Chef’s Special – Chef Samir Labriny
When did you first become interested in cooking? Why did you decide to pursue a culinary career?
I grew up in a very large family in Casablanca, Morocco. I was the eldest of seven children. I was intrigued by my mother’s skills in the kitchen, so I asked for her permission to cook for the family. She would never have let me in the kitchen unless I asked for permission. I enjoyed it and so did my family and they were a tough crowd for their big brother. Cooking and making people happy is addictive to me. My parents wanted me to be a doctor. I wanted to be a chef. Nothing is more satisfying to me than preparing food with love for people who enjoy it.
Who have been the biggest inspirations for your career?
As I said, my mother taught me to cook. She was a phenomenal talent. She went to the market every day to buy fresh ingredients for our meals and she prepared them not only with love, but with a flair for making even the most simple food taste amazing. She knew exactly which vegetables to pick. She taught me techniques and instincts that I never learned in culinary school, and never could! When I was starting out, I had the privilege to work in the kitchens of many great chefs in local restaurants and hotels. I have admired many talented chefs, but my true teacher and inspiration was my mom. She taught me how to combine flavors. I call it the 3D experience in my restaurant, “Sounds, Smells, and Great food”, so all your senses are entertained.
What dish on your menu are you most curious to see how it’s received?
We offer the most popular foods and wines from the “Countries of the Sun” – Morocco to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Lebanon and Greece. The Bastilla is a traditional Moroccan dish that always surprises the uninitiated. It is sweet and savory – crisp phyllo dough stuffed with specially seasoned, slow cooked chicken, nuts, caramelized onions and eggs, topped with cinnamon and sugar. It can be made with seafood, too. It’s one of the most popular appetizers on our menu aside from the brie in puff pastry.
What do you do to insure that the quality of the food going out to customers is of a high standard?
As an owner/executive chef, I must be aware of what comes out of my kitchen at all times. I monitor everything that is produced every day. I do all of the purchasing for all of the products, including daily trips to the market myself to buy fresh ingredients, just like my mother did at home. We don’t use frozen foods, we buy local products, for freshness, for taste, and better presentation. We only import wines that will compliment the food. I studied nutrition as well – for me living healthy is not easy to reach, but on the other hand it gives you some pleasures, your senses of salt and sweet is something that’s indicated since childhood. If we can help you achieve a very healthy diet, that’s wonderful. My wife Hana has been great support in hosting here in front of the house and she’s very friendly greeting our guest. I consider my restaurant to be an extension of my home, so my customers are guests in my own house. I even put that on our menu: “Our Home is Your Home.”
If any chef in the world could prepare you a meal, who would it, be?
I would love to have another meal prepared by the wonderful late Jean-Louis Palladin (Jean-Louis at The Watergate). Although he passed away several years ago, I have never forgotten his talent. I’ve had very blessed career and I still learn from everyone. We had a group of chefs who would gather every Monday night at each other’s restaurants to enjoy new creative menu items and share great foods made by the hosting chef from the group. That is the camaraderie amongst chefs that I miss today.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I have been known to eat ruffled potato chips. And, I love a slice of pizza at midnight.
Written by: Chester Simpson
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