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Nestlé Professional MENA: Making Delicious Possible with Chef Elie Lteif

VOCO Dubai Executive Chef Elie Lteif, a Lebanese national, has 20 years of culinary experience, eight of which are in the UAE.

Can you give us glimpse of your career journey so far?
I started my career as a chef in 2001, then graduated from Hospitality Kitchen and Pastry Arts in 2004 with honors. With a strong passion towards the kitchen and all its aspects, and a profound love for food preparation, I specialised in French cuisine, working for international brands such as Le Bistro De Beirut and Entrecote de Paris.

I then moved to international chain Buddha Bar, joining the pre-opening teams as chef de partie. Passionate about more than 11 types of cuisine, I tend to create menus and theme nights, as well as special and private events that mix various tastes.

In 2005, I moved to the hotels sector at Le Royal Hotel Beirut, a 5-star hotel, as chef de partie where I got promoted to junior sous chef. In 2008, I shifted to hospitality management as head chef, and was then promoted to executive chef for pre-opening projects at Le Noir Motion Lounge in Beirut.

In 2013, I moved to Dubai for an executive chef role at Cedar Dining Hospitality Management, leading a culinary team of 120 employees, and handling seven outlets and central kitchen production serving international and modern Lebanese cuisines with a massive catering operation.

In 2016, I was part of the pre-opening team as executive chef for Metropolitan Boutique Hotel under Habtoor Hospitality Group, handling all six outlets including a pub, Italian restaurant, sushi bar, all-day dining, the banquet and room service, plus catering events.

From 2017 until now, I have been executive chef at Nassima Royal Hotel, which was turned into VOCO Hotel Dubai under IHG management and part of the pre-opening team for the first VOCO brand in Middle East, handling all culinary operations.

What’s your favourite dish to eat and why?
I love burgers and street food. When you work for hotels and you’re surrounded by many international dishes from different cuisines, you tend to go back to basics when enjoying food: think shawarma, falafel, as well as Asian and Indian specialties.

What are you cooking up today? Tell us more about the dish.
Today, I’m going to prepare a traditional Thai dish (Thai shrimps with ginger lemon rice), one of my favourite dishes, using Nestlé Coconut Milk Powder. It’s rich in flavours and protein, and served with lemon-ginger rice.

As a chef, what are the top ingredients and products you’re using these days?
During these difficult COVID-19 times, it’s a challenge to procure a lot of products from outside the UAE, so I’m focusing in my recipes on local produce and alternative food solutions to maintain consistency and deliciousness.

What are some of the most recent, important food trends you can tell us about?
Looking at trends now in the market, all concepts are going back to the basic recipes and not complicating things. For example, using fresh herbs and ingredients is now preferred. Most chefs are now adding a touch or their signature, not more than that. You can be creative, even with basic dishes, just make sure you maintain authenticity and presentation, and preserve cultural background.

What would you advise suppliers and foodservice professionals who are looking to offer their best to the market and meet demand?
Demand for foodservice professionals is high now, and they should focus on products that can be prepared in a short period of time, while yielding quality results. Plus, look for trending recipes in the market and find alternative foodservice solutions for such dishes.

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