Meet Myriam Sabet, the Syrian pastry chef conquering Paris

Meet Myriam Sabet, the Syrian pastry chef conquering Paris
Sabet was born in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, to a French-speaking family. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 29 July 2022

Meet Myriam Sabet, the Syrian pastry chef conquering Paris

Meet Myriam Sabet, the Syrian pastry chef conquering Paris
  • Myriam Sabet’s award-winning Maison Aleph brings Levantine flavors to classic French patisserie

PARIS: In the Arabic language, aleph is the first letter of the alphabet. It is the beginning of everything. For Syrian entrepreneur and pastry chef Myriam Sabet, her small pastry business in Paris — Maison Aleph — gave her a fresh start. 

Sabet was born in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, to a French-speaking family. The 45-year-old describes Aleppo’s cuisine as diverse, due to Armenian, Turkish, and Persian influences. 

“I come from a family, where no one was a professional pastry chef,” Sabet tells Arab News. “But, as with all Aleppian families, we all cooked, we always talked about food and where to buy the best things.”  




Maison Aleph is in Paris. (Supplied)

When Sabet was 10, she moved with her family to West Africa, but their ties to Aleppo endured, and they visited every summer for over two decades. 

After finishing her studies in Montreal, Sabet was offered a job opportunity in Paris, in an entirely different field than her current profession: Finance. That was her career for 12 years.

“Paris was always the center,” she says. “I came and lived here as an adult on my own; I was 23. It was a personal choice.” It took starting her own family, as well as the support of her husband, who is her associate at the company, to rethink where her career was headed. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Maison Aleph (@maisonaleph)

“I think it was the birth of our first daughter that pushed me to ask myself the question, ‘What is it that you want to spend the rest of your life doing?’” she says. So she set about earning her diploma in pastry.

Despite living in arguably the world’s most demanding and competitive culinary city, Sabet was not daunted by the idea of throwing her chef’s hat into the ring.

“The idea was really not to just be another pastry shop in Paris,” she says. “I knew I could bring something different. I like pastry very much. I know the flavors that I like and I’m very strict in terms of quality of products that we use.” Sabet’s produce combines pronounced Levantine flavors with precise French techniques. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Maison Aleph (@maisonaleph)

Five years ago, Sabet finally opened Maison Aleph in the culturally mixed district of Le Marais. Its fare is vibrant, visually pleasing, and offers surprising combinations: Chocolate bars infused with orange and zaatar; vanilla and saffron ice cream; and a flan perfumed with orange blossom. One of Sabet’s main goals is to present a modern, bite-size take on classical desserts.

Sabet likes to play with words as well as flavors: She has renamed her ‘thousand-sheet-layered’ millefeuille to ‘1001 millefeuilles,’ a nod to the classic collection of Middle Eastern folk tales, “One Thousand and One Nights.” 

She also has an eye for detail. Maison Aleph’s pastry boxes are covered in elegant blue lines, which she says is a reference to the geometric flooring of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, a World Heritage Site that dates back to the 8th century CE.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Maison Aleph (@maisonaleph)

Sabet starts her day early. All the food at Maison Aleph is made fresh, daily, by Sabet and her eight-member team. It is a painstaking process.

“I think people don’t realize how much work goes into pastry,” she says. “Some people know that just to make that small bite, there’s a lot of hours of work. But, most people will look at it and be, like, ‘What? It’s just fruit, cream and butter.’”

Her award-winning patisserie has been a hit, critically and commercially. So much so that Sabet decided to open a second outlet in December last year on a popular shopping street, Rue des Abbesses, in Montmartre. 

“The first shop was a test,” she says. “We had no idea if people would like it, because it was such a new creation — it was neither Levantine pastry nor French pastry. And it’s not a fusion, at all. The idea is to propose to Parisian people what I believe is good, and to promote unknown flavors.” 


Palestinian Dutch model Bella Hadid goes minimalist for Jil Sander in Milan

Palestinian Dutch model Bella Hadid goes minimalist for Jil Sander in Milan
Updated 25 September 2022

Palestinian Dutch model Bella Hadid goes minimalist for Jil Sander in Milan

Palestinian Dutch model Bella Hadid goes minimalist for Jil Sander in Milan

DUBAI: After a hectic week walking the runways at New York Fashion Week, Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid is taking Milan Fashion Week by storm. On Saturday, the 25-year-old supermodel closed for German minimalist fashion label Jil Sander wearing their Spring-Summer 2023 ready-to-wear collection.

The collection, sporting both men’s and women’s looks, and designed by Luke and Lucie Meier for the label, featured loose, monochrome fits, embellished by beads, fringes and metallic fabrics, giving them a shiny, glam sheen. “We looked at clashing glamour into very simple workwear, our fundamental very simple pattern cutting and then doing things that are more eccentric,” Luke said backstage to Vogue about the new collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Hadid walked the runway wearing an oversized sleeveless black blazer and fringed cream skirt, paired with white sneakers, holding an umbrella as rain poured down on the outdoor site. “A dream of mine &an honor ... Lucie and Luke … you are so wonderful, thank you,” posted Hadid on Instagram. 

Adding a pop of color to the ensemble, Hadid held a bright red bag and finished the look with silver earrings and a matching bracelet.

At Milan Fashion Week, Hadid also walked for Italian luxury label Versace, alongside other Arab models including Gigi Hadid, Imaan Hammam, Nora Attal and Loli Bahia.

“I have always loved a rebel,” Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confident, smart and a little bit of a diva.”

While Bella was an unblushing bride in a deep purple lace corset and crinkled satin skirt, her sister Gigi wore a dark hoodie dress with a high slink factor.

Hammam, who has Dutch, Moroccan and Egyptian ancestry, wore a shiny black mini dress that featured a hood and plunging neckline. She also wore a furry coat.

British-Moroccan Attal stepped out in a form-fitting purple dress with fringe details at the hips, while Bahia, who has French and Algerian roots, graced the runway in a hot-pink dress with a short bridal veil.

Hadid also makes her TV debut next week as she stars in season three of the Emmy-nominated series, “Ramy,” premiering in the Middle East on Oct. 1 on streaming platform OSN+.

In an interview with GQ Magazine, Hadid, who stars as a “weirdo girlfriend,” recalled moments on set that made her heart full. On the first day, the crew surprised her with a shirt that stated “Free Palestine.”

 

 

 


Versace taps Arab models Bella, Gigi Hadid for Milan show

Versace taps Arab models Bella, Gigi Hadid for Milan show
Updated 24 September 2022

Versace taps Arab models Bella, Gigi Hadid for Milan show

Versace taps Arab models Bella, Gigi Hadid for Milan show

DUBAI: Italian luxury label Versace’s runway at Milan Fashion Week was packed with Arab models including Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Imaan Hammam, Nora Attal and Loli Bahia.

Donatella Versace’s collection conveyed female power in a way that only the label can.

“I have always loved a rebel,’’ Versace said in show notes. “A woman who is confidence, smart and a little bit of a diva.”

Gigi Hadid (R) and models present creations for Versace’s women’s spring-summer 2023 fashion collection. (AFP)

The show conveyed a strong sense of female ritual as models traversed a runway lit by dark candles and lined with stained-glass windows with the Versace medusa head, before exiting through glass-enclosed spaces where bathrobe-clad men lounged on gilded chairs amid purple columns, underlining a shift in the power dynamic.

Gigi, who is of Palestinian-Dutch descent, wore a dark hoodie dress with a high slink factor, while her sister, Bella, was an unblushing bride in deep purple lace corset and crinkled satin skirt.

Hammam, who is Dutch-Moroccan-Egyptian, wore a shiny black mini dress that featured a hood and a plunging neckline. She also wore a furry coat.

British-Moroccan Attal stepped out in a form-fitting purple dress with fringe details at the hips, while Bahia, who is French-Algerian, graced the runway in a hot-pink dress with a short bridal veil.

Bahia graced the runway in a hot-pink dress with a short bridal veil. (AFP)

The color palette was decidedly dark, rooted in purples and blacks, with some flashes of red, lime and fuchsia.

Emily Ratajkowski, Paris Hilton and Irina Shayk were among the models who walked the runway.

Ratajkowski wore a leather micro-mini with a tough biker jacket and studded handbag.

Hilton closed the spring summer 2023 show in a tropical-pink Swarovski-crystal mesh bridal dress with lace degradé finishes and a deep-cowl neckline. A veil was secured by a tiara, a re-make of that worn by Madonna in the 1995 Atelier Versace campaign.

Hammam and Attal also walked the runway for Italian fashion label Max Mara.

Hammam wore a black turtleneck crop top and a beige floor-length skirt. Her hair was in a slicked-back bun.

Attal wore a beige floor-length dress with a brown floral print.


Iraqi para-athlete Zainab Al-Eqabi walks runway at Boss show in Milan

Iraqi para-athlete Zainab Al-Eqabi walks runway at Boss show in Milan
Updated 23 September 2022

Iraqi para-athlete Zainab Al-Eqabi walks runway at Boss show in Milan

Iraqi para-athlete Zainab Al-Eqabi walks runway at Boss show in Milan

DUBAI: Iraqi sports enthusiast Zainab Al-Eqabi walked the runway at Boss’ show at Milan Fashion Week on Thursday as she joined supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Ashley Graham and Jourdan Dunn.

“We are done. Clap for me,” TV presenter Al-Eqabi told her followers on Instagram Stories after the show. 

“I was very happy and proud to be the only Arab (in the show). I can’t find the right words to say how epic it was, the whole show, and to be part of it.”

Al-Eqabi wore a beige coat with black detailing for the show, along with a black turban and boots. (Getty Images)

Lebanese stylist Cedric Haddad shared Al-Eqabi’s picture and wrote: “Goosebumps. Proudly Arab.”

Dubai-based influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen, who was seated on the front row at the show, wrote: “I love you Zainab.” Iraqi content creator Deema Al-Asadi told Al-Eqabi on Instagram: “This just made my day.”

Al-Eqabi wore a beige coat with black detailing for the show, along with a black turban and boots.

She was not the only Arab on the fashion week runway as Imaan Hammam, a Dutch model of Moroccan-Egyptian descent, walked the catwalk for fashion company Max Mara on Thursday. 

She wore a black turtleneck crop top and a beige floor-length skirt. Her hair was in a slicked-back bun. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

The brand presented a neutral color for next season, which ranges from gray to khaki and was set off by shades of yellow, green and blue. Shoes are platform sandals while hats feature oversized brims.

Hammam also featured at the Moschino Fashion Show, looking bold in a colorful mermaid-style dress with printed cartoon characters. She brought the beach to the runway by wearing a blow-up floaty around her shoulders. 


Recipe for Success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a dessert recipe for Saudi National Day

Recipe for Success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a dessert recipe for Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2022

Recipe for Success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a dessert recipe for Saudi National Day

Recipe for Success: Saudi chef Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a dessert recipe for Saudi National Day
  • The Saudi chef mastered his culinary skills in California and is now in Paris to perfect his pastry techniques
  • Rakan Al-Oraifi shares a special dessert recipe for Saudi National Day

DUBAI: Rising Saudi culinary star and TV presenter Rakan Al-Oraifi was one semester into getting his masters degree in marketing when he decided he wanted to pursue his lifelong love of food more seriously. A culinary diploma from California later, Al-Oraifi returned to Saudi Arabia to take the local food scene by storm.

Among the many accolades he has received, Al-Oraifi was hailed “Best Saudi Chef” at the 2018 Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards and has worked in several international restaurants over the years. He has also taken part in several international cooking competitions, including “Top Chef Middle East” season two.

In his work, Al-Oraifi especially likes to explore traditional Saudi cuisine, but infused with modern elements. His earliest memory of cooking goes back to making dolma with his mother. “It is a dish I have been preparing since I was six. It was challenging to prepare it as a young kid, but I would always prepare it with my mom over the years and eventually learned to prepare it on my own,” said Al-Oraifi in an interview with Arab News.

Deep Fried Date Salad. (Supplied)

While he was last executive chef at Maiz in Diryah Gate, the 33-year-old is now in Paris to perfect the art of making pastries.

To celebrate Saudi National Day, Al-Oraifi will feature in an online cooking series for Fatafeat where he will use his experience with Middle Eastern cuisines to share recipes with Saudi flavours at their heart.

Here, Al-Oraifi talks to Arab News about his favorite cuisines, his go-to quick-dinner fix and restaurant faux pas.

When you started out as a professional, what was the most common mistake you made when preparing/cooking a dish?
A common mistake is copying the techniques of other chefs, which could get confusing at some point. You can get inspired, but it is important to find your own culinary style and technique.

Baked Qursan. (Supplied)

What’s your top tip for amateur chefs cooking at home?
It is important for every chef to have a sharp knife. Aside from making the cooking preparation process easier and smoother, it is less likely to injure you. Dull knives are actually more dangerous.

What one ingredient can instantly improve any dish?
Salt is a fundamental ingredient because it enhances and elevates the flavour of any dish.

When you go out to eat, do you find yourself critiquing the food? What’s the most common mistake/issue that you find in other restaurants?
I am usually critical of food temperature because it also indicates the efficiency of the service. For me, the most important thing is getting my food warm and freshly made. I do not like it when I receive the food cold.

When you go out to eat, what’s your favorite cuisine/dish to order? 
Usually, I like French and Japanese cuisine, and some restaurants do a fusion of both, which is even better. French cuisine involves a certain technique while Japanese cuisine requires a particular skill, and I think these just mesh well together.

Meleyaha Wrap. (Supplied)

What’s your go-to dish if you have to cook something quickly at home, say in 20 minutes? 
Pasta is a go-to for me. Even when you create the sauce and pasta dough from scratch, it normally doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. It also offers flexibility and versatility, you can customise it as you want, with your choice of creams and cheese, for example.

What request/behavior by customers most annoys you? 
Because I know the amount of time and effort that goes into every dish, I’m not a fan of customers who dine hastily and do not take the time to enjoy the food. In my opinion, you need at least 60 minutes to appreciate and enjoy your meal, especially if it’s a three-course dining experience.

As a head chef, what are you like? Are you a disciplinarian? Do you shout a lot? Or are you more laidback?
I’m cool 80 percent of the time. Keeping a level head is important in managing a kitchen properly and dealing with customers. You’ll just have better judgment overall.

What’s the most difficult dish for you to get right (whether on your current menu or not)?
Pastry is actually tricky for me. Unlike cooking dishes where you can be spontaneous and rely on your own senses and feelings, pastries require specific measurements and strictly following techniques. Because of this, I am currently in France to study the art of French pastry and improve my skills.

DESSERT ERYKAH RECIPE FROM CHEF RAKAN AL-ORAIFI

(Supplied)

INGREDIENTS
2 cups wheat flour
2.5 cups water
5 gm salt
50 gm ghee
50 gm honey
30 gm brown sugar
30 gm butter
10 gm soft dates
20 gm honeycomb

INSTRUCTIONS
1. In a dough mixer, add the dry ingredients with wheat flour and salt, then mix gently.
2. Pour room temperature water. Keep mixing until thoroughly combined.
3. In a hot pan or flat grill, melt ghee, then pour the mixture using a 200 ml ladle.
4. Let it cook for a few minutes until the front side bubbles.
5. Flip the dough and cook it for a few minutes; the texture must be very soft. 
6. Mix the bread in a dough mixer until you reach a hard, smooth texture.
7. Shape them using your hand, then stuff them with date paste.
8. Melt ghee and honey, then pour it over the bread. 
9. Garnish with a small piece of honeycomb then serve.


London’s Wireless Festival to come to Middle East for first time 

London’s Wireless Festival to come to Middle East for first time 
Updated 23 September 2022

London’s Wireless Festival to come to Middle East for first time 

London’s Wireless Festival to come to Middle East for first time 

ABU DHABI: London’s Wireless Festival is coming to Abu Dhabi for the first time in March 2023. 

The popular rap and urban music festival, which debuted in London in 2005, is heading to Abu Dhabi on March 4, President of Live Nation MENA James Craven announced during a TV talk show-style launch event on Thursday. 

“With more than 200 nationalities living in the UAE, it is important we constantly track changing music tastes that are reflective of such a diverse population,” he said. “Hip hop remains one of the most popular genres throughout the region and the launch of Wireless Festival in Abu Dhabi next March will be a huge draw to urban music fans throughout the region. 

“The festival will showcase some of the biggest international hip hop stars but will also provide a platform for local artists too,” he said, but did not reveal the names to perform at the event. 

During the press conference, the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi announced its line-up of events for the 2022/2023 winter season. 

Another first in the region is Blippi: The Musical. The popular children’s entertainer and educator is bringing a live musical show for young children and families on Feb. 18 and 19 to the Etihad Arena.

John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, said: “As an entertainment industry leader, we pay great attention to what audiences want to see and experience. Flash Entertainment has a long track-record of bringing the best global performers and events to audiences in the UAE and the region.”

“We have paid close attention to the growth of Blippi’s following, so it is a special moment to bring this exciting show to young fans in Abu Dhabi as we continue to diversify our offering and develop the regional entertainment landscape,” he said. 

The new Abu Dhabi calendar spans 180 days and features concerts by regional and international artists, sporting and e-sports action, immersive cultural festivals, live interactive family shows and theater, and opera and dance performances.

Here are four other events taking place during the 2022/2023 winter season. 

Middle East Film & Comic Con 

The world-famous festival will unite movie, TV and comic lovers with the region’s largest pop-culture festival in March 2023.

Sting

The 17-time Grammy Award winner will arrive at Etihad Arena on Jan. 27, 2023 as part of his critically acclaimed “My Songs” tour. Tickets are now on sale. 

The Lion King

Etihad Arena will host a month-long run of the landmark Broadway musical from Nov. 16 to Dec. 10. 

Arab stars 

Top DJs and singing sensations of the Arab world will perform in Abu Dhabi in a series of concerts from Oct. 14 to Dec. 21, including Nancy Ajram, George Wassouf, Ahmed Saad, Melhem Zein, Wael Kfoury, DJ Aseel, Aziz Maraka, and Siilawy.