BELAL AL HABASH – THE YOUNGEST EXECUTIVE CHEF AT AURA HOSPITALITY & FOOD SERVICES COMPANY, QATAR
With meticulous care for details, Belal Al Habash focuses on his work as an executive chef at Aura Hospitality & food services, a company that owns more than 30 restaurants across Qatar.
Aura has won awards as the best company in the field of tourism, hospitality and restaurant management for 6 consecutive years. Aura hires a large amount of talented chefs, including Belal, the youngest executive chef at the company whose artistic sense is well manifested in his dishes.
In this interview, we get to hear his journey in the world of gastronomy.
DURING YOUR CHILDHOOD, WERE THERE SIGNS THAT PREDICTED YOUR FUTURE AS A CHEF?
10 years ago, I fell in love with cooking and my first culinary experience was when I worked in a pastry shop. The time I spent there was full of care-free and full of innocent memories. One time, I thought about borrowing a cookbook. I had always wanted to take the book home to learn and make some recipes. After a short period of time, the chef asked me if I saw the book, then I confessed that I took it home to try some of its recipes. I truly wish to meet him someday to make him some crepes because it was the first recipe that he taught me. Since that moment, I became so interested and passionate about pursuing a career in this field.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COOKING STYLE?
I learned culinary arts at the Vocational Hotel School in Damascus, then I started looking for any opportunity that would increase my experience. My first priority was to focus on healthy food and make healthy cooking my style and motto. Simply, I focus on cooking meals that include all the necessary nutrients required by the human body.
My love for cooking helped me evolve further, and using social media has helped me to outreach to the entire world and gave me the chance to follow up new international recipes, and that inspired me to add to my dishes modern flavors and touches that work with the Middle Eastern cuisine.
WOULD YOU SHARE WITH US A RECIPE YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Gladly! I recommend trying the chicken and grape salad. The ingredients of this salad are the following:
- 2 and a half cups of boneless chicken breasts
- 1 cup of grapes cut into halves
- Half a cup of almonds, cut into slices
- ¾ cup diced celery
- ¼ cup of minced scallions
- and three big spoons of ground coriander (optional).
For the dressing, the ingredients are:
- 2/3 cup of fat-free Greek yogurt
- 3 big spoons of low-fat mayonnaise
- 1 large spoon of fresh lemon juice
- 1 big spoon of honey
- ¾ spoon of ground cumin
- 1 small spoon of coriander
- ½ small spoon of ground ginger
- ¼ spoons of ground turmeric
- 1 ground cardamom pod (or nutmeg)
- A dash of red chili pepper
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
In a small pot, mix the dressing’s ingredients and add red chili pepper and cardamom in addition to salt and pepper to the mixture as you prefer. Then, add the salad ingredients, chicken and vegetables, in a larger pot and mix it with the dressing. The salad is served with lettuce and whole-grain tortilla bread.
WHAT WERE THE HARDEST CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACED AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR CAREER?
One of the hardest challenges I have ever faced was proving myself in front of older chefs. I just wanted to forge a unique cooking style and I have always challenged my supervising chef in making recipes, not to mention that I have joined “Top Chef’s” first season in 2013 which contributed immensely to my career through interacting with more experienced and well-acclaimed chefs.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN EXECUTIVE CHEF AT AURA HOSPITALITY & FOOD SERVICES?
Working at Aura Hospitality and Food services is a great honor to me; it is a pioneering company here in Qatar. Working with a top tier company like this gives me a huge sense of responsibility which I enjoy in addition to driving me to work harder and compete even more.
WOULD YOU PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS COMPANY?
Aura Hospitality & Food Services was established in 2012 and joins over 30 restaurants in Qatar. The company has proved itself thanks to its diverse menu, which includes Syrian, Lebanese, Italian and Gulf dishes. Some of Aura’s restaurants have 3 or even 4 franchises and the company has received awards as the best restaurant and hospitality company in Qatar in the past few years.
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU ADMIRE THE MOST IN THE SYSTEM THE COMPANY DEALS WITH?
Absolutely! One of the things that amazes me the most about the company is that it evolves and aspires to succeeds continuously in addition to carefully choosing its staff members, as the company puts the customers opinions and satisfaction at the top of its priorities.
Honestly speaking, this is an important aspect which I seriously worked for in order to extend the pleasure aspect for the customers as if the food was served to me. Furthermore, if a customer feels hesitant regarding choosing a specific dish because they don’t know what is it made of, I immediately go out to describe the dish in terms of ingredients and cooking style and convince them to make up their minds and choose the dish they weren’t so sure about. Once they order the dish and love its taste, I feel have succeeded greatly.
In general, and when it comes to designing recipes, our team works according to a studied and applied methodology prior to serving customers, which limits confusion during work.
WHAT INGREDIENTS CAN YOU NOT WORK WITHOUT?
Vegetables and healthy products in general.
DID YOU EVER HAVE A MOMENT OF DOUBT AND THOUGHTS OF QUITTING?
The harmonious relationship between my work and I grow stronger by the day and I’m always in love with my cooking apron and the culinary world as whole. Therefore, the idea of quitting has never crossed my mind, thank God.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO FRESHLY GRADUATED CHEFS?
Stick with a specific field that you love the most and feel you can innovate with and don’t you ever dissipate your focus on multiple culinary specialties.
WHAT COUNTRY DO YOU HOPE TO WORK IN SOMEDAY?
I always aspire to renew my skills and techniques and exploit any opportunity to expand my experience, that includes learning from different cuisines, and coping up with the latest updates in the culinary world. Honestly speaking, my wish is to return back home to Syria, and open my own restaurant there.
Are you an ambitious cook with a desire for a fulfilling career? Are you interested in working for Aura Hospitality & food Services in Qatar? Check our vacancies and send us your application at https://careers.powerholding-intl.com/
Get to know the masterminds behind all our brands delights who share a common vision: “THEY WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY!” https://aura-hospitality.com/meet-the-chefs.html
Each of our master chefs has a passion for cooking and has developed special cooking techniques while focusing on sustainability and adapting creative styles to embrace both classical and modern kitchen.
Aura has a very strong presence in the food and beverage category, with several outlets operating at various upscale locations. Our brands have quickly grown and become a frequent destination for different segments due to the wide offering options we provide. Our F&B portfolio casts of a diverse blend of international renewed franchises and own unique successful concepts.