent cinema fans of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the unforgettable “Roman Holiday.” “Love & Gelato” may not be a great work on the level of those masterpieces, but it is sweet —as sweet as maritozzi!