About Me
Norway, Preachers Chair July 2005

09/04/09

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Welcome to my Web site!

Knowledge is power and health is wealth

 

Born in 1977 in Kuwait city/ Kuwait. In 1990 I moved to a small town in southern USA "LaGrange" in the state of Georgia. I lived there throughout high school, grades 9th through 12th and worked at a local grocery store "Winn-Dixie".

Upon graduation, I started college at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama Where I earned a BS in Marketing with a concentration in Logistics. During that period I worked at "Willies Wings and Stuff" and "The Amsterdam Cafe". Both restaurants where relatively popular among college students and I worked as a cook in all areas of the kitchen. It was here "The Amsterdam Cafe" Where I worked under a chef from CIA "The Culinary Institute of America", his name was "Chef Lee" but he taught me a lot, and my passion for cooking became apparent. 

The next step was to enroll in a professional cooking school. In May 1999, I started an intensified Culinary Arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Vail, Colorado. It was quit a change to move from Auburn Alabama, to Vail Colorado. It was exciting time, I Immediately started working at the Hyatt in Beaver Creek as an evening banquet cook while attending culinary classes during the day. I then moved into the fine dining restaurant "Patina" where I started on prep and advanced to pantry, tapas, sushi, sauté, grill and expo. Gaining experience along the way.

In June of 2000 I graduated with my degree and continued working at the Hyatt until September where I went on a road trip with my friend/ supervisor "John Ardini" across the country through Chicago and up the coast through New York, Boston and Maine. While we where in Chicago, I met with one of my friends from Colorado "Jimi Sadeji" that was working at "One Sixtyblue"; A fine dining restaurant in downtown Chicago owned by the one and only Michael Jordan. We had a fabulous dinner there and I had an interview with the executive chef "Patrick Robertson". Two weeks later I moved from Vail, Colorado to Chicago, Illinois. I arrived on a Thursday and called the executive chef at One Sixtyblue to inform him of my arrival, He told me "you start Monday"

 

Now I'm in Chicago working at One Sixtyblue on the sauté station, I then moved to the grill station. During this period we where rated as number 7 in best fine dining in all of Chicago. I got the opportunity to prepare dishes for Michael Jordan on several occasions as well as several other celebrities including Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, some politicians and several football and basketball stars. On Halloween we converted the restaurant into a Chinese restaurant with the assistance of local Chinese cookbook writer. We did two seating's with a set menus featuring several traditional specialties. Each seating concluded with cookbook signing by both chefs.

 

The executive chef left in January to pursue other goals. Chef Michael from nearby fine dinning restaurant came aboard and provided a different set of style and expertise as well as new additions to the menu. I took a leave of absence at the end of May to travel to the Middle East on the notion that I will return at the end of summer, However other opportunities and challenges came up that changed my plan.

 

While in the Middle East, I stayed in Kuwait for few weeks in which I did an astage at a popular restaurant "Mies Al ghanim" for few days to observe Middle Eastern kitchen operations. I then went to Jordan and did similar astages at both "Tawaheen Al Hawa" and "Reem Al Bawady". Both very popular serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. In Addition, my aunt owns a specialty pastry coffee shop "Alwadees" and I had the pleasure to work there for few weeks learning cake construction and decoration.

While in Jordan, I continued networking with my Chicago friends and particularly "Jimi". An opportunity to open and run a new concept restaurant for two investors.  At the end of August I returned to Chicago to meet with Jimi and the two investors and discuss the concept at hand. The location for the future restaurant was a used bookstore in "Wicker Park", just below "Linkin Park". The building is on Milwaukee Ave close to the Damen St. intersection. The task is to convert the bookstore into a casual relaxed restaurant featuring a healthy freshly squeezed juice bar with an optional variety of supplements, open kitchen with a healthy ala carte menu, a magazine rack with 250 different titles,  a DJ booth playing relaxing lounge music and a large projector displaying various videos all to be on the ground floor. The basement is to be converted into a dance floor with another DJ booth and state of the art sound and light system while the top floor to be reserved for private and special events. The first step was to conceptualize where to build the open kitchen and preparation area, the juice bar, DJ booth, table placements...etc. Few set backs occurred regarding the hood and ventilation, power consumption and the hardwood floor. "Square One Cafe" successfully opened in mid October and quickly became a popular spot.

Once square one is up and running with trained staff and standard recipes in place. I started to pull away gradually from the restaurant. One of the owners had a jewelry shop "The Silverroom" just down the road where I started to work where I can pass by Square one on regular bases to check quality, interview new employees, etc...

During that time, as I was contemplating on what to do next, My dear college friend "Danny Layton" came up to Chicago from Charleston, SC for management training at "Bubba Gump Shrimp Co." for two weeks. During his training period, he suggested that Charleston is a great place to live with plenty of opportunities for motivated people. Thus my decision was made to move to Charleston, South Carolina.

Around mid April of 2002, I moved down to "The Lowecountry". Made contact with several of my Johnson & Wales culinary instructors at the Charleston campus. Chef David Hendrickson suggested that the best two properties are "The Charleston Place" and "Kiawah Island Golf Resort". I had an interview at both properties and made my decision to expand my career at Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

My interview with Chef Matthew Niessner; Executive chef at Kiawah Island Inn (Now owner of a new restaurant in downtown Charleston "Blend"), went great offering me a positions as either the Sous chef for the signature restaurant of the island the "Atlantic Room" or  Sous chef for the $5 million+ banquet department.

What to do, which one to accept, "I would like to do both" I said, and thus a new position was created for me by chef Matthew, "Chef Tournant at Kiawah Island Golf Resort". This position gave me the opportunity to work alongside two great chefs; Ben Randow, Executive banquet chef of Kiawah Island Inn and Jonathan Haggins, Chef De Cuisine of the Atlantic Room.

As time progressed, so did my experience and I started taking on more responsibilities around the different food outlets around the island, starting with "West Beach Cafe" and "Sun Dancer Grill" and expanding further to "East Beach Banquets and Conference Center", Turtle Beach Golf Club and Osprey Point Golf Club. This was truly unique and challenging role where I had to maintain knowledge of ongoing activities at each outlet and be able to transfer goods from one outlet to another, physically and financially depending on supply and demand. Other activities include the chef for UBS and world cup golf tournaments.

Additionally me and Chef Matthew participated in the opening of a sister property "The Hermitage" in Nashville Tennessee, A 5 star luxury property. I was also sent to another 5 star sister property "The Jefferson" in Virginia to assist banquets and there featured restaurant during the Christmas holiday season for 5 weeks.

Upon my return in January 2004, I was offered and accepted a position at the new property "The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island" as the Chef De Cuisine of "Loggerhead Grill" working alongside Ben Randow as Chef De Cuisine of "Jasmine Porch", Chris Brandt as Chef De Cuisine of "Ocean Room", Clair Chapman as Executive Pastry Chef, Robert Wysong as Executive Sous Chef and Matthew Niessner as the Executive Chef. Together we produced menus, training manuals, set up and organization of the property's culinary department, recruiting and staffing this brand new 255 room luxurious property. In August 20, 2004 the property opened with celebrity gests, reporters and journalists and has won several awards of excellence since then.

A this point, it has been in my mind for several years to continue education and obtain my MBA as a matter of self-development and achievement. I tried online courses, however progress was very slow motivation was limited due to the long hours associated with the industry. Thus I decided that it was time to pursue my goal on a full time bases.

On January 10th, 2005. I started my MBA program at Cesar Ritz colleges in Brig, Switzerland to get international exposure in food, culture and tourism. The program consisted of 3 semesters of academic courses followed by 6 months industry training and 6 months industry project. However the industry training and project may be conducted simultaneously. Due to my previous experience, industry training was not required, however I felt that it could be a good opportunity to work in a Swiss environment. 

In September I started my training at "The Renaissance in Zurich" working with Executive Chef "Mateo Selvi" and Sous Chef "Andreas Erentrout" was a great opportunity to learn Swiss, Italian and German specialties as well as better my German language skills (a bonus). Some special banquet functions include "The Asian Food and Culture Festival" for 6 weeks. FIFA World Cup private event and a Special banquet at "The Kongress Hause" in Zurich.

During the 6 months of industry training, I was able to complete my dissertation on "Internal Communication in Food & Beverage departments: A Zurich Study". I have submitted my dissertation on march 24th, however the review board is in May and graduation is in June. I finished my training April 1st in which Chef Mateo offered me the Chef De Partie position. However I had other plans already arranged...

Considering that I needed to be back mid June for the graduation ceremony, I did not want to start a new position and have to leave within few weeks. I then decided to take this opportunity to travel "Backpack around the world in 69 days" allowing me to experience cultures, cuisines, network with friends as well as physical and mental challenges of being alone in remote places. You can read more about this trip on the travel page. 

After graduation I went to Dubai, UAE to visit my sister and had few interviews. During that period I was contacted by Mr. Irfan Mirza "Consultant for Cesar Ritz Colleges" about the upcoming opening of "Falcon College of Hotel Management and Tourism" (Now European International College, EIC) as being the first hospitality college in Abu Dhabi using Cesar Ritz Swiss program. The position is Executive chef/ Instructor. Although I have been through restaurant and hotel openings, I have never had the experience of a hotel college opening. Thus after an interview with the owner, I liked the new challenge and decided to come aboard.

I moved to Abu Dhabi in mid August to open Falcon College. Opening experiences are brutal and not for the week hearted and you either love them or absolutely hate them. To me I enjoy the ambiguity and challenge associated with openings for this is my 4th overall business opening, yet my first "hotel school" opening. My other openings where two luxury 5 star hotels and a 2 story restaurant in downtown Chicago, IL. mentioned previously. Special mention goes to the founding dean "Dr. Oscar Sykora" in which through his guidance and wealth of knowledge I was able to learn so much about the industry as a whole.

Maybe one day I can specialize in openings or be part of an opening team for with each opening some challenges disappear while new ones arise creating an endless possibilities of learning outcomes.

During my work in Abu Dhabi, I was contacted by one of my dear friends from college "Haakon Gjerde". he has been working at a privately owned resort on the beautiful tropical island of Samui in the gulf of Thailand. They had an opening for an Executive Chef, however the food and beverage manager recently left as well. Thus I was offered the position of Food and Beverage Director and Executive Chef (two very big hats). In June of 2007 I took that position and moved to Thailand.

Sawadee Krup, Working in Thailand is great, people are friendly and helpful. I was able to expand my operational knowledge in F&B being a department head. I learned how to do budgets for theme nights, events and weddings as well as yearly departmental budgets and capital expenditure plans (Capex). Design several ala carte menus, banquet menus, beverage menus and wine lists as well as daily, weekly and monthly promotions, service and kitchen SOP's as well as job descriptions in accordance with ISO22000 for the entire department.

Additionally due to the tremendous efforts of the Deputy Managing Director/ Owner Suparerk Thongsuk (Fair) and the Green Project Team, the property has won several awards for its environmental friendly initiatives including the prestigious "Kinnaree Award of Excellence 2008". 

In July of 2009 I left Thailand and came back to the Middle East to pursue career opportunities in the region. I am considering of opening my own business, yeah I miss opening experiences, so might as well do it for my self.

 

To Be Continued...

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This site was last updated 09/04/09