Arabic / Chef Stories

ChefChat: Joseph Habr of Joseph’s Restaurant (Maraval, Trinidad)

Our most recent visit to Joseph’s Restaurant was for ChefChat, a partnership with EatAhFood.com where we interview chefs in Trinidad to learn more about their background, cooking style and take on Trinidad’s culinary scene.  Season One of ChefChat was filmed during 2016 Trinidad Restaurant Week.

Chef Joseph Habr’s eponymous restaurant feels like home no matter when we visit.

A large Samaan tree and lush greenery seem to fill the front of the dining room, which is helmed by Habr’s son and wife while Joseph and his daughter manage the kitchen.

Joseph arrived in Trinidad decades ago from Lebanon, eventually setting up shop in downtown Port of Spain’s Towne Centre Mall at a time when Lebanese food was exclusively enjoyed at home and the local dining scene was dominated by small restaurants serving Creole or Indo-Trinidadian food.

Two locations later, today the restaurant is an institution, offering authentic Lebanese food in a fine dining environment.  Joseph’s has participated in Trinidad Restaurant Week from the start and it’s one of our favorite places to visit during the Week.  For us Restaurant Week is not about finding the best “value for money,” rather it’s a gentle push to visit the restaurants like Joseph’s serving the exclusive sleeper hits.

Red Snapper - Joseph's Restaurant Trinidad.JPG

Our ChefChat started in the kitchen where bouquets of mint, parsley and basil graced the counter, while to-be-fileted fresh red snapper waited its turn in the chiller. This is a scratch-kitchen with everything down to the sauces and yogurts made in house.

Joseph talked us through the dishes as he pan seared a red snapper in lemon butter and put the finishing touches on the roast kibbeh, mechi kousa, and stuffed grape leaves.

Joseph Habr - Joseph's Restaurant Trinidad.JPG

After sampling the Restaurant Week dishes, we settled in for our full interview and the Chef walked us through his journey from Town Centre Mall to Royal Palm Plaza and the final stop at his Maraval Rookery Nook location.

Soft-spoken and reflective, Joseph had us leaning in from his first words to hear the story of how good food can win the hearts and minds of the biggest skeptics especially customers trying a cuisine entirely new to them.

His family also was present during our ChefChat visit, listening closely, sharing their memories and filling in the story of Joseph’s, reminding us that this restaurant is a labour of love fueled by family.

This is what home feels like.

Link to Joseph’s 2016 Trinidad Restaurant Week Menu – (868) 622-5557 for reservations.

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