I’ve been the Executive Chef for the Detroit Lions for the past 10 years. I was born and raised in Detroit. I moved back here from California because I wanted to be a part of the resurgence and revitalization of the city.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I got interested in cooking at a really young age. My family is Lebanese and Italian, and my grandparents always had a huge garden when I was growing up. They canned and preserved a lot of the home grown produce because money was super tight. I did a lot of the work beside my grandma in the kitchen, and was naturally drawn to it. Gardening, canning, and pickling are fun and really popular right now, but back then they did it out of necessity. It’s cool to see that those activities have come full circle.
How did you connect with Cooking Matters?
I heard about it through the American Culinary Federation. I had been looking for some way to give back and address hunger issues in the community. Cooking Matters sounded great, and I loved the educational aspect. It’s a powerful thing to teach skills that will help people help themselves. There were times when my family was food insecure growing up, but because the adults in my life had a basic level of understanding of food preparation and preservation they were able to really stretch our food dollars. These days, not everyone has that basic knowledge, or think that they don’t have the time or money to cook healthy meals. Cooking Matters is changing that.
What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
A couple of classes into each series, the participants start telling you about the changes they are making at home, and how they are already seeing the benefits. I especially like working with teens because they are forming habits and learning skills that they will use for the rest of their lives. As a chef, it’s amazing to see people get excited about cooking. Our pace of life doesn’t lend itself to thinking about what we cook and eat, or the ramifications. I’ve also really enjoyed some of the teens tell me that after taking Cooking Matters, that they want to become a chef.
What is your favorite holiday food?
I love pumpkin pie. My birthday is in November, and I almost always have it instead of birthday cake.
Do you have a recipe that you would like to share?
High Protein Fall Harvest Quinoa and Lentil Salad
Ingredients: 1 1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup lentils
5 cups water
6 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup corn off the cob
1/2 cup scallions
1/2 cup red bell pepper
2 tablespoons red onion
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup sweet potato
1/2 cup butternut squash
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped mint
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Rinse and drain quinoa. Boil 2 1/2 cups water in two separate pots. Add quinoa to one pot. Cook 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let it cool. Place lentils in the other pot, cook 'al dente', drain, and cool. Chop scallions, red pepper, red onion, carrots, sweet potato, and squash into 1/4 inch dice. Quick steam the squash, sweet potato, and carrots 'al dente' and cool. Combine liquids and toss with quinoa and lentils, fold in the veggies, garlic, and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.