Osta’s A. John Aouad looks forward to seeing smiling faces during Restaurant Week

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Sherrill Berry | On-the-Town By Sherrill Berry | On-the-Town
on November 01, 2011 at 12:39 PM

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Osta’s chef and owner A. John Aouad

Osta’s owner and chef A. John Aouad admits he hasn’t been to many other cities to check out restaurants. And why should he, says, since Grand Rapids offers so many different types of cuisine.A. John Aouad
Owner/Chef, Osta’s Lebanese Cuisine
2228 Wealthy St. SE

OTT: What is your creative food muse?

AJA: My creative food muse (if I understand the question properly) is the enjoyment and pleasure I get from serving people and seeing the smile on their faces when they realize just how good Lebanese food is.

OTT: What do you like most of Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids? How does it compare to other cities?

AJA: What I like most about Restaurant Week is the exposure we are getting. We are in our nineteenth year in Gaslight Village and keep getting new customers every day. Thanks to Restaurant Week, people who may not have ventured out on their own to see what Lebanese food is are now seeking us out. Many since last year have become regular patrons of our restaurant. As far as other cities, I haven’t attended any, so I cannot comment. We should stick to comparing ourselves to ourselves. We are a great city that has many different types of cuisine to offer. There’s no need to go elsewhere.

OTT: How did you decide what you were going to offer for your special Restaurant Week tasting menu?

AJA: It wasn’t hard for me to decide my Restaurant Week menu. As an ethnic cuisine, all our food remains a mystery. Creating food, to me, is a pleasure.

OTT: What is the single-most important ingredient that you couldn’t live without in your kitchen?

AJA: The most important ingredient in my kitchen is olive oil.

OTT: What restaurant are you planning to check out during Restaurant Week and why?

AJA: As a restaurant owner and chef, it will be hard to go out during Restaurant Week, but I will do my best. First on my list will be Grand Rapids Community College’s The Heritage Restaurant. The chefs that the Secchia Institute trains are an amazing group of young people and the chefs that teach them are known all over the world.

OTT: Do you have a signature dish? What is it that defines a dish as your creative invention?

AJA: My signature dish is Baked Kibby. It is the national dish of Lebanon, and I am proud of myself to prepare it so deliciously.

OTT: What made you decide to become a chef?

AJA: I was destined to become a chef at birth. I come from many generations of chefs with my dad at the top of the list. He was a master chef. I hold him in such high regard as my teacher and my mentor. I wanted to carry on our family recipes and traditions here in the United States.

OTT: Where did you go to culinary school or where did you learn your cooking techniques? What’s the most difficult or involved technique that you have had to master?

AJA: I attended culinary school in Beirut, Lebanon in 1974, and I worked side-by-side with my dad, Master Chef “Osta” John. I also attended the Secchia Institute of Culinary Arts when I immigrated to the United States. The most difficult technique I have had to master since opening in the United States is to match the flavor we have back in Lebanon to the American palate.

OTT: What is the utensil that is the most useful in your kitchen and why?

AJA: My most important piece of equipment is the fry pan. In it, you can create masterpieces.

OTT: How do you think the emphasis on sustainability is changing the restaurant industry?

AJA: Sustainability in the restaurant business is contingent upon consistency, good quality, and good management.

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