Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Chef Barbara Massaad teams up with fellow slow-foodie Veronica Pecorella for a spectacular seasonal Italian menu at Makan, from Thursday to Saturday, 22-24 October. Here Veronica tells us the story of how her friendship with Barbara has brought them to Makan, and beyond:
I was 16, maybe 17, when I read an article about Beirut and Lebanon after the civil war. I was sitting at a wooden table of the old Osteria of my parents in Cormons (a small rural village in a wine region of Italy, on the border with Slovenia).
“One day I will live there,” I thought.
Twenty years later, after working for a certification organization to develop organic agriculture in Mediterranean countries, the time came. Four years ago I moved to Beirut with my family because of work (but feel not only for that reason).
For me the first place to go when you move into a new city (after a good restaurant) is a bookstore. So I did. After grabbing a new edition of Beirut Home (the Beirut guide with all useful addresses for just-in city movers), I went to the cooking/food books section. And there it happened. The book that would have made the difference in my life called me. Mouneh by Barbara Abdeni Massad. (Now I would say that this is a must-read volume to understand the real rural spirit of the country.)
I spent all that afternoon reading and looking at the pictures, the details of the book. In that afternoon, even though it was not my first time in Lebanon, I felt the real meaning of za’tar. “No way! I must meet her.” And thanks to Zuckerberg, I asked her friendship on Facebook.
Three days later we were sitting together in Barbara’s kitchen eating goat’s cheese with thyme and olive oil. We both grew up in restaurants, both food – slow food – cooking lovers, interested in the stories behind products and producers, plenty of ideas to share. For the first time we met, we felt one day we would do something together.
In July, after four years, I left my previous job in the organic sector (even still eating it!) to stay in Beirut and to develop a new project that will connect Italian and Lebanese arts to wines, beers and of course food. Meanwhile, I’ll be finally cooking together with Barbara at Makan, sharing our passions. As she would say, the Lebanese me. Bread and salt.
To book for Veronica and Barbara’s Italian dinner at Makan, SMS 70954057. As always, pay what you think is fair.
The full menu will be announced on Wednesday via our Facebook page – or email us at mottomarmikhael@ to get all the week’s menus first, in your inbox every Monday.
Posted by Barbara Abdeni Massaad at 11:45 AM
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Posted on by Angela Solomon https://mottorestaurant.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/barbara-massaad-a-chef-on-a-mission/
Chef, cookbook writer and food photographer Barbara Massaad has big, bubbly red hair and a big, bubbly personality. Already well known in foodie circles as the author of cookbook bibles Manoushe, Mezze and Mouneh, she is also President of Slow Food Beirut. Barbara came first to Motto for lunch one spring afternoon, and was inspired by the homey atmosphere and Nimal’s cooking, to return as a chef with her son and culinary student Albert.
This week Barbara returns with a selection of Lebanese Mezze from her cookbook, ‘Mezze: A Labor of Love’. We caught up with her, in between shopping for Motto, TV interviews and preparations for the fundraising reception for her latest book, Soup for Syria. She is truly a chef on a mission.
How did you choose this week’s menu at Motto, among all the delicious dishes in the book?
I chose the recipes according to what I felt like having my family eat on this special weekend. My husband and his brother are celebrating their birthday and so the whole family will come and dine to celebrate. You see Motto is my second home away from home…
How did you first come across Motto, and what were your first impressions?
I heard about it through friends, and was intrigued about the concept because it goes with the philosophy I adhere to… I think it’s nice that customers who come decide on the fee they want to pay. It also breaks down social barriers and people who could not afford to eat in a restaurant are more apt to do so with this formula.
How do you think Motto reflects the principles of Slow Food?
It’s fair… and the philosophy of Slow Food is based on good, clean and fair. The food varies at Motto, some days are better than others – but that is part of its charm too… It’s also clean because it’s not commercial, therefore guest chefs come and use good wholesome ingredients to cook as if they were cooking at home. Nimal also treats cooking personally and with care, and you can tell the difference…
We’ve heard so much about your current project, Soup for Syria. All the proceeds from the sales are going to the refugee food appeal. That is an incredible feat! What do you hope the book will achieve?
Awareness! I hope it will break barriers of animosity among Lebanese and Syrians and create a bond that would enable Lebanese to help those who are fleeing Syria because of war.
Soup for Syria is on sale this week at Motto, and you’re holding a fundraising reception on 20 October.
Will you come and cook soup at Motto this winter?
What are your top tips for aspiring young food writers and photographers?
JUST DO IT. Don’t think too much about it. Just follow your ideas, no matter how crazy they may be. Everyone made fun of me when I spoke of doing a book on the man’oushe – including friends. The book became a bestseller and is still selling all over the world.
You can meet Barbara this week at Motto, where she is serving her Mezze menu on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8-10 October). To book, SMS 70954057. Full details and updates on our Facebook page. As always – pay what you think is fair.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
We have finally set the date. Actually it took some time for the books to get out of the port of Beirut. Don't ask me why? And frankly I don't want to know why. All I know is with the help of Library Antoine and their partners, it was done. The day I got the books, which I stocked in a room in the garage of my house. I confirmed the date of the fundraiser. We are two groups working on the launching. My friend Tina is taking care of the volunteers who will be cooking soups on that day and I am handling the photo exhibit, invitations and the drinks. Station Beirut were so generous to give up their space for that night and I am very grateful. Hopefully we will have enough people to sell all the books. This will ensure that 100% of sales will be donated for food fund relief and medical assistance. Crossing my fingers!