The Standard: In Arabic, zeitoun means olive. What is your nationality and how does that inspire your cuisine?
My Father was born in Egypt, my mother is American, my grandfather on my fathers side was born in Lebanon and my grandmother on my fathers side was born in Egypt to Syrian parents. My grandparents on my fathers side, passed away shortly after I was born and since my father was not a gourmet chef by any means, the influence came more from raw ingredients we had in the house. My father ate mostly whole fruits and raw vegetables and salads. But opposed to a traditional American household, we didn’t use butter or have any dairy around the house. Eggs were cooked in olive oil and were served for dinner. Breakfast consisted of hard whole grain breads and fruit with really strong Turkish coffee.
What road lead you to become the Executive Chef at The Standard, Miami?
After cooking for years and moving from bar and grill restaurants in high school, an Asian restaurant in college and contemporary fine dining in cooking school and after; I started trying to figure out the differences between eastern diets and western diets. After living in San Francisco and seeing the wonderful produce from that region it inspired me to use lots of vegetables. When I did return to south Florida I started listening to my body more and more and breaking down the ingredients in cuisines that my body liked better after I ate, as opposed to the ingredients in dishes that affected my body negatively hours after consumption.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
A couple of things are fish eyeballs, raw giant clam foot, chicken feet and calves brains.
On your days off, what is your favorite thing to do in Miami? The Standard, Miami guests want to know.
When I am off I usually ride my bike for hours and hours, I also renovate old houses, so I do a lot of light construction, painting and carpentry.
What is the most exotic fish you’ve ever put on one of your menus and how was it prepared?
It has to be a sea bug known as a slipper lobster, it is not actually a lobster, but a type of crustacean called a decapods.