Jean Ghanem at Layla, Esher - Meet the Chef
PUBLISHED: 14:44 08 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:44 08 May 2014
Having travelled the world, chef Jean Ghanem has found home at Layla, the popular Lebanese restaurant and bar in Esher. Here, he steps out of the kitchen and into the Surrey Life spotlight...
On your travels, have you found a food or drink producer in Surrey that you are particularly fond of?
In my opinion, running a small business locally, it is very important to support local food and drink producers and I have always looked at different ways to be able to apply this in our kitchen. In particular, we purchase all of our meats from local butchers in Esher. This gives us the confidence that it is going to be a really excellent quality ingredient and, of course, means that it is very fresh produce with the daily deliveries.
Is there a farmers’ market that you would always add to your monthly diary?
One of the many farms in Surrey, and in particular Esher, that we currently aim to support is Garson’s Farm, where we buy our fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. This is another opportunity to support a local business that provides us with better quality products and fresh produce.
How about a farm shop?
Travelling around Surrey, there are also lots of fresh ingredients that we find grown in Hersham. I mainly use fresh herbs and spices such as parsley and coriander to add to our dishes.
Is there another chef currently working in the area whose cooking you particularly admire?
I think Surrey and principally Esher has really grown lately, with more varied cuisine and new food introduced from around the world. There is now lots of competition between all the businesses due to the success of this. I have not had the chance to meet specific chefs locally, although I do like to visit other restaurants to try their dishes
If you were asked to make a signature Surrey dish, what would yours be?
When working on our special and seasonal dishes, we always intend to keep the authenticity of the Lebanese dish – but by adding a Surrey twist to the dish with the ingredients, we can make it even more appealing for the customer. We have also used this method when creating and altering our menus from our starters, main meals and desserts range. One of those I recommend is our prawn dishes in the starters, which are cooked using essential Lebanese ingredients but still have the Surrey twist with it. In our main courses, I recommend our grill selection, especially our mixed grill, which is a customer favourite.
What would you say is the most distinctive aspect of your cooking?
My very long experience in cooking and travelling around different countries to introduce the Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine makes my food very distinctive. I have managed to deliver these ideas using the authentic recipes, skills and techniques but at the same time I had the concept of turning these delicious dishes into something a bit more ‘modern’. I think using this way to create new dishes will always give our customers a greater enjoyment.
Taste Jean’s cooking at Layla, 110 High Street, Esher KT10 9QL. Tel: 01372 462333
Vote for your top Surrey chef in the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards at surreylifeawards.greatbritishlife.co.uk