Chef Khaled Al Baker

Post by Mark

Khaled Al Baker, or KB for short is the brand manager and head chef at Meem Cafe. He’s also a good friend of mine and I’ve been wanting to post about him and his transformation of Meem Cafe since I’ve been watching it happen from the very beginning. Just over a year ago, Khaled moved back to Kuwait after studying culinary arts at the Johnson & Wales University in Miami. He started looking for work and decided he wanted to join MMC Catering who had a bunch of popular restaurants including LeNotre, Meem Cafe, Over Jar and Three & Barista. When he applied, one of the tasks they gave him was to pass by Meem Cafe, try their food out and let them know what he thought of it. So he invited me along with a bunch of our other foodie friends (including Hind from PantryBee) and we passed by Meem Cafe and tried out as much food as we could. My overall impression wasn’t that positive with items on the menu that didn’t make sense to be there, and what was there wasn’t that great either. But Khaled was busy taking down notes, he saw a lot of potential and so he went back to MMC with his feedback and they hired him, giving him the task to revamp and upgrade the Meem Cafe menu.

Khaled wasn’t always a chef. He originally studied accounting and finance at the University of Central Florida and then worked 6 years as an accountant in the oil and gas industry. Things started to change right after his cousin opened up the upscale butcher shop Prime Cuts. They started grilling non-stop 5-6 times a week and Khaled would have his home cook put together the sides while he did all the grilling. But his cook kept making the same sides all the time which eventually got boring, so Khaled decided he’d also do the sides himself. He started reading up a lot and experimenting and the more and more he cooked the more and more he was loving it. So he started taking cooking lessons whenever he found any and he cooked for his friends whenever he could before he eventually decided to go back to university to study culinary arts.

Over the past year Khaled has been super busy reorganizing and reinventing the Meem Cafe menu. Because I keep popping over to Meem Cafe to see him whenever I can, the whole thing to me has felt like I’ve been watching a food reality show where the chef goes into a restaurant and just overhauls the menu. The first thing Khaled did was remove all the items that didn’t fit in with the theme of Middle Eastern comfort food. After refocusing the menu under the main theme, he started experimenting with modernizing Arabic classics while also fusing others with different cuisines. He loves cooking and he’s been generally just having fun trying to come up with new dishes like zaatar fries, Lebanese nachos, burrata mana’eesh and braised short ribs hummus. The end result is a lot of good food with a lot of unique flavors. Even his chef coat is infused with Arabic by being designed like a dishdasha while incorporating the shemagh pattern.

While sitting with Khaled and interviewing him for this post I realized where all this passion with Arabic food was stemming from. He thinks that as Arabs we’re losing the food marketing war with items like hummus and pita being considered Israeli and not Arab, while Greek yogurt becoming trendy but not labneh. He thinks that if we don’t start modernizing and refining Arabic cuisine, we’re going to eventually lose it all. I never thought about it in that way but now that I do I’ve started appreciating what his doing a lot more.

If you haven’t been to Meem Cafe for awhile now then I’d recommend you pass by and try it out again. They’ve got four locations, one at the Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Center, another in Hamra Tower, another in 360 Mall and the last one in The View in Salmiya. You can also follow Khaled on his instagram account @chefkb


Share on Facebook Share on Twitter




7 comments, add your own...


  1. zaydoun says:

    Bravo Khaled!!

  2. afnan says:

    the cheb khaled of food world

  3. aslawi says:

    am a big fan of café meem and I believe he did a great job revamping the place

  4. zaitsev says:

    Wasn’t there a Meem Cafe in Avenues (upstairs) ?

  5. Black angel85 says:

    He has so much passion and creative ideas!
    So much hidden potential in him, greatness will come from KB!

  6. Ninja says:

    Duck face on fleek.

  7. MIAMI says:

    KB be killing the culinary game!!!


Leave a Reply



Commenting is a privilege not a right. I allow comments on the site because I believe that you can make a valuable contribution but in return I expect that you comment responsibly.


Contribute

If you have anything you think would be interesting to share on this blog
[Email Me]