Behind the name Les Mauvais Garçons (the bad boys) hides a passionate pastry chef, Raja Farah, dedicated to composing delicious desserts in which each ingredients is carefully selected to delight our taste buds.
The chef’s favourite ingredient? Hazelnut, an ingredient that can be interpreted in multiple ways. For his choco-hazelnut tarte, Raja substitutes chocolate and hazelnut powder for the base, then fills it with different chocolate textures; creamy dark chocolate, topped by a crunchy chocolate crust then sprinkled with chocolate and hazelnut cream. The menu, which changes twice a year, features the classics of French pastry. Pastry cooking is a meticulous experience, in which dosage and timing follow strict rules from which one cannot deviate for a successful dessert. Originality can be added once the basics are mastered, and for Raja it resides in the choice of ingredients. He proposes unique combinations such as choux au spéculos, with a crunchy layer of biscuit and almond powder. The young chef also infuses some local flavours in his desserts; orange blossom, pistachio, apricot paste or rose water, and creates modern compositions such as his tarte Maamoul with almonds, hazelnuts and chocolate. For his lemon tarte, red fruits Pavlova, apple and salted butter caramel cake or his citrus fruit salad flavoured with twelve spices, Raja selects seasonal ingredients, as he says fruits are much tastier when ripe and fresh.
As a child, Raja was passionate about pastry. He learned his first recipes from his grandmothers. He still remembers the first cookbook he received which encouraged him to tackle more difficult recipes. For his university studies, he opted for a more ‘conventional’ curriculum, then worked in advertising, a choice guided by his parents who noted the instability and difficulty of the cooking profession. Between classes and tiny apartments without a suitable kitchen, Raja left cooking aside for a while. Then one day, that was it, he decided to pursue his long-time passion. The young man chose the prestigious Ferrandi school in Paris, and after a year of intensive studies, he completed trainings with the biggest names in pastry, Christophe Michalak and Jean Francois Piège, before coming back home to Lebanon to open his own pastry shop. In his lab in Badaro, the chef receives clients’ requests and prepares his desserts alone behind the oven, while planning possibly to open a boutique soon. Clients come back for his home-made desserts, and the chef also proposes a selection of choux and mini cakes with multiple flavours; vanilla, maple syrup, pecan or green tea and jasmine to cater for events. For his creations in which each ingredient is selected with care, Raja rhymes the delicious with the gorgeous.
Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant, June 2017 Issue