A few weeks back I interviewed a family friend, Suleiman, who is a chef at the Chef’s Grill in Latham, NY. For some background, you can check out my previous article highlighting The Grill. Suleiman has been in the kitchen serving up delicious food to my family and I for a few years now. His big smile and hearty laugh makes the amazing food even better! My family (especially my dad) is very habitual, we've been going to the same diner every Sunday after church for 17 years. Even when my dad orders his usual egg white omelet with spinach, Suleiman sneaks in special ingredients like fresh blueberries or goat cheese that make “the usual” taste extraordinary.

broccoli, bread, toast, garlic
Erin Arnold

Suleiman has always had a love for food, it started at home; he was always helping his mom in the kitchen and loved to try new foods. Like many of us, Food Network cooking shows helped to inspire Suleiman to consider a culinary career. In 2006, he decided to go to culinary school and ended up interning for Disney World where he learned from some of the best chef’s in the business. Check out our interview below!

What’s your favorite part of being a chef?

“It’s hard work, it’s not an easy job; between planning a meal, planning a menu, running a crew: sous chef, line cook, server, everyone. To me, it’s the hustle… I’m in a peaceful place when I’m working on the line and creating a dish. Every dish means something. Consistency comes when you do something year after year, but if you’re only doing consistency as a chef, it may turn off the fire within you because you need to be creative, you need to be challenged... God created the apple and the oyster but we as the chefs are to make it taste different with all kinds of levels and flavors … God created the apple to be nice and sweet, but as a chef, I think, 'what if I puree the apple with some potato and if I make it into a sauce to put on a piece of fish?' That’s what kind of challenges are exciting to a chef… It means so much to me to be cooking, I can’t let it go.”

coffee, espresso, beer
Erin Arnold

What is the most underrated ingredient?

“Well, everything has a time and a season. I like to put two ingredients together that you would never think could. I was inspired on my internship at Disney with a chef who was the Executive Chef at Mohegan Sun, he said ‘I’m going to make you a dish and you go in the back by yourself to eat it. When you’re done, come back and tell me what you think, but when you eat it close your eyes and just focus on every component and every level of flavor.' If you eat a cucumber it tastes very good, but if you add a little salt and a little pepper it completely changes the taste and brings out the sweetness of the cucumber. So, I don’t think there is an underrated ingredient just season, season, season.”

Where is your favorite restaurant and what do you order when you eat there?

"Flying Fish: pureed Potato and parsnips, leek fonduda, piece of cod fish wrapped in thinly sliced potato pan fried topped with eel."

meat, vegetable, sauce, pork
Erin Arnold

In your opinion, which culture has the best food?

“I love Mediterranean food, even from a dietary perspective or an even flavor perspective, it has that combination because there is a lot of greens, a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit. Because of the lifestyle, a lot of families there cannot eat meat every day or even every week [due to the expense]. Think of the ingredients we [Mediterranean's] are using: my dad owns land in Jerusalem with olive trees, every year he makes five gallon buckets with the citrus green olive and a five-gallon bucket of salt cured black olives and a five-gallon bucket of extra virgin olive oil, to that level we have the passion for food.

What is your favorite comfort food to cook?

“My favorite meal is actually a vegetarian dish, it’s Mujadara, it’s made with rice, lentils, caramelized onion on the top, and I make it with side of Mediterranean salad with some mint on top. It’s delicious, I make it all the time.”

What meal does your family enjoy the most?

“In the month of Ramadan, I make a big feast and we invite my whole family over. I have filets, I have ribeye, lobster tail, baked salmon on a cedar plank with a honey ginger glaze, grilled vegetables with chimichurri on top, goat cheese crostini, everything and I love it.” 

The Suleiman Technique

Erin Arnold

Ever since this interview, I've been trying to make that extra effort when cooking myself a meal, like adding some extra seasoning or an ingredient that I don't often use, taking a risk. Hearing about Suleiman's passion for food and commitment to making every meal delicious helped reignite my passion for food. So, get in the kitchen and whip up something special, like this homemade sushi roll!