United Arab Emirates

Born in Damascus, Syria, Waseem was always impressed by local chefs and their traditional cooking techniques. This encouraged him to become a chef himself, as did the time he spent with his grandmother, learning the basics of cooking. He began his professional training at cooking school in his hometown, then at the university of tourism. His first job as a cook was also in Syria, at Sheraton Damascus Hotel. Waseem is now working in the UAE as executive sous chef for the Mina Seyahi Complex & Arena.

Are you more of a classic or a creative cook ?
Waseem Aleisa :

I’ll say both. What I like best is creating a classic dish with a modern twist. For example, working on a waffle or a salted macaroon.

Can you tell us about your career path ?
Waseem Aleisa :

I was born in Damascus, Syria.
It is a very old city in which the chefs use very old techniques and old equipment. For example, we have a very traditional way of preserving lamb. Using a terracotta pot, we cook minced lamb with the fat on, and then store it for a year. Then we use a spoonful of this meat in all the lamb recipes we make. Salt and fat alone are able to preserve food this way; it’s this kind of thing that pushed me to discover the secrets of cooking, to become a chef, and to spend time with my grandmother to learn all the old techniques from her. When I decided to become a professional chef, I enrolled in a cooking school, in the tourism faculty and then took up my first cooking position at the Sheraton Damascus Hotel.

Do you always think about cooking ?
Waseem Aleisa :

Yes, all the time, I even have new ideas when I’m not working. I write them down in a notebook and then I can dive back in and create a new dish. My goal is to be different from others.

Vous souvenez vous de votre rencontre avec le beurre ?
Waseem Aleisa :

On her farm, my grandmother used to make her own butter. This process was new to me when I discovered it, so I asked her to teach me. I still remember the first butter I made, and especially the omelette I made with it – it was crazy.

Never margarine, always butter
What inspires you ?
Waseem Aleisa :

My inspiration comes from different things, but what’s most important for me is that cooking must come from the heart. I also think that mistakes are also important, because only through them do we learn the most. Nothing is impossible in the kitchen, you just have keep trying. Sometimes you are wrong, but sometimes great dishes are born.

Do you often cook with butter ?
Waseem Aleisa :

Very often to be honest, unless I have to make a speciality that has to be prepared with olive oil. I love the taste of butter, it always adds something to a dish.

Is butter suitable for all cuisines in the world ?
Waseem Aleisa :

Yes, of course, it can adapt to all foods. But good butter isn’t available everywhere.

Butter all the time or margarine from time to time ?
Waseem Aleisa :

Never margarine, always butter, and sometimes clarified butter.

Any tip for cooking with butter ?
Waseem Aleisa :

Adding a little corn oil to a frying pan with butter preventsit from burning. Then one simple and delicious thing is brown butter. The simple fact of adding a little colour makes it incredibly tasty. Adding butter to a dish immediately heightens the flavour. It is a real enhancer.