If it sounds gloomy, it isn't. What sets Baalbaki apart is that he eschews rage. There's a warmth - even a humour - to his work which is less about making light of dark situations, and more about accepting that he lives in a region where life and death is all-too-often decided from 38,000-feet. Driven out of his village of Odeisse in 1976, Baalbaki was a refugee before his first birthday and went on to experience at first-hand life on the front-line.
'I belong to a generation of Lebanese artists who don't have anything to say except about the war,' he says. 'We have been left with the contradictions of war but its reminders are being erased. I feel that the opposite is necessary, that we need to preserve reminders of it as well.'
In 1994, he returned a fully-fledged head chef, to find Beirut little changed. 'I realised Lebanese diners were used to complimenting foreign chefs because they thought the food more complicated. But just because our food is simple, doesn't mean it's easy.'
Now executive chef of the Chase restaurant chain, Barza's latest quest is to expand the average person's culinary knowledge of what Lebanon has to offer. He regularly travels the country in search of new ingredients and recipes. 'We have such excellent produce - fresh herbs, vegetables, pickles, preserves and dairy products - that people don't know about.'
5kg flowery potato, baked but still hard
0.5L extra virgin olive oil
1kg tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 bunch coriander, chopped
50g garlic, peeled and chopped
200g onion, chopped
200g shredded mozzarella
200g shredded halloumi
40g lemon juice
Cut the potato into thick circles, and grill them on a flat top
Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion
Add the garlic, the coriander, the tomato and the kichk to the onion and cook for five minutes
Add the cheeses
Adjust lemon juice and salt and pepper
Leave to cool
With a spatula, paste the topping on the potato and gratinate
10 pieces/1kg boneless Whole Chicken, Flattened
50g garlic, smashed
400g olive oil
1 bunch mint, chopped
200g chick peas, half-boiled
3 bunches parsley, chopped
200g lemon juice
100g melace of pomegranate
3L finished plain tomato sauce
75g onion, chopped
500g tomato, chopped
5g sweet pepper
15 big leaves
Swiss Chard, steamed
For the stuffing:
Mix 300g olive oil, burghul, chopped tomato, parsley, chick peas, onion, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl
For the chicken:
Put the chicken on cling film, and rub with garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper
Put the Swiss chard in the middle of the chicken
Put the stuffing on top of the Swiss chard
Roll the Swiss chard around the stuffing, and then roll the chicken as galantine
Tighten the galantine with the cling film and steam the whole until the chicken is cooked
When cooked, remove the cling film, and colour the chicken on a flat top
For the sauce:
Finish with plain tomato sauce
Place the chicken on a plate, and drizzle tomato sauce on top
'Of course, furniture has to look good, but it has to feel good too and not only to sit with emotionally, but also to sit on physically,' Debs says. 'This trend of furniture as art, I like the idea but for me, it's more important that furniture is functional.' And, she reflects: 'If you go to Japan, you see this geometric work. It looks almost Middle Eastern, it's funny how there are similarities. Sometimes, I don't know where I am. I'm lost in translation. Okay, maybe not lost, more like in the process of evolution.'
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Beirut is a city with an identity crisis. Is it Arab, Mediterranean or European? Muslim or Christian? Is it the bastion of Resistance or the stronghold of tolerance? Is it the capital of a country that only became independent in 1943 or one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities on earth that was already ancient when Athens was born?
These are questions that Beirutis have yet to answer. Hopefully, they never will. Millennia of navigating their city's multiple identities has bestowed upon them a natural cosmopolitanism that other more vocal aspirants to the mantle can never truly emulate. Beirut is cosmopolitan because it lives in a state of constant flux. As its inhabitants come and go, they bring new ideas, and because it is not in thrall to a single ideology or dominated by any single community, Beirut not only permits experimentation, it revels in it. Here we profile its new generation of movers and shakers and take a look at their work.