How would you describe the food offering at Beirut?
Jacopo: Beirut takes inspiration from Lebanese and Middle Eastern ingredients and incorporates them into modern
dishes and cooking techniques. It is not a traditional Lebanese restaurant, but respects and appreciates the
traditions of the region while providing a modern twist.
What are your three favourite ingredients to work with and why?
Jacopo: It's quite hard to choose only 3 ingredients between everything the market offers nowadays. It varies from
season to season. I am particularly lucky living in New Zealand, as I have a selection of natural produce
of extraordinary quality, readily available to me. This is much more the case now than in the past. I look forward
to summer because it's full of fresh, colourful ingredients. I love using soft herbs - chervil, tarragon, coriander, mint,
basil etc… I think they bring so much flavour & freshness to a dish. Stone fruits are especially great for dessert.
But as an Italian, my most favourite is definitely Parmesan, probably one of the most umami ingredients
in western cuisine. It's more versatile than most people think.
In what way does your personal style influence both your sartorial choices and the way you cook?
Jacopo: My cooking reflects my personal philosophy of combining simplicity with elegance. Sourcing high quality ingredients is an integral part of my job and I have the same expectations of my clothing and personal style.
What is the concept behind Beirut, and what makes it different from any other offering in New Zealand?
Dan: Beirut was born from a desire to open an exceptional, service-driven restaurant with a world class food
and beverage offering. Middle Eastern cuisine is sorely underrepresented in Auckland, we have the outstanding
home-style Israeli food at Ima, just down the road from Beirut, but other than that, there isn't much available.
For our part, we have taken inspiration from the myriad different cultures that make up the Middle East,
and we have used these cues to inform everything from our service style to the decor to the food and beverage offering. We take an immense amount of pride in our attention to detail and I hope that helps to set us apart as
a dining experience.
How do you approach your daily style?
Dan: I am lucky enough to work for a company where shorts and jandals are acceptable office attire and over summer, when I don't have engagements outside the office, I have certainly taken advantage of that - rude not to.
When I have meetings or need to represent the company, I like to look like I care. For me, this means a great suit
and a full suite of accessories; tie, pocket square, lapel pin, etc. I find the couple of three-piece suits in my
wardrobe to be especially useful for their versatility. If I need to jump behind the bar, I can ditch the jacket
but retain some formal style with the waistcoat.
What makes a restaurant successful?
Dan: I think a lot of the general public (and restaurant reviewers) assume that all it takes to run a successful restaurant is having a great food and drink offering. While what you are serving to your guests is obviously extremely important, there is a lot more going on to ensure that we can keep the doors open.
Our management staff spend a lot of energy on making sure our costs are well managed, it doesn't matter if your seats are always full if you are spending more than you're making. That being said, I would say that the biggest contributor to our success has been assembling, training and maintaining an absolutely outstanding
team of hospitality professionals to cook the food, make the drinks and serve our guests.
What are the future trends you see coming for the industry?
Dan: It's hard to say but I am very happy to see that Aucklanders are becoming more and more open to new
and interesting flavours, that makes it a lot easier for us to keep it fresh and keep driving the hospitality industry
toward the standards enjoyed by other international cities. As for specific trends, I think simple aperitif style
drinks like the Aperol Spritz will gain traction along with healthy options like kombucha.
Vegetables and vegetarian dishes will become far more common and 2016 might just see the rise
of the gourmet food court.
Can you describe the dish that you prepared for us?
Jacopo: This is a favourite dessert of mine; a brown butter cake with burnt white chocolate and white peach sorbet, accompanied by fresh nectarine, honey and lavender mead, and milk cloud. It uses simple ingredients
but showcases them in an unexpected way.
It maintains a good balance while having a few surprising flavour combinations.