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These Arab chefs are transforming the culinary landscape and reshaping the dining experience

Leading chefs in the MENA region are getting more recognition amid awards and positive rankings.

[Source photo: Krishna Prasad/Fast Company Middle East]

In recent years, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has witnessed a revolution in restaurant design led by Arab chefs. These chefs have ambitious dreams and goals to globalize the MENA region’s food and beverage scene. They strive for success and to tell a story through their cuisine, hoping that these stories will have a worldwide impact.

These goals seem increasingly attainable as regional chefs receive well-deserved recognition and accolades, including Michelin stars and various awards. They are also featured on the World’s 50 Best lists for the MENA region.

Join us as we highlight the Arab chefs in the MENA region who are transforming the culinary landscape.

Salma Daqqaq – Bait Maryam

Palestinian chef Salma Daqqaq, the visionary behind the Levantine-inspired restaurant Bait Maryam in Dubai, has earned widespread acclaim for her culinary talents. In 2022 and 2023, the Michelin Guide honored her with the Bib Gourmand and Service Award. 

Daqqaq’s journey to success is rooted in her childhood in Jordan, where she found inspiration in the flavors of her upbringing.

Before venturing into the culinary world, Daqqaq pursued a career in education. However, her passion for cooking led her to establish Bait Maryam in 2017. Named after her mother, the restaurant is a tribute to her family’s culinary heritage, offering home-style cooking and cherished family recipes to patrons seeking an authentic Levantine dining experience.

Solemann Haddad – Moonrise

Primarily a self-taught chef, Solemann Haddad was born and raised in Dubai. His cuisine is deeply influenced by his culinary experiences growing up in the emirate. Since 2022, Haddad has served as the Head Chef and Founder of Moonrise, an omakase-style restaurant in Dubai. 

Moonrise uniquely blends Japanese and Middle Eastern techniques and ingredients to narrate Haddad’s story of growing up in and around Dubai.

The Syrian-French chef has received significant accolades, including the 2022 Michelin Dubai Young Chef Award and the 2022 Gault & Millau Future Great of the Year Award. At just 28 years old, these honors make him one of Dubai’s youngest Chef Patron.

Mohammad, Wassim, and Omar Orfali – Orfali Bros Bistro

Three brothers of Syrian origin, Mohammad, Wassim, and Omar Orfali, came together to open Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai’s Al Wasl district. The restaurant has garnered significant acclaim, being named the top eatery in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by The World’s 50 Best. 

Shortly after, they received recognition from the Michelin Guide with a Bib Gourmand award. Mohammad Orfali, the Chef and Managing Director of the restaurant, has been at the forefront of this success. Born and raised in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, to an engineer and a teacher, he drew inspiration from his hometown’s rich culinary heritage. Mohammad is dedicated to showcasing Aleppo’s rich flavors but always adds his unique twist.

Tala Bashmi – Fusions

Initially on track to becoming a professional soccer player in the US, Tala Bashmi’s career took a different turn after an injury led her to study illustration and fine arts. However, Bashmi ultimately found her true calling as a chef.

The Bahraini chef was honored with the Middle East & North Africa’s Best Female Chef Award in 2022. At her dining establishment, Fusions, located in Manama’s Gulf Hotel Bahrain, she creatively combines traditional Bahraini dishes with a contemporary twist.

Continuing a childhood tradition of visiting local markets with her father, Bashmi hand-selects seasonal ingredients unique to Bahrain from local producers and growers. Her dedication and innovation were recognized when her restaurant climbed 36 spots on the World’s 50 Best 2023 list, earning the Highest Climber Award. Fusions made its third appearance on the list in 2024, ranking 9th.

Mireille and Yasmina Hayek – Em Sherif

Mireille and Yasmina Hayek make for a formidable mother-daughter duo, bringing Lebanese culinary excellence to multiple cities, including Beirut, London, Damascus, Manama, Amman, Riyadh, Cairo, Baghdad, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Kuwait City.

A self-taught chef and founder, Mireille established Em Sherif after discovering her passion for cooking for her family. Her daughter, Yasmina, now serves as the executive chef, leading the culinary team.

Under Chef Yasmina’s guidance, the restaurant has received prestigious recognition, including the Art of Hospitality Award in 2023 as part of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Rafiq Nakhle – Fakhreldin

Jordanian chef Rafiq Nakhle and his team at Fakhreldin offer an extravagant selection of over 100 dishes. Their culinary prowess has earned them a notable position, ranking seventh in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region on the World’s 50 Best list. Fakhreldin is renowned in Amman for its hospitable service and authentic Levantine cuisine.

Established in 1997, Fakhreldin is situated in the former family home of Prime Minister Fawzi Al Mulki. Jordanian architect Ammar Khammash meticulously restored the villa, adding to its charm and historical significance.

Ibrahim Metwaly Abouelazm

Executive Chef Ibrahim Metwaly Abouelazam brings over 15 years of culinary expertise. After graduating from university, he embarked on a journey with internationally acclaimed hospitality brands across Egypt and the UAE, gaining proficiency in diverse cuisines. However, Arabic cuisine holds a special place in his heart, evident in his dedication to his restaurant, Ťazal, in Abu Dhabi.

In 2023, Abouelazm’s culinary mastery was recognized with the prestigious Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand award. This accolade highlights the seamless blend of tradition and modernity in Arabic culture, reflected in the innovative yet authentic dishes served at Ťazal.

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