Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Big taste from flatbreads


HOMESTYLE: Lamb and chirozo on a homemade dough, sprinkled with feta cheese. —Photos: Stephen Doobay

Mark Fraser

Chef John Aboud of the Aioli restaurant at Ellerlisie Plaza, Maraval, has the formidable task of preparing a wide array of dishes that lean more towards a Mediterranean style. 

He does not just prepare meals but carries diners on an exciting food journey. Whether sweet, spicy or anything else in between, taste, presentation and satisfied customers are what Chef Aboud strives for each and every time with a service. 

Taking something as simple as bread and creating a meal full of flavour, Aioli recently introduced their grilled Mediterranean flatbreads. An exciting menu that boasts of organic mushrooms, spicy Spanish chorizo, marinated white anchovies and fresh basil, guests have the option of choosing from six different kinds of grilled flatbreads which include: Margherita, Garden Flatbread, Sardinia, Chorizo di Funghi, Shrimp and Manchego and Blue Steak Flatbread.

The flatbreads work great for lunch or an after-work lime. 

Aboud pulled out all-the-stops recently, when they invited the media to lunch. Cooking some things that were not on the menu, Chef Aboud had fun showing off his skills and creativity.

He said, “I love satisfying the people I am cooking for. It brings a sense of achievement as well as gratification. I also love proper execution and success in creating new dishes.  In order to be a great chef, you must know how to eat. The greatest feeling is to have a vision on something new, put it together and it becomes a work of art before your eyes. There is nothing more satisfying.”

Aboud has been a chef for almost 13 years and has had a passion for cooking since he was about 13 years old. He has been the executive chef and owner of Aioli restaurant for the past year. Some of his earliest memories cooking started in his grandmother’s kitchen. Dabbling in Lebanese and rich local flavours from home, his passion for food expanded, where he learned classical French cuisine at the age of 16.

He said, “My style of cooking is modern global fusion, which is combining ingredients and flavours from throughout the globe with French techniques and Mediterranean ingredients being the base. The limits to my cooking and style do not exist ... the creativity of my mind and drive to challenge myself is my key weapons.”

“My philosophy when it comes to food is that when you start with the best and freshest ingredients, you have to do very little to it. You are showcasing its naturalism and sparkle. It is the difference between buying a tomato and growing it yourself; that is true food: farm to table,” Chef Aboud said.

He noted that the key aspect to a great meal is balance. The right use of our senses plays the most important role; look, taste, smell, even the background music to our ear and textural contrast of the dish. 

“At Aioli almost 95 per cent of what we make is from scratch. Our bread is made in-house daily and all our desserts too,” he said.

Crediting British self-trained chef Heston Blumenthal as one of his sources of inspiration, of him Chef Aboud said, “He is a true guru of classical and modern cuisine.”

“All cooking is molecular and everything reacts based on chemical reactions. I admire him most because his food engages all five of our senses.”  

He added: “My family has always been in the restaurant industry so I was born into knowing and eating fine food. My favourite thing to cook is a protein because I am a temperature perfectionist. I have a way of knowing when a protein is perfect without touching it or using a thermometer. It comes from experience and cooking proteins for so many years.”

“My reason for calling my restaurant Aioli is the blend of ingredients from throughout the Mediterranean. The Turks brought garlic, the oils from Italy, Spain, Greece and France to an extent, plus the egg yolk emulsifying process from classical French technique (like a mayonnaise — eggs and oil) Aioli restaurant is a blend of these countries with the global additions of Morocco and Asia,” Chef Aboud said.