News dalla rete ITA

20 Marzo 2023

Libano - Indonesia


In the heart of Bali, Indonesia’s magnificent tourist island, visitors are greeted with a taste of Beirut, mingled with flowers, a salty zest of blue sea and local spices.  “Zali” blends the island’s name with that of Liza Maalouf, who’s at the heart of the project. This Lebanese restaurant with an Indonesian twist is a declaration of love to both food cultures. The combination might seem unlikely but with Maalouf in the kitchen, her young partners at the helm and a lot of affection for a mother, the project came together successfully.  Five people have thrown their optimism and energy behind Zali and Liza Maalouf. They include her daughter and son, Joëlle and Ibrahim, his wife Dalal and their friends and business partners, Joseph Ghantous and Chakib Abillamah.  “The idea came naturally,” says Ibrahim Maalouf, a mechanical engineer by trade. “We all grew up with and around my mother's kitchen.”  Mama Liza, as she’s called, has long loved testing recipes and photographing dishes. Her Instagram account is a testament to her culinary and artistic expertise.  “I would try everything and make people taste it,” she says, “especially the sweet stuff.”  Her working methods have not changed over the years. “I develop my own recipes,” she says. “I invent. I test and watch all the cooking shows, it's an obsession with me!”  Years later, Liza continues to share her passion for food at home.  “The concept of Zali was born from our love for the food and the table that brings together slices of life, anecdotes and spreads happiness,” says Ibrahim Maalouf, whom L’Orient-Le Jour met during his visit to Lebanon.  COVID-19 and some circumstances slowed down the project, but Zali eventually saw the light of day.  On this “island of the gods” at the other end of the world, far from Lebanon’s descent into hell, Zali has exported the best of this broken country — its flavors and a taste for success.  A month before Lebanon’s October 2019 thawra, Joseph Ghantous, Zali’s founder and managing partner, decided to return to Lebanon from the United States.  “But the country was affected by the crisis, protests, inflation, political problems,” he said. “I decided to take a vacation while trying to find opportunities. Costa Rica was my first choice, but due to visa issues, I had to fall back on Bali.”  By March, 2020, COViD was a fact of life in China and rumors of border closures were starting to spread.  With a sense of foreboding, Ghantous changed the date of his reservation from March 20 to March 9.  “I didn't have time to say goodbye to my family or friends, I just packed the essentials and left. I arrived there in vacation mode.”  Eleven days later, Indonesia closed its borders. Taking advantage of his involuntary isolation, Ghantous explored the possibilities. Real estate did not convince him.  “The only thing I could see was that there were no Lebanese restaurants in Bali, which seemed strange to me because of the number of expatriates and tourists on the island.”  He called his childhood friend Ibrahim, “Bibo,” with whom he’d gone to school and shared Sundays meals at Liza’s table. They studied the local market, people’s tastes, sought a location and developed a menu.  Then “one morning I wake up with more than 3,000 WhatsApp messages,” Ghantous recalls. It was August 4, 2020. Nothing was normal after the Beirut port blast ... The project was put on hold for a time but “we decided to continue. Fear was not going to stop us from moving forward. Our project would be built on resilience and solidarity. On August 21, 2020, we signed the lease. The adventure and the fun really started.”  When Maalouf returns to Lebanon, his luggage is filled with Indonesian ingredients. Liza's recipes are tested in Lebanon with Indonesian sauce, making sure it complements the flavor.  The team learns the secrets of saj in a Bekaa village, works on the brand, the logo, trains the team on the spot, takes care of all the details of the shape and taste.  “On June 23, 2021, we were ready.” The only problem was that a new lockdown was imposed in Bali on July 1, just a week after the first launch. Zali worked on a delivery basis during July before officially (re)opening in August.   (ICE BEIRUT)

Fonte notizia: L'Orient Today