Acclaimed chef and author Greg Malouf will return to Australia for a one-off dinner at Nomad in Sydney’s Surry Hills on Monday 20 November.
Melbourne-born and raised, Malouf transformed Middle Eastern cuisine in Australia more than decade ago when he launched the award-winning restaurant MoMo in his home town. Malouf has since spent time in London, before heading to Dubai four years ago. After wrapping up at Cle Dubai in early 2016, Malouf opened his latest venture Zahira this year.
The 130-seater, situated in the 5-star H Dubai Hotel, is a modern Middle Eastern restaurant and lounge showcasing authentic, feasting-style dishes.
“Zahira is only five months old,” says Malouf. “It’s a great platform for me and it’s a very important restaurant for the entire region to showcase what Middle Eastern food can be.
“The reason I’m here is to fly the flag for Lebanese food. I’m very close to Beirut now. Dining is all about French, Italian and Japanese — they’re the big cuisines [in Dubai]. A lot of the locals go out to eat European, that’s true across all levels of dining.
“A lot of other cuisines have become very innovative, while Middle Eastern cuisines still pay a lot of respect to tradition. Lebanese is a great cuisine and I love it, it just needs a little push.”
The last four years have seen progress though, according to Malouf, with diners increasingly accepting of progressive cooking.
“When I started cooking here four years ago it was hard because I wanted to push boundaries, but that was difficult for diners to accept,” Malouf tells Hospitality. “Now it’s better and there are a few other restaurants around doing something similar.”
The dining culture is still more rigid than Australia’s though and operating a restaurant in Dubai presents a number of challenges.
“I’ve had to adapt to the way I cook because of the lack of consistent produce,” says Malouf. “I’m trying to push the boundaries and add some architecture to the dishes; to do that you need you rely heavily on beautiful produce.
“We’re lucky in Australia because the produce is so good [and] Australians are willing to explore different cuisines, flavours, techniques and styles. Here diners are more regimented.”
Malouf is looking forward to his brief time in Sydney, where he’ll partner with Nomad head chef Jacqui Challinor to reprise some of the most-loved dishes from his career for the event.
“The real joy of Australian restaurants, such as Nomad, is their willingness to experiment with cuisines often steeped in tradition and thereby create dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the world,” he says. “Australia has in many ways led the charge for contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine and I can’t wait to bring my own style of modern Middle Eastern cooking to Nomad.
“I think Australian’s lead the way in a lot thing actually: restaurant design, cookbook publishing, training, front of house, management and systems. It’s quite a feather in the cap for Australia to lead in all these fields.
Highlights of the shared feast will include saffron haloumi fritters with leatherwood honey; king prawns roasted over hot stones with green chermoula; and the not to be missed b’stilla — Malouf’s famous fragrant spiced duck pie that walks the line between sweet and savoury.
“It’s massive feasting menu, lots of sharing,” says Malouf. “I don’t think anyone will go home hungry. It’s a cross-section of what I do, there’s Lebanese, there might be North African, a little bit of Turkish, Jordanian and Palestinian perhaps. It’s a great cross section of Arabic cuisine.
“There’s about 11 or 12 dishes total: five mezze dishes, two main courses, two side dishes and two desserts as well. It’s a big menu with huge variety. This is the area that share plates originated. It’s what they do. You don’t order an entree, main and dessert. You order several dishes and they all come to the table at once.”
For restaurateurs and Nomad owners Al and Rebecca Yazbek, it was a no brainer to invite and host one of Rebecca’s culinary idols: “Greg’s cookbooks have been treasured kitchen companions in our home for years. To have him cook at Nomad is an absolute honour and very exciting for our whole team.”
For more information about the feast click here.