Paris, SYRIA - Chef
Interview made by Cyril Bruyelle in November 2016
Mohammad El Khaldy is a Syrian refugee chef who had to leave his country in 2012. Back in Damascus, he was a renowned chef with his own restaurant and a TV show. When he left Syria, he first went to Egypt, but he had to move again after a few years. He finally arrived in Paris in 2015 with his wife and his 3 kids. They came in these overcrowded boats that you see on TV. Thanks to a lot of determination, Mohammad managed to continue his passion in France. He participated in the great Refugee Food Festival and recently cooked for 500 people at the Paris city hall. Many other great projects are coming, among which his big dream to open a Syrian restaurant in Paris. We wish him the best of luck
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I had many things in mind when I was a kid, really a lot! But what I wanted the most was to freeze the people and be able to read their thoughts. I wanted to enter into their heads.
With whom would you like to have a coffee?
Right now I would maybe take a coffee with François Hollande (French President at the time of the interview). Not for the person of François Hollande, but because he represents France today, the country that welcomed me.
If you could choose something that could be taught in every school in the world, what would it be?
It would be the same language for all children. So they can all understand each other. And this language would be cooking, because it’s an universal language.
To you, who's the happiest person on earth?
It’s the one that is in peace with himself. A person who has a sound mind, with no worries or anxiety. Money and power won’t make you happy.
If you were President of the US, what would your first reform be?
My first reform would be to bring back home all the American soldiers from all over the world.
What do you need?
Getting older, when you've lived what we have lived this is all you need.
What would you do if we gave you 1 million dollars now?
Rightly it's been three months I've been looking for 1M$ to open my restaurant, a traditional Damascus restaurant in Paris. This is my dream and I really hope it will become true one day.
Which innovation, realistic or not, would greatly ease your day-to-day life?
Of course it would be a flying motorcycle because it would completely ease our trips. There's a lot of traffic so for me it's helpful. And a comfortable bed, cause if I don't sleep well, it makes my life more complicated.
If you had to create a company, what would it be?
If I had to create a company here, it would be a restaurant. And I'd develop it to become a food training centre to teach cooking; Syrian and Lebanese cuisine.
Can you draw something beautiful?
It's a Sufi dancer. It' s a spiritual dance that gets to connect your soul with the divinity.
What are you afraid of?
It's a difficult question as regard to the present situation. Maybe time passing by or getting older... I'm afraid of time going faster than life… That's what I'm afraid of. That you could not finish a project you have in mind, that your life ends before achieving your goal.
What is your dream?
I dream of being one of the most recognised chef in France, that's my big dream. That people get to know me as a respected chef. That when they think of me they say "Ok that is Chef Mohammad El Khaldy". I'd love to be very busy, very asked for, to travel a lot, to teach cooking around the the world, to be respected as a chef, and that people admire me for my cooking.
Close your eyes, you are in 2100, what do you see?
An electronic world. Electronic people connected with mobiles and computers. And we would be done with the pollution.
If you had to write a book about the current world, what would be the title?
I've been thinking for three months what the title of my book would be. When I finally found it, I had to move to another country, so It's been three months since I'm looking for a new title. About the current world… The title would be… GREEN. GREEN, yes! We shall keep our world green.
What does religion mean to you?
God is the way, the guide that gives sense to your life. Living without God is unthinkable. I'm lost without God.
And you, which question would you like to ask the world?
I know that maybe my question can be stereotypical… because we all get upset, we all have our moods, we all get uncomfortable. But yes, why anger? Why do you get upset? Why don't you think positively? Think in a way that enlightens you, that keeps you growing up. This is what I would ask: why anger?