We go all nuts for him

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

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From tip to toe

An airy style, contemporary lines and smart design, the heels of young footwear designer Jennifer Chamandi’s heels have been spotted among celebrities like Bella Hadid or Amal Clooney. The talented woman with a determined character tells us about her journey…

– When and why did you start your own line of footwear?

I launched my debut collection on 20th October 2016, 10 days before giving birth to my twin girls! It took me 18 months from the time I decided to embark on this journey, to setting up my company, prototyping, sampling and finally launching my brand. I’ve had a passion for shoes ever since I could remember revising for my exams when I was little, wearing my mother’s shoes, saying I studied better in heels!
My dream to create shoes never left me, even when I worked in finance where I wore towering heels and used to get told the trading floor was not a catwalk! I’m a very determined person and my motto is “Don’t dream your life, live your dreams”, so I had to live mine!

– What is your background and prior experience?

I studied Economics at the London School of Economics, which encouraged me to start my career in Banking. I worked at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 6 years and my last year at Julius Baer. It was high pressure and I loved it. But I had to stay true to myself and pursue my passion. Whilst in banking, I enrolled in footwear making and shoe design courses during weekends and during the summer at Central Saint Martins and London’s Cordwainers’ College to deepen my technical knowledge and keep my inspiration alive. I also took intensive Italian lessons every day for 4 months to be able to present my business plan to my manufacturer in Italian!

– How did you manage to create a unique branding?

The shoe market is extremely competitive and I wanted to have a point of recognition to stand out. I thoroughly worked with an artisan atelier in Milan over 18 months to develop a unique concept that would give my shoes a distinctive look: le “Talon Aiguille” (literal French translation for the “Needle Heel”) where the gold-plated eye of the needle is delicately carved and inlaid into each heel. You can wear the shoes with or without the strap and in both cases the shoes are recognizable because of their subtle “eye of the needle” detail. The position of the strap below the ankle gives the impression of elongating the leg rather than cutting into it.

– What inspires when designing a collection?

The collections are driven by my love for the abstract geometry art movement and my mind for numbers, a reduction to essentials of form and colour, employing an analytical approach in the translation of colour and texture, the purity of the lines, the methodical precision. During the creative process I see, I touch, I smell… a totally sensorial experience at its apogee!

– How did you decide to introduce the brand to the market?  

 I was so lucky to be introduced to (Browns CEO) Holli Rogers and Laura Larbalestier (Women’s Buying Director) to whom I presented my prototype which they loved. They asked me to show them my sample collection when it was ready, I had less than 2 months to get the production finalised, but I managed to do it and they loved it! I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect partner to launch my debut collection, Browns is such an iconic shop, its buying is so refined and edgy and is a champion of emerging talent. I couldn’t be more grateful to them.

– Any projects for the near future? What is the next collection you are working on?

Browns just confirmed to me the third collection! They selected 10 new designs which will be available in stores and online from September 2017. Also I am doing a pop-up at Harrods the month of September and I couldn’t be more excited! It is a huge opportunity and a privilege to be able to showcase my shoes at such a legendary luxury department store. The collection I am currently working on is SS18 (in Fashion you live in the future!). Apart from new colours and textures, I am thrilled to say that I am currently prototyping a flat shoe! It will of course still incorporate my signature “Eye of the Needle”, which is a big challenge technically to produce, but will add such elegance, and character, to a classic flat shoe.

Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant, May 2017 Issue

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Muito BEY, colours and tastes

A colourful atmosphere, savoury meals and a fusion of culture, Lisbon gets up to date with Lebanese cuisine with its new address: Muito BEY.

In a modern setting, Muito BEY offers a Lebanese menu in the heart of the trendy neighbourhood Cais do Sodré. The numerous similarities between the two capital cities inspired Ezzat Ellaz, the entrepreneur behind Muito BEY. The weather first of all, which allowed him to find fresh local ingredients. The culinary tastes are also similar; a preference for lemon dressings, coriander, and some notes of garlic, but also the colours, sky blue, red roof tiles, sun and azulejos, the ceramic tiles adding a particular touch to the restaurant’s décor which was conceived by a Portuguese architect. Muito BEY is the bridge between ‘Muito’, from the Portuguese expression Muito Bom that means very good, and BEY the abbreviation of Beirut’s airport. On the menu feature tasty pastries; thyme manouché, cheese manouché or vegetarian and homemade bread, hot and cold mezzés, Chermandar, beetroot seasoned with tahini, Flaiflé Hamra or Labné Meklié and grilled skewers. The revisited traditional recipes are born from collaboration with Barbara Abdeni Massad, author of the cook book Soup for Syria. While 90% ingredients are selected locally, zaatar, sumac and other specialities are sourced from Lebanon and also used in cocktails with original recipes and names such Ahlan, Habibi or Badaro.

Ezzat Ellaz studied hotel management at the Ecole Hôtelière de Glion in Switzerland, and then pursued an international career in the Food & Beverage industry. He accumulated experience in the United Arab Emirates and Germany, then moved back to Lebanon and worked for five years in consulting, still in the Food & Beverage sector. His contribution to the creation of several restaurants across the Middle East fuelled his desire to open his own place. Passionate about Lebanese cuisine, he points out its versatility, which makes it adaptable to various concepts; from tapas, to fast food or luxury restaurants. Three years ago, Ezzat went on a vacation to Lisbon and noticed the growing dynamism of the city. He started looking into the project. He observed the habits of locals, where they like to go out, what they prefer to eat and what new restaurants are attracting clients in the city centre. In October 2015 Ezza moved to Lison. He found his location at the address of the old post office headquarters, in a once neglected neighbourhood that became in the past few years the IT address of the city’s nightlife. The restaurant now attracts a cosmopolite clientele delighted to find Lebanese cuisine in their city, a cuisine that they discovered through trips to other capitals, but also amateurs, curious to experience a taste of Lebanon.

Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant – March 2017 Issue

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Mohanad Kojak, couture as a means of expression

A couture label that tells the story of its designer, his emotions, his encounters and the society that surrounds him, Mohanad Kojak expresses himself through dramatic clothes, modern or nostalgic but always full of meaning.

Each one of Mohanad Kojak’s collections reveals a story, a point of view, an experience of the life of the designer. He is inspired by human interactions; a love relationship or friendship, family ties, a society that can sometimes be oppressive, and translates his feelings in the beauty of his art. His latest collection, Winter 2017, starts with a new-born love, the enthusiasm of an encounter that gives him energy and that he translates into a streetwear, sporty style. Then the deceit changes the course of the collection. It takes a more rebel allure, more neglected with accents of 90s grunge. Another of his collections is inspired by his funerals. He imagines the attendants: family, friends, colleagues or enemies; those that came because they care, those that came for the show or by duty and obligation. For his first bridal collection; he chose to represent the different motivations: the dress of the bride seeking protection, the one running after status, the materialistic or the fool in love. He dresses his mother, his biggest support, the woman who taught him to observe without judgment, as a bride, the one who understood that marriage is all those aspects at once; but mostly a partnership, a relationship that evolves and becomes what we make of it. With his best friend, a writer, Mohanad prepares a book for each collection in which they legend the images with deep quotes playing with tones: sometimes nice, sometimes aggressive, sad or full of hope.

He is only 18 when his adventure begins, by chance, 4 years ago. Mohanad is then a student in Applied Arts and Graphic Design. A project for one of his classes leads him to direct a fashion movie in which he presents a collection of clothes, outits that he creates himself. The models are quickly noticed and clients start coming in. The designer, who has no atelier or office at the time, meets them in cafés or at their homes. The brand starts growing and the young designer leaves university to dedicate himself to it. He opens a studio in Cairo and his collections are found in boutiques across the country and soon across the Middle East. Mohanad recalls that as a child he would go to the tailor to repair clothes for his family, the latter would show him the ropes of the job, and it is with that same atelier that today the designer works to make his creations. He picks noble fabrics, satin, silks and embroideries that he burns, stains or ages to bring more soul to the clothes. He does not hesitate to use furniture fabric to enrich his collections with sophisticated prints and textures difficult to find in Egypt. A do it all, he contributes to styling, beauty and photography for the mise en scène of his collections. The designer continues to observe life to transpose its richness and complexity. He registered again one year ago in university to complete design studies and currently is working on his new Spring Summer Collection. Inspired by Renaissance; soft colours and gold accents, smooth architecture but rich in details, chandeliers, paintings and other objects of the era, to which he will add emotions lived in the moment during the creative process.

Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant – March 2017 Issue

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Antwork, creative co-working space

In an oasis, with a unique dynamism, creative minds are at work in the offices, meeting rooms, kitchen, garden or the technology atelier. Antwork, the ultra-connected co-working space is bustling with activity.

Behind the walls of a traditional mansion, in the heart of Beirut, lies an innovative concept. Antwork, envisioned to encourage companies and freelancers in their tedious journey, fosters community spirit and innovation. Ralph Raad, vice president of marketing and sales explains: ‘The space is thought in a way to provide flexibility for each company to have its own personalized spot, but also to stimulate exchanges between the residents.’ Between meeting rooms, individual or open-space offices, conference rooms, and common areas, members of Antwork also benefit from unusual spaces such as a tech laboratory, where they can use the 3D printer or create prototypes for electronic circuits and other gadgets, and even a runway for fashion shows. In the rooms; ACs, doors and even drinks are accessible via remote control or a mobile application. Encounters happen around a cup of coffee in the vegetable garden, in the kitchen during a cooking class organized by Kitchen Lab, or while attending a seminar on corporate law in the cozy little amphitheater. Already synergies have come about through those exchanges, between a branding studio and a tech startup, or an event planning company and a startup specialized in on demand babysitting.

Above all, the strength of Antwork resides in its technology platform. Antwork has created a work cloud, an online platform where different members of the community can contact each other, exchange, book a room, or share an event. Want to install a program to manage client data, or social media activity? Register invoices, prepare company accounting or organize employee holidays and recruitment? The Antwork software allows young companies to benefit from different customized services to accompany their development. Hundreds of members have already registered on the platform of which about one third established their headquarters at the Antwork space, on spears Street. Opened in November 2016, in a beautiful traditional building, this first space comprised of 5000m2, bordered by a 1500m2 garden, and with a terrace where barbecues and yoga sessions are planned, is Antwork’s pilot project. The co-working platform is looking to create satellite locations: a café, a restaurant or a library across Lebanon that will be activated by the Antwork technology to offer members a wide range of spaces to work from. The concept will also be exported to relay a culture of creativity, productivity and interaction across the world.

Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant – April 2017 Issue

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Paint Beirut

Behind the nowadays famous colorful stairs that give Mar Mikhael a festive air, hides a group of young and motivated artists, the Dihzahyners. Meet the artists of our streets…

With a stroke of brush, the Dihzahyners have set up to embellish our country. The project was initiated by two young creatives passionate about graffiti and urban art, Lana Chukri and Jubran Elias. They studied design and wanted to bring their contribution to Lebanon through their art. With a dozen of artists and designers graduated fro, LAU in 2011, they launched the Paint Up initiative, bringing a touch of color to abandoned or destroyed locations. Each project is prepared to make sure the end result is luminous, vibrant and in harmony with the surroundings. The young talents take into consideration the opinion of artists and local residents in order for the latter to feel involved in the project and to feel a sense of belonging with the rejuvenated space. An ingenious yet simple method to embellish our public spaces, each oasis of color and beauty show us that with goodwill the face of Beyrouth can brighten up.

The Dihzahyners have already painted 8 stairs, from Geitawi to Sakiet el Janzir, passing by Mar Mikhael. One of the stairs, filmed by VICE News London even appeared in an international ad campaign for 7UP. They scattered their art in parcs and on benches ; in Geitawi, Bourj Hammoud or Sin el Fil. With oganizations such as Beirut Green Project, Save the Children, Beirut Art Center or Live Love Beirut, they have dressed up the walls of Beirut with their multicolored palette, such as the Bourj Hammoud bridge. A non profit organization, Paint up is a collaborative initiative, and neighborhood residents as well as volunteers are welcome to contribute to the diverse projects and contribute to the creative inspiration. The Dihzahyners have recently launched the Neighborhood Initiatives, longer term projects in which entire spaces of neighborhoods are renovated. In february and march 2016, along with three local artists and many volunteers, they have rejuvenated an abandoned garden in Nabaa while offering art workshops to residents, and they do not intend to stop there. Through street art, the Dihzahyners give colour to the grey concrete that surrounds us and energy to our city .

Article originally published in L’Orient le Jour Junior – May 2016 Issue

http://www.lorientjunior.com/article/1022/peindre-beyrouth.html

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Connected Wine

The new address for Lebanese wine is online, 209 Lebanese Wine reveals the secrets of Lebanese Wines. Colours, regions and flavors, amateurs and wine enthusiasts can now get a clearer picture and share the delights of wine as true connoisseurs.

209 Lebanese Wines concept is based on three pillars: home delivery, the Wine Club, and soon an itinerant truck that will travel through festivals and markets across Lebanon to share wine and platters of cheese and cold cuts. On the online boutique, launched in October 2016 during the latest edition of Vinifest, the visitor can chose among more than fourty Lebanese Wineries. A search engine enables filtering according to the criteria of choice: wine and food pairing, grapes, price range, colour or winery. Whether you are a cheese amateur, prefer seafood, fois gras or even pizza, whether you are looking for a Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot or local grapes Obeidi and Merwah, nuanced by the multiple microclimates that characterize Lebanon, the right bottle is just a few clicks away. 209 Lebanese Wines blog addresses various wine topics : how to chose seasoning aromatic herbs with wine to enhance the taste of a meal, how to decide between the numerous bottles on a restaurant wine list or what is the correct Wine Etiquette. On 209 Lebanese Wine, a community is building around wine culture. The website offers a Wine Club membership. Members receive discovery bottles every month, can book a wine expert for a house party and are invited to tastings and winery tours.

Why 209?

Sélim Yasmine is passionate about wine. After a twenty years career in corporate marketing, including experience in the wine sector, he decided to dedicate fully to his passion while sharing it. He traveled accross Lebanon in search of wineries throughout the Bekaa, Mount Lebanon, Batroun region and the South. ‘In Lebanon there are about fifty wineries, he says, and it would be a loss not to highlight the products of our terroir.’ The name 209 was chosen in reference to the Pantone color for red wine, a trait d’union between Sélim’s passion for wine and his marketing experience. In the cellar located in the basement, adjacent to Sélim’s office, the bottles are conserved in cool conditions, and deliveries are prepared to arrive fresh to our homes. The website is making wine lovers happy, as well as wineries who now have a new outlet to boost their visibility and facilitate deliveries. A new ambassador of Lebanese Wine, 209 Lebanese Wine is considering exporting the concept carrying a terroir, a unique flavor and a thousand years history accross borders.

Article originally published in L’Officiel Levant – February 2017 Issue

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