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Food Philosophy: Javier Carmona

Javier Carmona, executive chef of Auckland’s Beirut restaurant, talks to MiNDFOOD about his crisp, clean approach to Middle Eastern food, and his passion to introduce New Zealanders to a cuisine that’s not just about kebabs. We are excited that Carmona will be joining MiNDFOOD at this year's Festive Home Tour raising money for World Child Cancer Charitable Trust on November 4.

Food Philosophy: Javier Carmona

What is your background?

I was born in Spain, but my family emigrated to Australia when I was about 18 months old. I was brought up in Australia but travelled for many years. (He also co-owned Sydney’s The Codfather, a modern seafood restaurant).

My partner is from New Zealand so, with a baby on the way, we decided we’d go over to New Zealand.

When did Beirut open and why did you want to create a Middle Eastern-style restaurant?

It opened in the middle of last year. Growing up in Australia with a large Middle Eastern community, I felt that style of food was not as prevalent in New Zealand. It was very much kebabs representing Middle Eastern cuisine. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to do a really good Middle Eastern restaurant and tweak the food slightly. My goal was to offer something more elegant but still with the same foundations.

Tell us about your menu.

It was never about becoming a fine dining restaurant but it was stepping it up from that casual, familiar Middle Eastern food and introducing dishes people might not have tried before.

The focal point of the start of the menu was bread, but again we wanted to bring it up from the casual. So you have the manoush, wonderfully spiced lamb mince on top of traditional bread, which is very much a street food item, and we polished it up a bit. It’s more-ish and wonderful.

The za’attar is traditional as well but again we just tweaked it by adding dehydrated kale to the traditional thyme mix. The fattoush is pretty iconic as well, as far as Middle Eastern salads go, but we wanted to make it crisper and cleaner to offset all the bold flavours, so we added fresh watermelon, lightly scented with orange blossom.

What keeps you inspired?

I love what I do. If you are really ensconced in the industry, and really love it, and really love food, it is not hard to be inspired. I am inspired by what’s happening in my immediate environment but also overseas and what other people are doing.

Meet Javier Carmona at the MiNDFOOD Festive Hour Tour and hear more about his food philosophy. Click here for tickets.

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