I have always been cooking; whether it was when I was really young helping my grandmother or my mom out, I always found myself in the kitchen. When I moved to America from Lebanon at 10 years old and would go to people’s houses for family dinner, I would find myself in the kitchen with the parents helping out. I guess I started truly cooking once I moved to America and would cook for my parents because they were busy working. From there, it became my hobby and then my job.
When I moved to America from Lebanon at 10 years old and would go to people’s houses for family dinner, I would find myself in the kitchen with the parents helping out.
I worked for Danny Meyer for about two years, and I did freelance catering — I did all sorts of different little jobs. I realized a) I hate all of this, and b) I hate working in the restaurant industry. It’s so hostile, and every day was a battlefield of who’s better than each other. It was never to make movement. It was all for the sake of just being better than each other. So I got out of that and started my own catering company — honestly, I don’t even know what I was thinking. I was just like, I’m going to do this and hope for the best. I started getting clients, and it grew slowly for the next three months until the pandemic hit. From there, I had to shut it down.
I started my own quarantine menu, and a lot of people ordered from me. Then the New York Post wrote about it, and the Health Department shut it down because they found out I was cooking from my home. So the catering got shut down, then my quarantine project got shut down, and I was like, What the hell is next?
I started working on the business plan for Edy’s Grocer, and that’s when Edy’s Grocer was born. I think we were the first positive story to come out of COVID. There’s a lot to it: I’m an immigrant, Maria’s an immigrant, I’m gay, opening a grocer in this neighborhood — I think it all helped.
I think we were the first positive story to come out of COVID.
Cooking was always my safe space. I got bullied a lot when I was a kid. It was not fun to move to America right after 9/11 as a Middle Eastern kid. I didn’t speak a lick of English when I moved here, and I’m a talkative human being, so I felt like the kitchen was where I could go and do whatever the fuck I wanted and nobody was judging me.
Cooking was always my safe space.Sometimes I get over going out all the time. Living in New York you go out to eat so much, but I like to just cook for myself and make a healthy meal that I know I’ll enjoy. It’s always simple when I cook for myself, but I don’t ever know how to just make one thing. There’s always a salad and a main and a side. Even if I’m cooking for myself, I always overcook; it’s my thing. I always do too much. But I love leftovers, so it works.
Even if I’m cooking for myself, I always overcook; it’s my thing. I always do too much. But I love leftovers, so it works.
Today I made a corn, tomato, and halloumi salad because it’s so seasonal and summery. It’s one of my top favorite salads I make at home for myself because it’s so bright and flavorful. The way I made it today it’s straight-up tomato and corn. At the store, we have it on the menu, and we add scallions and radishes. I love the mint vinaigrette because you’re getting the best of the best of the season. And of course I love how it pairs with the saltiness of the halloumi on top.
I think it’s such a fun, fantastic salad for the summer. Even if you don’t have a grill at home, you can char the corn right on the stovetop, which is exactly what I did. It’s kind of like, Oh, I just grilled up some corn, except I actually didn't because I live in an apartment in Brooklyn!
I’ve used Little Sheet before with my friend Grossy, but I really loved using them for this. The more I use them on my own the more I love them. I also love that the mixing bowls have a spout to them. It made it so easy for the vinaigrette to pour out.
Next up for me, I’m writing a cookbook, which has hands down been the biggest dream of my entire life. As a little boy, growing up in Lebanon, I’d go to Beirut on Sundays, and our one stop was the bookstore; I’d always flip through books. When I moved to America, on Sundays we’d go to Boston and I’d sit in the Barnes & Noble and literally just flip through books. I’ve always cherished books.
I’ve always cherished books.
Throughout the years, I’ve always looked for that Lebanese cookbook, and a few have been published — but none in America. Getting the book deal has been a pinch-me moment. It was hard work to write the proposal, but the publishing house came to me, and that was impactful. It felt like all my hard work over the past eight years in New York, when I felt like I wasn’t being seen — finally I’m being seen.
It felt like all my hard work over the past eight years in New York, when I felt like I wasn’t being seen — finally I’m being seen.
I can’t even visualize what the book is going to look like, and I can’t even think of the moment when I have the book in my hands. All I know is that, no matter what, I don't care. All I care about is that the Lebanese book that I’ve wanted is going to make it into American bookstores.