My Weight Loss Journey: Episode 1

It’s been a minute since I stepped foot in a gym. I’ve taken the decision to relocate back to Beirut back in January, and April marked my last month in Dubai. Back then I was committed to indoor cycling, practically since October… The changes weren’t drastic, but yet again, depression, living alone, not having the time or energy to cook properly played a major part against me achieving my goal.

My goal which was not only to lose weight, but to tone. Finally, tone. I’ve been through this weight loss journey since the age of 21… Hustling, battling against it. Every. Single. Day.

On September 2012 I started dropping from 130Kgs (almost 290pounds) to 80Kgs. The diet was harsh but fast. But harsh. It was just what I needed for a confidence boost to go through my most critical “what-the-fuck-is-going-on-in-my-life” years. The twenties.

I had to graduate, get a real job, dress like a fucking “cool” guy. You know… Nothing out of the norms. I’ve never been anything but “normal” anyway.

It happened. I dropped those 50kgs. I looked fine. Fine enough to walk straight, look up and pretend like I have everything figured out. LOL! LOL at the fact that I thought this would last. Of course it didn’t. I moved to Dubai, and this is when weight gain caught back on track, like it never fucking left.

Anyway, this is not a novel, nor a depressed adult’s diary. I’m just laying down the thoughts that lead me to take F45 Challenge. It’s been a week. And MAAAAAAAAN do I feel good.

F45 Challenge is an 8-week fat loss program, designed to give life-changing results.

Phase 1, designed for 2 weeks goes like this:

The first phase of the 8-week Challenge focuses on bringing your diet back to basics. Here, you remove gluten, refined sugar, high fructose fruits, and temporarily, red meat, dairy and caffeine.

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Meals are packed with lean white meat, fish and plant-based proteins, fibrous vegetables, and gluten-free grains. But since my diet was previously high in caffeine, I was feeling fatigued all through these first two weeks as my body needed to adapt to its elimination, as well as the calorie deficit. On the upside, half-way through this phase I started noticing exciting changes as my body responded to the increase in high-intensity physical activity from the 6-times-a-week F45 sessions coupled with the challenge meal plans.

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The supportive F45 team has also assembled a pool of nutrition experts to develop the meal plans and recipes provided in this ecosystem to help lazy fucks like me achieve their goals. Which is what I’m currently on: 5 meals a day, 3 mains and 2 snacks.

The goal is to lose 15 kilos of fat and gain 4 kilos of muscles. A lengthy journey, but hell to the yes doable.

This was episode 1 of 4, see you next week for episode 2.

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Does the world need another book about Italian food?

These emails between Anthony Bourdain and Matt Goulding show how Tony felt about telling the story of Italy, its food and the people who make them—and how the world actually needed that “extra” book about Italian food.

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Dear Tony,

I’m in a tough spot. Of all the people I know, I’m guessing you’re the one who will best appreciate my predicament. I write to you from Savigno, just outside Bologna, a town surrounded by sweet pignoletto vines and truffle-studded forests. Today is Easter, a day of liberation for the Italians, and splayed before me are the bones of half a dozen courses: ragù streaks, gnawed lamb ribs, pistachio dust. My blood runs with a mix of rendered pork fat and bitter spirits, six months in the underbelly of Italy’s food world hitting me down to the marrow. But it’s not my lipid profile I worry about; it’s the table full of grandmas and couples and new friends around me. Let me explain.

When I first left New York in 2010 in search of a new start, I set my coordinates for Emilia Romagna. There I would find a hilltop town, not unlike Savigno, powered by egg-rich pastas and slow-simmered sauces and single women with a penchant for lost Americans. Only a stopover in Barcelona and a fateful cerveza with a young Catalan I now call my wife kept me from my al dente destiny.

Granted, my vision was far from original. Most of the world dreams of Italy—of the pinup landscape porn, the cumulus clouds of cappuccino foam, the meals that stretch on like radioactive sunsets. It was those same dreams that drove me back here, that have me itching to capture this magic on the page. But lately, I’ve been having nightmares about Italy. Nightmares about what the Italians will think about another foreigner’s take on their traditions.

Nightmares about getting it wrong—about mistaking parmesan for pecorino, pancetta for guanciale, spaghettini for spaghettoni. I don’t mean nightmares in the figurative sense; I mean nightmares in the cold-sweat-and-sleepless-nights sense.

Nobody takes food more seriously than the Italians. I’ve seen family feuds break out over pasta shapes and grape varietals. No doubt you’ve been caught in the crossfire before. But these aren’t the petty beefs of food snobs—these cut to the core of what it means to be Italian. More than anywhere else in the world, food carries the full weight of Italy’s heritage: the pains and joys of its history, the depth of its ingenuity. Politicians are corrupt, democracy is fragile, borders are porous, but la cucina italiana is eternal.

At the end of the day, these are the people I want to surround myself with—the type that won’t hesitate to spit in my vino if I ask for parmesan with my spaghetti alle vongole. But they are also the ones I fear I will inevitably disappoint.

Does the world need another book about Italian food?

Am I walking into a trap?

Yours,
Matt

***

Dear Matt,

The path you have chosen is indeed fraught with peril. The overwhelming instinct of ItaloPhiles like you and I is to romanticize, over sentimentalize and generally follow the well-worn tradition of soft-edged food porn when writing about Italy.

What is charming to us is often a frustration and even an affliction to Italians. The same political and cultural paralysis that keeps this beautiful collection of city states “real” also traps its citizens in a reality that often approaches the tragically surreal.

But one can be forgiven, I hope, for finding great joy, even epiphany in a bowl of pasta vongole (though not with cheese), a bottle of rustic wine, the simple things that seem the birthright of the average Italian.

Careening through Rome, late at night in a taxi, half-swacked on negronis, listening to Mina, remains magic. To lay eyes on a bowl of cacio e pepe, a plate of trippa, agnolotti, urchins in season, porchetta… that’s some powerful shit.

The mysteries of Italian parking, slang, law enforcement, hand gestures, dress, family relationships, superstitions, dialectal differences, slang, physical contact are unknowable yet enticing in that unknowability.

I’m still trying to figure it all out. It sounds like you are, too.

Tony

***

Ciao Tony,

I will leave the mysteries of law enforcement and hand gestures to the locals, though I’ve been on the receiving end of both throughout my time here. But I have been trying to solve a few mysteries of the kitchen, namely what makes Italian food so damn delicious.

A wise man in Kyoto once told me: Western cuisine is about addition; Japanese cuisine is about subtraction. But I think he overlooked a kinship between Japanese and Italian cooking—both built around exquisite product, both guided by a type of magical math best described as addition by subtraction: 3- 1 = 4.

And like Japanese cuisine, Italian food is driven by a set of rules and beliefs established over hundreds if not thousands of years, and embraced by a citizenry that largely rejects the notion of people fucking with their food. But Italian cuisine is not a statue in a museum; it’s not some intractable monument to the past. It lives and breathes and bleeds like any good culture does.

I thought I could come here, eat a ton of tagliatelle, soak my bones in vino, and pay gentle tribute to the traditions of this wondrous place. I thought I would write a book about nonna, but everywhere I turn, I find granddaughters and grandsons writing the next chapter in their family history: three young brothers in Puglia expanding the essence of mozzarella and burrata in a deeply conservative culinary corner of Italy; a father-daughter team in the Piedmont who cast off the yoke of Barolo’s staid history to produce some of the most poetic and controversial wines in the world; a class of next-generation pizzaioli in Naples wood-firing a path to a new understanding of the planet’s most popular food.

In the end, it’s not a book about grandmas and their sacred family recipes (though they have a few delicious cameos); it’s a book about a wave of cooks, farmers, bakers, shepherds, young and old, trying to negotiate the weight of the past with the possibilities of the future.

I know how you feel about Italian cuisine. I know you don’t want some young hotshot turning pasta carbonara into performance art. You don’t want your cappuccino with condescension.

I’m with you. But after a few hundred meals here, I’m starting to see just how important this chapter is in the story of Italian cuisine, and I think it might make a worthy addition to this little series we have working.

What do you think?

Saluti,
Matt

***

Matt,

My response to you–and this sort of improvisation, innovation, expansion on traditional Italian regional specialties is entirely emotional—is a blind, unthinking, instinctive hostility. I hate it. I hate the thought. I am a curmudgeon when it comes to all things Italian.

I do not doubt—in fact I know and have experienced—delicious new takes on pizza, even that beloved carbonara. It is possible. It is, I guess, only right, that new generations of Italian chefs are flexing their creative minds and their skills in the interest of moving things forward.

But I hate the idea in a way that only a non-Italian, newly besotted with an overly romantic view of that country can be. Italians complain that their country doesn’t work, that it is stuck, mired in the corruption and incompetence and antiquated attitudes of another time—that nothing ever changes. Which is exactly what I love in so many ways about the country. That state of paralysis. If it worked, it would change. And I don’t want it to change.

I go to a place in Rome every time I’m there. And there’s another place in Turin. The waiters are the same as they were twenty years ago. The owner who buzzes you in the locked door is the same. The menu is tiny (when there is one) and that never changes either. Simple. Unpretentious. Handmade pastas, a few simple sauces. Polpette. Constant. A true friend.

To me, after 30 years of cooking, of garnishing, of torturing and manipulating food into being pretty enough or “interesting” enough to sell to an ever fickle dining public, another two decades of experiencing every type of culinary genius or frippery, there is deep, deep satisfaction and joy in food made with enough confidence and love to take three or four good ingredients, cook them right, and dump them unceremoniously on a plate. Better yet if the cook feels good enough about the food to serve it with a rough, not particularly good local wine.

That makes me happy.

You are right, there is something almost Japanese about Italian food at its best. But Italian food is much, much more emotional. One should experience it like a child, never like a critic, never analytically.

I am hopelessly compromised on this issue.

It is personal for me.

I cannot be trusted.

But I am right.

Still, if you ignore my advice and write this book anyway, I’ll read it. If it’s good, I might even publish it.

Good luck,
Tony

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Can Lebanon outlive our immigration?

I can’t adequately articulate the impact of the past three years and the effect they have had in my life. Aside from the fulfilling experience of living in a country as beautiful as its culture, I have to say that the most beautiful bit has been the people I’ve met.

Today, I’ve decided to move back to Lebanon.

One Way Ticket

The rusty, old-fashioned, fuck-all-people-mentality Lebanon. A country so “open-minded” and “liberal” yet at the same time so outdated and with nothing to give back.

You put your heart and hard-earned cash into a nation ruled by hungry thieves who could collectively feed Africa if they want to.

But let me tell you something you haven’t heard before, away from all the #LiveLove fantasies: Lebanon’s potential isn’t born in the womb of our parliament and an economic miracle won’t come from a beautifully directed ad campaign. It all comes from the firm believers, young entrepreneurs, concept creators, movers and shakers, and trilingual well-traveled youth like you and I.

They say Lebanon has potential. “If they legalize smokeables,” “if they give us metros and trains,” and so on and so forth … but to what end?

The 20-somethings are the ones who hold the weight of a paralyzed country on their backs. Just like the global youth are revolutionizing the world when it comes to the environment, gun violence, and corrupt governments, Lebanese youth with the same power and drive can make something out of their country with the help of nothing but their imagination.

So can Lebanon outlive our immigration?

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Gordon Ramsay’s Twitter Version of Hell’s Kitchen: Roasting Edition

Gordon Ramsay: famous for his Hell’s Kitchen TV show and fiery comebacks that could roast you well-done. This chef is as brilliant at cooking as he is at trolling.

People of the internet have taken a liking to Ramsay ever since he graced us with his existence, and are constantly interested in his opinion towards the meals they prepare.

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He’s been focused on his TV shows as of late, which means he’s taken a break from roasting anyone’s failed attempt at cooking; However, he infamously burnt anyone and everyone who would tag him in hideous photos of meals in the past.

And here is a list of some of the burns from which you could draw inspiration.

Well, he’s blunt about his opinion, that’s for sure!

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Could you blame him for this comment? Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.46.15 AM.png

We hope they got to the hospital on timeScreen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.46.49 AM.png

RUN! Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.47.17 AM.png

Not sure the cat would even get close to this plate Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.47.52 AM.png

Is that a lasagna you would eat? Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.48.19 AM.png

Right to the point “WTF is that?” Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.48.46 AM.png

Yum, looks like cholesterol Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.49.17 AM.png

Future husband? Get him a cooking book maybe Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.50.18 AM.png

Looking for ice to apply to this sick burn Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.50.46 AM.png

A one-word burn Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.51.45 AM.png

Poor mate Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.52.39 AM.png

“Second hand profiteroles” Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 11.53.07 AM.png

Maybe love is stronger than the stomach Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 1.14.13 PM.png

Stop torturing your pets! Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 1.14.52 PM.png

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ZOMATO SCANDAL: A Lesson to Brands on How to Handle Crisis Management & Brand Sustainability

A couple days ago the world of Zomato (the food Empire) was shook by a video of a delivery executive in a Zomato t-shirt, carrying a Zomato delivery bag, eating food out of boxed orders and replacing each one after resealing them, back into the delivery bag. The video suggests that he consumed some of the food meant for delivery to users, on his way to the drop points.

The internet bombarded Zomato with furious comments after the video went viral in a few hours. An internet user wrote along with the video: ‘It’s really shocking how these reputed food delivery companies are functioning. People order food online expecting basic hygiene and this is how it is delivered? I am definitely not gonna encourage my kids to order food online, I suggest even you guys don’t!’

The uproar on social media led Zomato to release a statement, acknowledging the incident and calling it “a human error in judgment”.

Below is how the professionals at one of the world’s fastest-growing Delivery & Restaurant review app have responded:

“We want our users, restaurant partners and all stakeholders to know that –

1. We take these kinds of reports extremely seriously and upon thorough investigation, we’ve found that the video was shot in Madurai. The person in the video happened to be a delivery partner on our fleet. We have spoken to him at length – and while we understand that this was a human error in judgement, we have taken him off our platform.

2. We would like to iterate that given our multiple communication channels with users, who expect the highest standards from Zomato and highlight the smallest of deviations to us as soon as they receive their orders, this is highly unusual and a rare case.

3. Unfortunately, this also highlights a real possibility for tampering with the food on the way to delivery from a restaurant. We take this very seriously and will soon introduce tamper-proof tapes, and other precautionary measures to ensure we add an extra layer of safeguard against such behaviour. Additionally, we will educate our delivery fleet of over 1.5 lakh partners to highlight or escalate any such deviations to us, while also encouraging our users — the custodians of our platform — to highlight the smallest of anomalies to us.

4. And finally, our delivery partners are the face of our brand, and the heart of our success in growing to become the largest food delivery platform in the country. Our food delivery business has grown immensely over the last year on the back of our large delivery partner fleet that work very hard to ensure that Zomato translates to a high quality food experience. We thank them and the strong support and trust from our restaurant partners, consumers and investors.

Zomato maintains a zero tolerance policy for tampering of food. This particular incident, while unfortunate, only makes our commitment to fleet training, scheduling and process even stronger. We stand behind our extensive fleet who do the right thing across many hours of the day.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Chef Vladimir Mukhin (#15 in the World’s 50 Best)

What Mukhin calls a “concrete jungle” is now home to his newest creation and passion, Crab Market. Dubai has always been his dream city, and how better to treat your loved one that to give it everything you’ve got?

Dubbed “the vanguard of young Russian culinary talents”, Mukhin owns one of the best restaurants in the world, White Rabbit (#15 in the World’s 50 Best), and was most recently the subject of a one-hour episode of the 2017 series of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

We had an exclusive sit down with the award-winning star.

Chef Vladimir Mukhin (White Rabbit & Crab Market)
Chef Vladimir Mukhin (White Rabbit & Crab Market)

A big fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, the Russian chef sure knows how to spoil his own taste buds as he finds comfort – and at times, inspiration – in shawarma, hummus, baba gannoush, and all sorts of mezze. “It’s holy,” he says. He speaks of traditional Levantine food as if they’re his own, firmly believing they should remain untouched, un-modernized.

He isn’t one to go all fancy, mixing foreign ingredients like truffle and Asian components just to look extravagant, as he says many other Middle Eastern restaurants are venturing into, to eventually fail.

© Crab Market DXB - 2018
© Crab Market – 2018
© Crab Market DXB - 2018
© Crab Market – 2018

He likes his ingredients local and fresh, and most importantly, homogeneously married together. After purchasing and running seven farms back in Russia, his home country, Mukhin advises all Dubai restaurateurs to “grow their own produce.”

And to keep it all fresh, he’s aiming at dubbing Crab Market a “seasonal” restaurant, with Russian Kamchatka Crab and sea urchins, amongst many others.

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© Crab Market – 2018

Not a first-time visitor to Dubai, Mukhin is proving his expertise in the local markets is quite brilliant. “You have to go at 5 A.M. [to local markets] before all the good things are sold,” he says as he explains how he got fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables just a couple of hours ago.

“I really like mezze as a style of dining,” he adds, while mentioning how hummus is “the closest food inspiration to Crab Market’s dishes.”

5
© Crab Market – 2018

With a menu based on goods from the deep blue, you are sure to experience all sort of seafood dishes “just like you’re eating Middle Eastern mezze.” It’s that simple.

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