First we all knew him as executive chef of Parigi. Four years ago he decided to open his own place, the self-styled Salum.
Tucked into that in-between ground--kind of Uptown, but near enough to Highland Park--it remains a destination for those who know. And he probably doesn't mind occupying such uncertain ground. Salum, after all, has worked kitchens here, in Mexico, Belgium and France.
Despite his knowledge of global cuisine, however, you won't find him hanging around the salad station...
1. Do you like open kitchens?
Yes, because for me, I can see the people coming in and out of the restaurant. And they can be more a part of the restaurant.
2. But that means you have to maintain your composure, right?
Absolutely. If I have to yell at someone, I have to ask them to the back. There's no swearing in my kitchen.
3. How much of your time is spent cooking and how much talking to guests?
It depends on the day. On weekends I have a full kitchen staff, so I can go around the dining room, talk to people, clean wine glasses, whatever needs to be done. During the week I am cooking.
4. Do you change into a clean shirt before going into the dining room?
5. Let's see, you were born in Mexico, lived in Europe, have parents who are Italian and Lebanese...did you grow up confused?
No, not really. But now that you mention it, I was confused when I heard my grandparents speaking Arabic. But you just assume having a multicultural family is normal.
6. But does it mean you prefer European or Mexican football?
Soccer is soccer, all over the world. But we grew up with American football, too. In Mexico you get the best from the U.S., Europe, Central and South America. It's more of a global culture because of our ties to Europe.
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7. Italian or Spanish ham?
I think Spanish ham is the best.
8. Does any chef like making salads?
It's not as fun as being on saute. But you can get really creative if you want. It can be challenging. But nobody really wants to work the pantry.
9. Is working dinner any different than lunch?
In my restaurant the dinner menu is more elaborate. But lunch is much faster. We can do the same number of covers in one and a half hours at lunch as four hours of dinner. People come in and out for lunch. It goes very fast.
10. Ever go to fast food places?
Rarely, because I'm allergic to certain preservatives. They've never figured out which ones, but I don't feel well after eating at most fast food restaurants. There's only one fast food burger I can eat and that's Whataburger. I love little holes in the wall--mom and pop places.