Hashem Montasser, Founder of the The Lighthouse Restaurant & Concept Store in the UAE, is a raconteur who avidly follows the work of arts, culture, technology and, of course, food. In a series of conversations aimed at introducing its audience to the Middle East’s entrepreneurial landscape, Hashem asks his guests about their life journeys, inspirations, successes and failures and everything in-between. New episodes available every second Thursday.
“Energy and lots of seasoning…that’s nafas.” Mohamad Orfali and his sensational culinary pivot from TV chef to award winning restaurateur…and what makes a really good mulukhiya!
Hashem catches up with Mohamad Orfali, TV celebrity chef extraordinaire, restaurateur and co-founder of the award winning Orfali Bros restaurant in Dubai. When a chance email to Fatafeat founder Youssef El Deeb led to the publication of Orfali’s cookbook and subsequent blockbuster cooking TV shows, a new TV celebrity chef was born. Orfali discusses the delicate balancing act of being in front of a camera vs. interacting with guests at his restaurant where he focuses on storytelling. We also delve deeper into Orfali’s experience working closely with his two pastry chef brothers, why he doesn’t believe in messing with tradition and what makes a really good mulukhiya!
The Lighthouse Conversations with Youssef El Deeb
“I’ve always been a strong believer in offering financial services to the unbanked.” Mounir Nakhla on turbo-charging growth at Egypt’s leading FinTech startup Halan
In this week’s episode we connect with Mounir Nakhla, CEO and Co-Founder of Egypt’s leading FinTech start-up ‘Halan’ (translated to: “right now”) which focuses on creating financial solutions for the unbanked and the under banked. Mounir shares snippets of his journey since 2017 when he was approached by Indonesian tech unicorn Gojek, then being struck by the pandemic in 2020 and what it meant for Halan’s growth. Hashem and Mounir also discuss the challenges that Mounir faced as a founder during a challenging macro-economic environment before reflecting on his strengths and weaknesses as a CEO; Halan’s hiring process including how to retain talent and creating common goals; what keeps him up at night; and the secret sauce of making decisions with a calm mind. A hint? It includes fresh air and the Taoist shadow boxing art, Tai Chi.
“The issue with progress is that it’s seldom linear.” Nadia Wassef on narrative structure, trafficking in nostalgia and life after publishing a debut memoir.
This week, we reunite with a previous guest; author and friend of The Lighthouse, Nadia Wassef. Since our first episode with Nadia, her well received debut memoir Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller has been published in several languages and Nadia is now preparing for her second narrative structure—but in a faster paced, post-lockdown world. Recorded in the Library Bar at The Lighthouse Abu Dhabi, our episode with Nadia revisits her experience during lockdown while writing Chronicles and how she found her narrative arc. She also shares her views on managing feedback constructively; and why writing should not be used by the author as a form of personal therapy.
Nadia Wassef on The Lighthouse Conversations (2021)
“I can figure out your personality by walking around your space.” Anoud Alzaben on the process of creating and immortalizing ephemeral tablescapes.
We are joined this week by multidisciplinary Jordanian designer Anoud Alzaben who we first met at The Lighthouse when she set the stage for a fantastical nature-cum-charcuterie pop-up for Beirut’s The Silly Spoon. After launching her professional career in architecture, Anoud traded her 9 to 5 desk job with motherhood and a pivot to holistic design approaches like tablescapes and movement & mobility coaching. Hashem and Anoud discuss her process; the rural and bedouin roots that continue to influence her work; and their shared appreciation for journaling– whether classically with ink and paper or visually via Instagram Stories.
“I’m half woman, half to-do list!” Stasha Toncev on her improbable journey from Belgrade to Dubai and what it took to launch Balkan bistro 21 Grams
This week we sit with Stasha Toncev, founder of Dubai’s award-winning Balkan bistro, 21 Grams. Hailed in the media, Stasha’s restaurant was praised as “charming” and “brain melting” by The Financial Times supplement, How To Spend It, and Bill Addison, the Los Angeles Times’ celebrated food critic. In a heart-to-heart with Hashem, Stasha opened up about her childhood in Socialist Yugoslavia; her daring move to Dubai with 200 Euros in her pocket and the struggles of launching her restaurant business as a woman of Balkan descent– a double whammy in her view. Stasha and Hashem also talk openly about the importance of mental health for entrepreneurs and the struggles and personal sacrifices Stasha braved for her business.
“The Michelin Guides are consistent; one star in Dubai equals one star in Paris” Michelin Guides’ Gwendal Poullennec debunks urban legends surrounding the iconic restaurant guide which just announced its Dubai chapter
The Michelin Guides recently announced the launch of a new Dubai guide (the first Michelin Guide in the Middle East) in June 2022. Hashem and his co-host Samantha Wood aka FooDiva sit down with Gwendal Poullennec, the Guides’ International Director. Over coffee and Shakshouka, Hashem and Samantha ask a tight-lipped Poullennec their most pressing questions to contextualize and debunk some of the most common urban legends surrounding this heritage ‘award’ which dates back to 1900. Among them: what are the criteria of awarding a star; are Michelin inspectors all tall and skinny; how many meals do inspectors eat every day and what makes Dubai’s culinary scene stand out?
Episode: MENA’s 50Best restaurants with Claudia de Brito and Samantha Wood
The Michelin Guide is coming to Dubai
FooDiva: Is Dubai ready for Michelin (2012)
The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat: Craig Claiborne and the American Food Renaissance
WSJ: Is Dubai the next great food destination
FooDiva: There is no such thing as a Michelin Chef (2017)
Episode: Debra Kletter on creating magical ‘food experiences’ for her clients
Episode: FooDiva AKA Samantha Wood on her restaurant review process