Tara Khattar may not look like your average chef, but at 25, this Lebanese national has made a name for herself in New York City’s male-dominated kitchens. LT sat down with her to learn more about her picks for restaurants and places to visit around the country.
What are your favorite places to grab a bite to eat in Beirut?
I like Kalei for coffee, Bar Tartine for a quick lunch– I love their quinoa kale salad– and Urbanista to meet up with a friend for tea or breakfast. I love the fusion on sushi and how they mix cuisines and flavors at Kampai and, for an interesting play on traditional Lebanese cuisine, Em Sherif Cafe .
Do you cook Lebanese food? Any favorite dishes?
Yes, I taught myself to cook Lebanese food with the help of both of my grandmothers. I love making everything. My friends’ favorite here in New York is Shish Barak! I make the dumplings from scratch and they just love it. I remember watching countless YouTube videos and reading so many recipes in old Arabic cookbooks to get the recipe just right.
What’s the first thing a tourist should do in Lebanon?
Get out of the hotel and embrace the city, walk in the streets, go for drinks, listen to the music and feel the energy of the people around you. It’s like no other place. Pay attention to the way it makes you feel!
Beach or mountains?
Definitely beach, although I love skiing. I’m more of a “water” person- it’s where I feel most at peace. It’s the place where I get to think and deal with my emotions and whatever overwhelming thing is happening in my life.
What do you miss most about home?
The people– I miss the personalized relationships we build with the people we encounter.
What three words would you use to describe Lebanon?
Spontaneous. Cultural. Exciting.
For more information, visit tarakhattar.com.