Chef Talk: Executive Chef Ahmad Awad Al Fakir of Siraj Restaurant

Leading the innovative culinary team at Siraj Restaurant is 33-year old Executive Chef Ahmad Awad Al Fakir. An ardent football fan and a keen lover of adventure and racing, award-winning Chef Ahmad comfortably strikes a balance between his personal and professional life.

Hailing from Syria, Ahmad moved to the UAE in the year 2000 to launch his career in the hospitality industry. He graduated from Hotel Management School in Damascus where he honed his love for cooking, and moved to the bustling city of Dubai thereafter to further enhance his knowledge in the culinary field.

Executive Chef oversees the delectable menu at Siraj in Dubai.
Executive Chef Ahmad Awad Al Fakir oversees the delectable menu at Siraj in Dubai.

After gaining a few years of experience in Dubai, Ahmad decided to create his own concept and provide guests with an extraordinary experience that they could carry with them. In the year 2014 he opened his first restaurant Kahraman at the Southern Sun Hotel in Abu Dhabi. With a fusion of traditional Middle Eastern flavors and simple Asian elegance, Kahraman has won a number of prestigious awards for its exceptional Sushi bar and contemporary take on Arabic cuisine.

Bringing with him over 15 years of experience, Ahmad has managed the kitchen at some of the most-recognized restaurants and hotels in both Syria and the UAE. He is committed to delivering great food and service to all of his guests and continues to create unique blends that celebrate authentic regional cuisine, while ensuring exceptional culinary experiences for all of his guests.

Haute Living caught up with Executive Chef Ahmad Awad Al Fakir, the mastermind chef for Siraj Restaurant.

Chef Al Fakir
Siraj Restaurant’s Executive Chef Ahmad Awad Al Fakir.

Tell us about your personal experience of being an Executive Chef here in the Middle East.
It’s been an absolutely amazing experience. The Middle East is home to a very diverse multicultural society – I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people from different backgrounds, and understand the likes and tastes of different people. A huge bonus is working with wonderful fresh local produce. The best seafood, meat and organic vegetables are right here in the UAE. No unnecessary carbon footprints, its all here, right at our doorstep.

Why did you decide to work here in the Middle East?
Dubai’s vibrant culinary scene is well-known world over, and this bustling city never fails to surprise me! When I graduated from Hotel management school, I wanted to move to a city where I could learn, grow, explore and experiment – and my move here has got to be the best decision that I’ve made. The opportunities that this country has given me are enormous, it motivates me to constantly challenge myself and outdo my own capabilities.

For those not familiar with Siraj, what region is your culinary style modeled after?
Siraj is an Emirati-Levantine restaurant offering a unique blend of regional flavors with a distinct contemporary twist, using homemade, organically produced ingredients.

What has been your impression of the local food scene over the years here in the Middle East?
Dubai has changed and grown so much over the past 16 years that I’ve spent here. I see multiple new innovative concepts and restaurants coming up every other day in every part of the city. It has turned into a global culinary destination where you can find any cuisine that you’re looking for, and discover ones that you didn’t know about.

When you manage to find a little time to step away from Siraj, what are some of your favorite spots to dine or socialize?
In a city full of air-conditioned buildings, it’s lovely to step out in the open and appreciate the beauty of the city. The Walk JBR is a great dining and socializing promenade with so many options to choose from.

What is your favorite restaurant, besides the one you work at?
Aroos Damascus – the traditional Syrian restaurant serves authentic flavors that instantly takes me back to my mum’s kitchen.

If you had not pursued a Chef career or the life of a rogue restaurateur, what do you think you would have been?
Perhaps a rally racer! But I’m glad I took this path – there’s nothing I love more than cooking.

What three ingredients you MUST have in your kitchen?
Fresh Za’atar, Labneh, and a whole lot of love!

Are you launching any new projects in the near future that you’d like to share with us?
Siraj only just opened about a month ago and it has kept me on my toes! So nothing immediately but surely in the future.