Why do you think Lebanese food is becoming so loved worldwide?
For me it’s no surprise – there are now so many excellent Lebanese restaurants that this delightful, generous cuisine is getting more and more attention across the globe. It’s simple and healthy and has a huge repertoire. It’s also easy to make at home and very affordable.
Tell us about your plans for a food and travel TV show, to be broadcast in the Middle East.
The show will take viewers from Lebanon to Tunisia, showing our culture’s different cuisines and traditions. We’ll go to villages people may have never heard of and cook and eat with the locals. One of my main intentions is to encourage Arabs to discover other countries in the region.
How does Dubai’s food scene compare to other major cities?
I’ve been travelling here for 15 years and the restaurant scene just gets stronger
and stronger. I believe Dubai is in the top three destinations for food, along with London and New York. I love it here; it’s
a really vibrant place to be.
Why is hospitality so important?
It’s part of Lebanese culture, so at each
of my restaurants we always greet guests as if we are welcoming friends and family into our home. Whenever I go to an Arab country I’m proud of the wonderful sense of hospitality.
What is the most popular dish at your restaurant Comptoir Libanais?
Our sharing platter for two with plenty
of different mezze. It’s full of fresh, vegetarian and delicious food.
You’ve come a long way from selling baguettes with merguez as a boy outside your local football stadium in Algeria. What has driven you?
My dream – to spread and share my passion for Lebanese food and culture. The journey is the fun part. I genuinely love food and people, so it’s a blessing to be able to do this.
What do you cook at home?
Simple food, often involving halloumi, and quick dips with yogurt and tahini.
My ultimate favourite dish is aubergine salad with chillies, pomegranate seeds, garlic, roasted pistachios and mint with pomegranate molasses dressing.
Which ingredients epitomise
Middle Eastern food?
If I had to choose, I’d say pomegranates, fresh mint, zaatar and tahini.
When you’re not running your restaurants, you enjoy running marathons. Is this your favourite way of winding down?
I love to challenge myself. Marathons give me the opportunity to visit new countries and run with thousands of other people – one of life’s most powerful experiences. They offer a kind of personal satisfaction and level of adrenaline you can’t get from anything else.
You recently got involved in Pink Caravan, a UAE breast cancer awareness initiative. How did that come about?
I lost my grandad, uncle, two aunts and
a 20-year-old cousin to cancer, so I know how it can affect people’s lives. It was
a fun day and great to see everyone coming to support such an amazing initiative – people were very generously buying our pink shawarma for Dhs 750 to help this beautiful cause.
Do you have anything planned for the future you can share with us?
My business partner Chaker Hanna and I have a lot of dreams, but our biggest goal is to continue to make Lebanese food more accessible. We have an exciting year ahead with new openings around the UK. Hopefully, we will be launching something in the Middle East too...
Find out more about Tony and his restaurants at tonykitous.com