Chef Alain Gabe From washing dishes to getting a Michelin star

Made with love in all its manifestations, Alan Azzam Al-Jaam grew up in the city of Tripoli in a warm, humane family known for his generosity. From there, his story began with food, as his mother, Ilham, was a good soul who prepared delicious Lebanese dishes and was famous for them. As for his father, the owner of the Samana store, who sells everything that transcends the minds of his neighbors and the people of the city, including Lebanese mortar, canned goods and other items, he learned the commercial sense from him. Alan combines his mother’s cooking skills with his father’s business acumen, and decides to go after his wildest dreams.

The two families lived in the shadow of a fierce civil war that gripped the country, and the financial conditions of his family increased it, forcing them to live in the few. His dreams were the only space of light with which he flew in his imagination, open to the West and following the news of his cultures, cuisines and dishes. When he looks at a picture of the Cordon Bleu dish, he reflects on it carefully, as if it were a valuable painting. While his reality consisted only of a large copper pot, in which food was prepared as his mother, and she also formed for him a different kind of culture.

The goat was influenced by his mother’s food, so he kept his scents and transported them to Paris.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It can be said that I had an insect knowledge of the cuisines of the West, especially France, which is known for its ancient cuisine. I loved eating as well as preparing it because it is a way of happiness for others. I could feel it when I surprised my younger sister with a piece of chocolate that I put under her pillow, and I watched the signs of joy on her face, as if she had received a precious gift. ”

Alan inherited the love to make people happy from his mother, so he subconsciously imprinted on it when he watched her behavior with family and neighbors. “Her good reception to others with a big smile, and her admiration for the preparation of a delicious meal in which she expresses her love for them, impressed me a lot.” Says Alan, who does not forget to mention his father as well, as he had earlier helped him sell products in his shop.

Chef Alain wins a Michelin star in his French restaurant

Alan will stay with his mother in the kitchen while she prepares the food, watch how the ingredients are prepared, and on the other hand enjoy the smell of fried chicken or bean stew with coriander and so on. “I still remember these smells to this day. They stuck in my nose and motivated me to enter this field, to achieve what I am today.”

His career began with preparing food in one of the military barracks, when in the service of science he was given a choice between logistical matters or working in the kitchen, and so he turned without hesitation to the second option. In 1999, he was able to leave his city in northern Lebanon and travel to France. He says: «There I realized I love working in the field of food. And when I entrusted it to my mother, she did not like it, because one of my brothers specialized in medicine and so did my cousin. I thought this field would reduce my social value. ”

Chef Al-Jaam brings Lebanon with his authentic dishes

Alan insisted on his choice and began his hard life journey by cleaning buildings. Then he also moved to a small restaurant in the area of ​​cleaning, but he supported his evening work by studying in the mornings. “It was necessary for me to learn French, because the language was the bridge I needed to achieve my goals. I held the book on one side and the broom on the other. ” After about a year and a half, he worked in a French restaurant (le totem trocadero). There his insistence began to increase and he joined the responsible chef and asked him to give him only one chance, to help him prepare the food. And between the mayonnaise sauce with lemon and the “vinaigrette” will contribute to its effort. “I said to myself, ‘Why do I have to stay in the business to clean and wash dishes?’ I have a dream and I want to achieve it and become a good cook. ”

In 2002, he made the first step of his dream and became a chef. He remembered his father’s business style, and raised money to the extent that allowed him to buy his first restaurant, called “Auberge Nicolas Flamel.” “It was an old and abandoned house that I repaired and converted into a French restaurant, after fervently reading about the origins of French cuisine.”

All the while he was carrying the wounds of Lebanon with him, he could not even talk to anyone about his origin and environment, so that these wounds would not open on the one hand, and so that he would not be pointed with a finger that he is from a land of war. When his nostalgia for his country increased, he tried to subdue him with the voice of Fayrouz or with a dish he prepared in the Lebanese way, because he found no restaurant that serves Lebanese cuisine as it should. In 2015, he started coloring his French dishes with Lebanese flavors. He recalls: “With a sprinkle of thyme from here, pomegranate molasses sauce from there, or a spoonful of mountain olive oil, I achieved my real breakthrough in food preparation, just as I learned it at my mother’s school. “

In 2017, Alain had 3 restaurants, but he still did not have the courage to talk about his country and his Lebanese origins. “I was ashamed of this matter, and I could not bear to open the wounds of my great suffering and dive back into them.” In his restaurant, which bore the name “Alan Azzam Al-Jaam”, he began to think of excellence and attract attention. “I talked to myself and wondered how long I would hide behind strange dishes? I decided that my country would join me. I started serving French dishes in a Lebanese style and flavor, getting to know the opinion of the customers. This is how my feelings for my country exploded, and I was able to tell people my story. With Lebanese food, I regained my freedom and eliminated my fear. “

About 6 months after this station, someone visited him in the restaurant, ate one of his dishes and asked him about the secret of his flavor. He told him that it was Lebanese, and told him his long and arduous story with the dream of cooking, from the land of rice to France, the mother of kitchens in the world.

“Then he took his card out of his pocket to introduce himself to me as an inspector certified by the Michelin World Guide. I was amazed, but my biggest surprise was in 2018, about eight months after his visit. They called me with the news that I had been awarded a “Michelin star”. After that, my name as a Lebanese chef started to grow and achieved success one after the other. “

A gripping story that Alan Al-Jaam tells you to the letter, so you can not help but interact with him, and sympathize with the long and difficult journey he has taken to realize his dream. Today, Chef Al-Jamea became more than famous in Paris, as well as in Marseille, where he opened two restaurants under the name “Qasti”. He wanted his story to be a lesson to anyone who feels let down and frustrated.

Lebanese dishes and mezes presented today by the Lebanese chef in “My Story”, ranging from salads, falafel and hummus with tahini, to chicken and meat dishes, especially made with freekeh. “I carry this ingredient in my memories from my mother’s kitchen. It is very popular in my restaurant. ” He says: “I am assisted in my restaurants by 5 Lebanese chefs who specialize in the authentic Lebanese flavor of the old days. It is something that has become difficult to provide in our modern times, especially because the food ingredients we use are local and do not come from my grandfather’s country. ”

And when he remembers his mother’s opinion about his Lebanese dishes that he prepares in France, he laughs unconsciously and says: “When I tasted it, she said to me in her beloved Tripolitan dialect, (I did not teach you that ). In “My Shawarma Story”, which specializes in serving this famous Lebanese dish, Alan is proud to mention the characteristics of his restaurant, and he says to “Al-Sharq al-Awsat”: “I like this restaurant “Opened 4 months ago, and I challenge those who say that there are those in France who offer this fragrance. It is without a doubt the best shawarma you can taste here.”

Alan did not forget to pay tribute to his father, remembering him through a section he created in his restaurant under the title “Al-Dukana”, where he sells varieties of Lebanese mouna.

He concludes: “My responsibility today has grown, especially as some of them see me as a reference to Lebanese food in Paris. I know I have become a ray of hope for every dreamer of fame. I address them all by saying: Strive to make your dreams come true. My success in my career is a tribute to my country and my family. The secret of success in preparing food lies in love. Giving in the culinary profession is a different kind of love, and before you cook for people, you have to love them, otherwise failure awaits you. ”

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