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A French-trained Egyptian/Greek/Lebanese chef married to a Korean and cooking delicious Mexican food – where else could this be but in Melbourne!
Elias Dib has a passion for cooking, and with all his influences – from classic French training and his Middle Eastern and Mediterranean family, to his wife’s Korean background and his world travels – it feels perfectly normal that he’s the Head Chef at Amigos Mexican restaurants in Melbourne. The much-loved menu is Mexican-inspired, meaning Elias likes to serve up traditional favourites with a twist – like burritos with coconut curry sauce or nachos with barbecued prawns and scallops.
Where did you grow up?
“The world’s most liveable city – Melbourne! Melbourne has such a diverse mix of cultures and food; it was exactly where I needed to be.”
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
“It actually wasn’t until I started working at the Windsor hotel at the age of 18. I was inspired watching all the chefs, the creativity they put into the dishes they created and the buzz that came with it.”
Is there one dish you still struggle to get right?
“In short – no. I generally don’t follow recipes. I prefer to create my own based on what I’ve learnt over the years, my extensive travels overseas and dining out at many of Melbourne’s best restaurants.”
What does it take to be a successful chef?
“Having a passion for what you do. Being creative. Using fresh ingredients. Being prepared to work hard.”
Worst job you have ever had?
“It would probably have to be the door-to-door sales job selling encyclopaedias at the age of 16. Having said that, I may never have discovered that a career as a chef was for me if I hadn’t done what I didn’t enjoy to work out what really did inspire me.”
What is your signature dish?
“Seafood honey mustard fajita. It’s a French-based dish, obviously Mexican-inspired, but it’s pretty safe to say that you wouldn’t be able to find it anywhere else in the world.”
What is unique about your restaurant?
“I think we have created something truly unique in the Melbourne market in terms of Mexican food and beverages. Our food draws on my partner’s Korean background, my formal training in French cuisine and background in Italian, fine dining and international cookery. So the end product really is Mexican-inspired with influences from around the globe.”
What is the chef serving in heaven?
“Amigos’ chicken and honey seeded mustard signature burritos!”
What is the most bizarre dish you have ever tried?
“I wouldn’t really call it a dish, but the most bizarre thing I have tried was dried, spiced cockroaches in Vietnam. I generally will try anything in my travels but I think that was the most daring…it really was “hard to swallow”.”
What is one question people are always asking you?
“’Why Mexican and you’re Egyptian?’ And I suppose my answer is always the same, that 80% of Melbourne’s Italian restaurants are Lebanese. Being a mix of Egyptian/Greek/Lebanese myself and my partner being Korean, with a Mexican restaurant in Melbourne - it makes perfect sense in this culturally-diverse city”
What is your biggest food indulgence?
“My mum’s traditional Mediterranean home cooking and my mother in-law’s amazing home Korean. I draw a lot from both in my cooking. Especially when it comes to the generosity of the servings!”
How do you have your coffee?
“Strong latte and occasionally a hot glass of milk with honey.”
What ingredient are you obsessed with right now?
“One of the basics - fresh coriander. It has always been one of my favourite fresh herbs.”
Which three people would to invite to a dinner party?
“Mohammed Ali, Pope John Paul and Barack Obama.”
What is your best tip for home cooks?
“Source fresh ingredients and don’t be afraid to add your own personal touch to any recipe.”