Created with love in all its manifestations, Alan Azzam Al-Jaam grew up in the city of Tripoli in a warm, humane family known for its generosity. From there his food story began, as his mother, Ilham, was a good spirit who prepared delicious Lebanese dishes and was famous for it. As for his father, the owner of the Samana store, who sells everything that comes to mind to his neighbors and city dwellers, including Lebanese mortar, canned goods and other items, he learned from him the commercial meaning. Alan combines his mother’s cooking skills with his father’s business ingenuity and decides to go after his wildest dreams.
The two families lived under the shadow of a fierce civil war, which the country witnessed and his family’s financial conditions increased it, which forced them to live in those few. His dreams were the only light space with which he flies in his imagination, open to the West and following the news of his cultures, cuisines and dishes. When you look at a picture of Cordon Bleu plate, you look at it carefully, as if it were a valuable painting. While his reality consisted only of a large copper pot, in which food was prepared like his mother and it also formed a different kind of culture for him.
The goat was influenced by his mother’s food, so he preserved the flavors and transported them to Paris
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It can be said that I had an acquaintance of insects with Western cuisines, especially France, which is known for its ancient cuisine. I liked to eat as well as prepare it because it is a way of happiness for the other. I felt it up close when I surprised my younger sister with a piece of chocolate that I placed under her pillow and saw the signs of joy on her face, as if she had received a precious gift. ”
Alan inherited the love of making people happy from his mother, so he subconsciously instilled in her when he watched her behave with family and neighbors. “I was very impressed by her good reception to others with a big smile and her admiration for preparing a delicious meal in which she expresses her love for them.” Says Alan, who does not forget to mention his father, as he helped him buy and sell products in his small shop.
Chef Alain earned a Michelin star at his French restaurant
Alan was sitting with his mother in the kitchen while she was preparing the food, checking how the ingredients were prepared and on the other hand she was enjoying the aroma of boiling chicken or fried beans with coriander and so on. “I still remember these scents to this day. “They stuck me in the nose and motivated me to enter this field, to achieve what I am today.”
His career began with food preparation in one of the military barracks, when he was given a choice in the service of science between doing logistics work or working in the kitchen, so he turned without hesitation to the second option. In 1999 he was able to leave his hometown in northern Lebanon and travel to France. He says: “There I realized that I like working in the field of food. And when I entrusted this to my mom, she did not like it because one of my brothers specialized in medicine and so did my cousin. I thought that this field would reduce my social value. “
Chief Al-Jaam brings Lebanon with his authentic dishes
Alan insisted on his choice and began his difficult journey in life, cleaning up the buildings. He then went to work in a small restaurant also in the cleaning field, but supported the evening work by studying in the morning. “It was necessary to learn French, because the language was the bridge I needed to achieve my goals. I kept 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 the insistence began to increase and he joined the chief in charge, asking him to give him even one more chance, to help him prepare the food. And between the mayonnaise sauce with lemon and “vinaigrette” will add to the effort. “I was saying to myself: ‘Why should I stay in the business of cleaning and washing dishes? “I have a dream and I want to achieve it and become a good cook.”
In 2002 he took the first step of his dream and became a chef. He recalled his father’s business style and raised money to the extent that allowed him to buy his first restaurant, which was called “Auberge Nicolas Flamel”. “It was an old, desolate house that I repaired and turned into a French restaurant, after reading with passion about the origins of French cooking.”
During all that time, he now carried with him the wounds of Lebanon, he could not even talk to anyone about his origins and environment, lest these wounds open on one side and not be pointed out with one finger that he is from one place of war. When nostalgia for his country was added, he tried to restrain him with Fejruz’s voice or with a dish prepared on the Lebanese road because he could not find any restaurant to serve Lebanese cuisine properly. In 2015, he started coloring his French dishes with Lebanese flavor. He recalls: “With a splash of thyme from here, pomegranate molasses sauce from there, or a tablespoon of mountain olive oil, I made my real progress in food preparation, as I learned from my mother’s school.”
In 2017, Alain had 3 restaurants, but still did not have the courage to talk about his country and his Lebanese origins. “I was ashamed of this issue and also could not bear to open the wounds of my great suffering and plunge back into them.” At his restaurant, which bore the name “Alan Azzam Al-Jaam”, he began to think about perfection and attract attention. “I was talking to myself and wondering how long I would hide behind foreign dishes? I decided that my country would join me. I started serving French dishes in a Lebanese style and taste and got to know the opinion of the customers. So 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 fears.
About 6 months after this station, someone visited him at the restaurant, ate one of his dishes and asked him about the secret of his taste, he told him he was Lebanese and told him his long and arduous story with his dream . cooking, starting from the country of rice to France, the mother of cuisines in the world.
“He then took his card out of his pocket to introduce himself as an inspector certified by the Michelin World Guide. I was surprised, but my biggest surprise was in 2018, about eight months after his visit. They called me with the news that they gave me the “Michelin Star”. “After that, my name as a Lebanese chef started to grow, achieving success one after another.”
A touching story that Alan Al-Jaam tells you in letters, so that you do not interact with him and sympathize with the long and difficult road he made to achieve his dream. Today, Chef Al-Jamea has become more than famous in Paris, as well as in Marseille, where he opened two restaurants called “Qasti”. He wanted his story to be a lesson to all those who feel disappointed and frustrated.
Lebanese cuisine and appetizers presented today by the Lebanese chef in “My History”, ranging from salads, falafel and hummus with tahini, to chicken and meat dishes, especially made with freekeh. “I keep this ingredient in my memories from my mother’s kitchen. It’s very popular in my restaurant. ” He says: “In my restaurants I am helped by 5 Lebanese chefs who specialize in authentic Lebanese taste of old times. This is something that has become difficult to ensure in our modern times, especially since the food ingredients we use are local and do not come from my grandfather’s land. ”
And when she remembers her mother’s opinion of his Lebanese dishes he prepares in France, she unconsciously laughs and says: “When I tasted it, she told 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 proudly mentions the features of his restaurant and says to “Al-Sharq al-Awsat”: “I opened this restaurant about 4 months ago “And I challenge those who say that in France there are those who offer this taste. It is without a doubt the best shawarma you can enjoy here.”
Alan did not forget to pay homage to his father and remembered him through a column he had created in his restaurant entitled “Al-Dukana”, where he sells varieties of Lebanese mouna.
He concludes: “My responsibility today has become greater, especially as some of them consider me as a reference for Lebanese food in Paris. I know I have become a ray of hope for every dreamer of fame. I address everyone by saying: Strive to achieve your dreams. My success in my career is a tribute to my country and family. The secret of success in food preparation lies in love. Giving in the culinary profession is a love of a different kind and before you cook for people you have to love them, otherwise failure awaits you.