August 30, 2012

Bazaar Magazine Kuwait: Interview with Anthony Rahayel: Lebanon’s international food blogger

Bazaar Magazine Kuwait, 30 August 2012

If you’ve passed through Beirut in the recent year, then you might have come across Anthony Rahayel’s infamous food blog: No Garlic, No Onions. It highlights the many restaurants located throughout Lebanon’s capital, as well as other international cities such as Paris and Barcelona. The foodie critiques not only the actual meal, but the service as well and offers professional photographs that allow you to fully enjoy his culinary experiences.

So if you’re planning your next Beirut trip, or you’ve got a hot date this weekend in K-town, it may be worth your while to check out Rahayel’s blog for his latest updates. You never know, as he couldbe passing by your favorite joint this very instant! 

Not only so, Anthony recently added a new section called Friends&Co, where his friends can actually write their restaurant reviews, from wherever they are, giving his readers a wider choice of food reviews from different restaurants and countries.

Your blog has been blowing up recently, with hundreds of people viewing it for advice on restaurants. Did you know it was going to be such a hit when you started?

Honestly, no. I started the site to create a medium where I could come, write and express myself and share my experiences. Nogarlicnoonions.com became a gateway to say out loud what I think, how I feel and what I taste every time I go out for a meal.

Who do you represent? Who are your readers?

I think I represent an average person who likes to go out, eat good food and get his money’s worth. I am no food critic per se, and I don’t claim to be one, but I know what I like, I know what’s good and bad, and what’s tasty and what’s not and so on… and people who agree with me share my thoughts. There’s so much I always want to say, sometimes good and sometimes bad. This is my space to vent and express my thoughts as an average man who enjoys going out, trying new places and expecting the minimum courtesy of good food, good service and so on. I do know a thing or two about good food.

Do you feel the pressure to say something positive if the owner of the restaurant is a friend?

No, not at all. But after my blog picked up, many have asked me to be positive about what I have experienced at their eatery. The minute I start writing, I say what I feel. I can’t say something is good when it’s not and I have to say when a meal really delivers a true culinary experience – from the food, setting, service, music, etc. No one pays me to say anything. This is why I say what I truly think and I have honestly been surprised with the outcome. Some appreciate the openness and honestly while others don’t at all and send me hate mail. But that’s ok. At least I know they are reading and hope that they improve their food and service.

Are you happy with the outcome so far?

Definitely, because now I feel I represent many and not just myself. I never expected the blog to pick up so quickly. But it did and I am happy that I am getting interesting feedback from esteemed hotel and restaurant owners who tell me that my points have been taken into consideration and that they will work on the things I have talked about. The best part is when professionals in the game send me thank you messages. The general manager of Rixos Hotel in Turkey emailed me and thanked me for my review and apologized for the problems I encountered during my stay. It meant a lot.

What impassions you so much about eating out at a restaurant?

I love it. I go out at least five times a week with friends and family. I often go back to my favorite places and try to express again and again why I love that place. They deserve it. And when I try new places, whether in Lebanon or abroad - the feeling that I am going to try a new place, new service and new tastes, is really amazing.

What’s your biggest pet peeve that happens often at restaurants?

When waiters stare at me when I take photos of the dishes or take notes while I am eating. They make me feel like I am stealing something. It’s not easy walking into a restaurant and trying to take images and notes about everything I taste. I have to since I owe this to my readers, but I have had a few bad experiences where the waiter rudely asked me to stop photographing.

Are you willing to try any sort of restaurant or is there a specific type you’re only aiming at reviewing?

No, I am open. I always want to try new concept and see how it works, if it’s good, if the service is good, etc. But of course, I won’t try anything with garlic or onions.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in the world and why?

I like a lot of places. Since I like various cuisines, I have a favorite in each category and I have created a Top 10 list, which changes often, depending on what’s new and what’s good. Categories include Burgers, Sushi, Italian, French and more. But if you’re really interested, you’ll have to visit the site to find out!

Will we be seeing you in Kuwait?

I hope so. I am planning a visit soon. I heard there are a few places that I should try, and if your readers can recommend where I can have the best burger in Kuwait, or try a good fine dining experience, please let them share!

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