Published in NowLebanon News: July 2012
Sabina Llewellyn-Davies (Read more) “I can’t eat anything cooked with onions or garlic. I used to feel physically sick whenever I ate them, it seems that I am allergic to them,” says Lebanese food blogger Anthony Rahayel, referring to his revulsion of the two most popular ingredients of Mediterranean cuisine: garlic and onions. Rahayel is a dentist and photographer by profession and in his spare time he travels around the world, sampling different ethnic food along the way.
He became a regular contributor to the Trip Advisor website, giving his feedback on hotel stays and restaurants meals. This year, he decided to publish a blog for his reviews named after his pet hates. “The name of my blog does not have a lot to do with the content. But, I am trying to prove that food can be good without these ingredients.” The blog features around 260 reviews of restaurants and hotels, in Lebanon and abroad. All the meals he tastes have been prepared without garlic and onions. “Since I started the blog four months ago it has been highly ranked with thousands of visitors.” Rahayel believes that it is popular due to his blunt, honest reviews. “I review a place from my personal experience and I am not afraid of being negative.”... But, just how educated is his food critic? “I have met lots of top chefs and have eaten at many restaurants all over the world, from London to Vienna, so I feel that I am qualified to give judgment. I also love to cook myself and understand the ingredients being used.”
His favorite city to visit is Barcelona, but not for the food offering. “Tapas have too much garlic and onions. But, I love Istanbul. I love the food there.” He is currently creating a top ten list of restaurants in Lebanon by category. “Most of the top restaurant ratings online are sponsored. I want to compile a list that is completely unbiased.” Apart from reviews, Rahayel’s blog also features a vast archive of food photos; some are mouthwatering to say the least, like the depiction of an oozing, just out of the oven, chocolate fondant. Apart from practicing dentistry, he has also been taking photographs professionally for restaurant menus and openings for years now. His favorite meals ever were at Joel Robuchon in Paris and at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia in Milan. “One of the brands I really like is the Armani café. I have tried about five up till now and I love the concept.” In Lebanon, his favorite spots include Chez Sophie and Table Fine for French cuisine, Don Giovanni for Italian, Sushi Bar for Japanese and Al-Halabi for Lebanese food. “I love the diversity of the food in Lebanon, but I really would love the service to be more professional.” Not one to mince his words, Rahayel seeks vengeance for bad service on his blog. “Actually, the worst bad service incident I ever came across happened last month.
I was taking photos of the menu and my food with my phone at this place called Cocteau. One of the waiters told me to put my phone away in such an aggressive manner. Then he actually stood next to me for the rest of the evening watching my every move. It was a joke. I decided to stay calm and not lose my temper but when I got home I immediately blogged about my experience. “No Garlic, No Onions” also lists Rahayel’s bad service experiences on the Middle East Airlines (MEA) which has drawn huge public feedback. “All of a sudden everyone was venting their frustration. MEA is considered to be a national institution, so to publically to criticize it is somewhat taboo.” He also blogs about stylish food-related gadgets ranging from kitchen scales to Hot Pot BBQ. “I love technology so I love kitchen gadgets. I am on the lookout for a digital cutting board that gives you the weight of the food on one side and you can chop on the other side.” Rahayel is now the proud father of a baby boy. So, with fatherhood will he eat out less? “Not really. I still eat out at least three times a week.” Considering he is such a passionate foodie would he ever consider opening a restaurant himself one day? “I don't think so. I prefer to be a critic rather than an owner. The industry is already overcrowded with so many amateurs opening restaurants.” He loves to spend time in his own kitchen and, despite all the dining out, still prefers his wife’s cooking. “I just love her food and love to cook with her.”
It’s clear that Rahayel is passionate about for food, and his future plans include featuring some of his own recipes. “Just give me some time,” he says. “They are coming soon.” (Read more)