Where are you from originally?
I was born in Lebanon, and worked in Saudi Arabia and Paris before coming to Bahrain four years ago.
How did you get into cooking?
My father died during the war in 1984 and my family sent me to a French boarding school run by monks. As the top pupil, I was selected to attend St Joseph’s technical cookery school when I was 12, sponsored by a wealthy German, and I graduated as a pastry chef when I was 16. After that I studied culinary arts for three years, working in restaurants at the same time, then hotel management at Tigiers University, while working as a senior pastry chef at the InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel. Before coming to Le Chocolat, I did the Profession d’Arts Cuisine et Patisserie at the Stephane Klein Institute, and keep doing courses like chocolate-making in Belgium.
What have been your career highlights so far?
Winning four gold medals in Beirut’s Horeca Cookery Competition for the best hotel chefs in Lebanon; coming first in sugar arts in the Troffe Ponee Internationale des Gourmets in France, and fourth in the European Challenge in Belfort for chocolate carving and ice cream-making.
Describe the food at Le Chocolat in five words?
French-oriental cuisine that tastes homemade.
What do you recommend people try?
The salmon is one of my favourite dishes, baked for a short time so it keeps its juices, and served with a lemon-butter-caper sauce, cocotte potatoes and fresh vegetables on the side. For sweet tooths, the Montana hazelnut cake is one of the best.
What are your favourite ingredients?
I enjoy cooking with spices like Iranian saffron, which is very good in paella, and cardamom, which I sometimes add to chocolate cake for something different. I also like to include Fleur de Sel in my caramel for a sweet-and-salty taste.
What do you like to make at home?
To be honest, I prefer not to enter the kitchen when I get home, but when friends beg me to cook for them, I’ll make a quick pasta dish like tagliatelle with mixed seafood cooked with a little olive oil, garlic, onions and tomatoes. For the right woman, though, I’ll happily cook anything.
What is the best meal you’ve had that you didn’t cook yourself?
A perfectly cooked steak with a demi-glace sauce served with French fries at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Tennessee in the US. Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.
Why have you decided to share a recipe for crème brulee?
It’s very easy to do at home, always delicious, and everybody loves it.
Serves: 4-5 people
10 egg yolks
700ml heavy cream (35 per cent fat)
2 vanilla beans, split down the centre
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Don’t let it get too foamy. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream combined with the vanilla beans to a simmer, then gradually pour in the egg/sugar mixture (make sure it doesn’t boil). Remove the vanilla bean and fill ramekins three-quarters full, then place them in a baking pan with hot water reaching halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
Cover with foil, sealing the edges to retain the steam. Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the custards are set (gently shake the ramekins and if the centre is still a bit liquid or wobbly, return to the oven and cook a little longer). Transfer the ramekins to the refrigerator and chill for several hours. Just before serving, sprinkle sugar over each custard, then pass a blow-torch evenly over the surface until the sugar is caramelised and brown.
Try out Elie’s tasty dishes at Le Chocolat in Seef (17 582 259)