“I cook from the soul to the bowl” - Mustapha Haj Omar
Mustapha Haj Omar is one of the most sought after chefs in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. And we’re excited to report that he’s also the newest team member at the Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort in Thailand.
Mustapha brings expertise and passion from his family, a long line of restaurateurs in Al Mina in Lebanon. At Outrigger, Mustapha is in charge at Metzo’s, a restaurant that features innovative dishes influenced by the culinary heritage of Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, North Africa, Spain and Italy.
At Metzo’s Mustapha is now implementing his range of signature dishes such as Hummus (puree of chickpeas, sesame paste, tahini, lemon juice and garlic), Moutabal (puree of grilled eggplants), Tabouleh (Lebanese salad of parsley, bourghul, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, olive oil and spices), Falafel with Tahini sauce, Jawaniha Dajaj (Mustapha’s chicken wings), Shish Kebab, Shish Taouk (Turkish-style chicken breast marinated in garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and spices grilled on skewers and served with garlic sauce and rice), and Samakeh Harra (grilled fish marinated in chilli, citrus and cilantro). Mustapha is passionate about food, describing both cooking and life as journeys of discovery. Continue reading to get the full scoop on his plans at Metzo in our latest Chef Series post.
How long have you been working at Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach Resort?
Since January 1st, 2015
When did you know you wanted to be a chef? Where did you get your culinary training/skills?
I grew up in family owned restaurants. It started when I was a teenager around 14- 15 years old. I developed my skills in cooking watching many of the chefs who worked in the kitchens at restaurants that were owned by my family.
How has your talent evolved over the years, and what (or who) have been your greatest inspirations?
Cooking makes me feel like I’m painting or writing a song. My grandmother was the person who inspired me. Helping her with cooking in the kitchen led me more and more into it. I decided to learn more about food and cooking, for example how to implement a nice dish in a fine-dining restaurant.
What’s your favorite dish or type of cuisine to eat?
I love all types of cuisine, as I always like to discover new dishes.
What are your favorite ingredients to work with when cooking?
I like to use the freshest produce. Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine leans on fresh vegetables and meats, which inspires me to try making many wonderful and delicious dishes.
Can you tell us a little bit about the restaurants on property and what makes them unique?
There are three restaurants at the resort. Locavore is our signature restaurant. Metzo’s serves Mediterranean food. Recently we implemented a new menu which has many different dishes from Mediterranean countries. Last but not least, Edgewater serves comfort classics throughout the day with a wonderful beach view.
We understand you’re used to cooking for guests with high expectations, including celebrities and even royalty. Tell us more!
Celebrities and royalty can, in general, afford to travel around the world and are usually highly experienced when it comes to food so it’s challenging to make them happy with the dishes, presentation and of course the taste -- so you need a lot of passion.
Do you have a signature dish or “must try” item for those visiting Metzo’s?
Samakeh Harra is my signature dish and people must try it at my restaurant Metzo’s. Samakeh Harra — it's a Mediterranean dish and a good combination between local fish and sauce which is made from fresh ingredients such as vegetables, onion, garlic, pepper, coriander, parsley leaves cooked and sautéed in olive oil along with spices to create a wonderful aroma and flavour. The fish is gently cooked on the grill and served with sauce and potato wedges.
In your opinion, what makes Phuket, and this resort specifically, such a unique getaway?
Definitely the food, the absolute beachfront location which provides easy access to beach activities for families and couples alike, with charmed sunsets and white sands on Bangtao beach. It is also convenient for the guest to do shopping in Phuket town and enjoy seeing around the tropical island of Phuket.
Any other “insider information” you could share with our readers?
Be passionate and don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours. Recipe books are a great guide for many dishes but they are only a guide; of course they are important for highly technical dishes -- or baking!! Try new things and experience a variety. To be a great Chef you really need to expose your taste buds to a variety of different textures, tastes and flavours!
And finally, what do you do for fun when you’re not cooking?
I go swimming and if possible I play football and tennis.