With Iftars underway throughout the city we speak to Chef de Cuisine, Saaed Khattab, the Arabic chef behind many of the delightful creations available at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr this Ramadan.
How did you come to be Chef de Cuisine at Cedar Lounge?
Well, my father is Syrian and my mother is Lebanese so food has always played a large role in my life. I would always watch my mother as she would cook. One day I decided to surprise her, so I got a stool and made her a bowl of rice. I was only 12 years old at the time so I couldn’t even reach the counter, hence the stool. When she tried the rice she was surprised and told me it tasted delicious and that one day I would be a great chef.
At the age of 17 I started working in my father’s pastry shop, we also did a lot of other Arabic food which meant there was a lot to learn and I had to learn fast. I worked with my father for about 7 years before I started working in hotels.
In my first hotel role I worked with a great Syrian chef, he taught me all I know. After this I went to Lebanon for about 2 years followed by Bahrain and Saudi Arabia where I spent 3 years perfecting Arabic cuisine. I started working in Cedar Lounge in 2010 and worked here for 2.5 years. I then left the hotel and came back when the position of Chef de Cuisine became available. I’ve always felt a special connection with Cedar Lounge as I was here in the beginning, it has been amazing to watch the restaurant grow from strength to strength.
Tell us a bit about what you will be doing this Ramadan at Cedar Lounge?
Our General Manager and Executive Chef have been working tirelessly alongside the rest of the team this year to create an exceptional Ramadan offering. Fairmont Bab Al Bahr has to deliver a high standard, this is what our guests expect and what our guests deserve. So this year Iftar at Cedar Lounge will be a lavish family style Iftar which will include a selection of homemade Lebanese cold and hot mezze served directly on the table. We will also have a number of live grill and buffet stations serving traditional meat dishes, alongside a variety of desserts including fresh kanafah, umm ali, baklava and Arabic ice cream.
As Chef de Cuisine for Cedar Lounge I will be overseeing the restaurant but apart from this I will also be creating the pastries and the Suhoor in the Al Andalus tent.
Describe the offerings at Cedar Lounge.
When you first enter Cedar Lounge apart from the great aroma of fine cuisine you will notice the sleek, modern, décor and the stunning uninterrupted views of the lush garden.
We offer guests traditional Lebanese cuisine with a twist. The menu features soup, cold mezza, salad, hot mezza, raw selection, grills, meats, seafood and desserts. The quality of each dish is paramount. We make everything in-house. We want guests to feel the authenticity and freshness of our dishes. We want guests to taste the thought and devotion that goes into each dish.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu?
To eat, the fish sayediyah, hammour with brown rice and tajen sauce, it’s exceptional. To make, the lamb ouzi because again we’ve adapted a traditional recipe. Instead of meat on top of rice we decided to take puff pastry and stuff it with roasted leg of lamb and oriental rice. We’ve kept the authenticity but adapted the cooking method. It’s a big hit!
What makes Cedar Lounge different from other Lebanese restaurants in the city?
My concept is a mix of Syrian and Lebanese cuisine, the best of both. Our clients want something different. We have many restaurants in the city, as a chef we have to define our concept. For example, vine leaves … at Cedar Lounge we reinvented the concept. We have created vines leaves but sushi style. We roll the rice in the leaves as you would to make a sushi roll and serve it so. This has been a big hit and it’s not available anywhere else. We try and take traditional recipes and present them in a new and innovative way.
My wife sometimes thinks I’m crazy and I’d have to agree. I’m always thinking and researching new creative ideas that we can implement at Cedar Lounge. Some of my best ideas have come to me in my dreams. I think if you love your job you can be a leader in the industry because you have so much passion you never stop innovating. I love what I do and I’d never stop pushing the boundaries.
This Ramadan be sure to visit Fairmont Bab Al Bahr as the hotel unveils one of the capital’s largest and undoubtedly most luxurious tents. Guests are invited to enjoy a range of offerings including traditional Iftar in CuiScene and Cedar Lounge, Suhoor in Al Andalus tent and a community campaign capturing time-honoured practices during the Holy Month.
Iftar at Cedar Lounge is available daily during the holy month of Ramadan from sunset until 9:00pm. The Iftar is priced at AED 175* per person, including water and Ramadan juices.
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr
02 654 3238