Lebanese self-taught chef Alan Geaam started as a penniless dishwasher in Paris. Now his restaurant has won the most prestigious award
When he was 19 years old, Alan Geaam arrived in Paris with 200 francs in his pocket and almost zero knowledge of French. Starting as a dishwasher while sleeping in the streets and parks of France’s capital, in two decades his passion for food has brought him among the elite.
Last week Alan’s new restaurant, that lies just a few steps from the Arc de Triomphe and where he performs his self-taught artistry, received the highly acknowledged Michelin star.
“I never thought that Michelin would be interested in someone like me, who was self-taught, who had to sleep in the street at 19 and who began as a dishwasher,” Geaam told AFP.
“I thought the guide was about chefs in big fancy hotels or those trained by the great masters. But it turned out to be the opposite. It’s a wonderful surprise.”
43-year-old Geaam was born in Liberia to Lebanese parents who, after living through other war-torn regions, returned to Beirut.
It was in Lebanon’s capital where it became obvious that food was Geaam’s ‘raison d’être’. Instead of watching cartoons after school, he used to browse cooking magazines and binge-watch cookery shows that led him to his own ideas for tasty dishes.
However, it was but an accident that launched his career as a world recognised chef. The chef of a pizza place where Alan worked as a dishwasher cut his hand with a knife and was forced to go to hospital, with Alan having to step in.
“I worked during the day as a construction worker and at night delivering pizzas and washing dishes. One night the cook cut his hand and had to go to the hospital. No one asked me, but I just took over. There were 14 tables and so I just fed the customers and at the end of the night they were delighted.”
“The owner said to me, ‘But you can cook!’ and I said, ‘Yes.'”
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Such achievements meant that Alan continued working on his dream that finally, after 24 years, has earned him a place in the Bible of gastronomy.
“The word impossible doesn’t exist. Work hard, never give up, believe in your dreams…” Alan said on his Facebook page.
Since the Michelin Guide revealed its new discovery, Geaam’s phone has not stopped buzzing, making the restaurant fully booked three weeks ahead.