What got you interested in cooking?
Since I was eight, I’v been helping out in the kitchen especially when my grandmother used to cook. From preparing simple scrambled eggs, I quickly moved on to the more refined aspects of cooking. One of my first dishes was a seared scallop with a side of cauliflower purée topped with a quail egg. I find cooking fascinating, especially when all the different flavours of the dish come together so exquisitely on a plate. I enjoy seeing the expression on people’s faces when they taste good food.
You worked in a few restaurants. What were those experiences like?
Throughout my middle and high school, I’ve worked in a number of restaurants around the world. My two most memorable experiences were at Mario e Mario and Belcanto. At the age of 14, I interned at Mario e Mario, where I was preparing appetizers such as burrata, fish carpaccio, and endive salads. This internship gave me an appreciation for teamwork and working towards a common goal. A year later, I went to work at Belcanto, a Michelin 2-star Portuguese restaurant in Lisbon, where I learned the value of time, organisation, and coordination. This restaurant had perfected the preparation of each dish through a series of carefully orchestrated processes and seamless communication. I learned the importance of staying calm under pressure, individual responsibility, and precision.
What led you to set up your food business?
I was 13 when I launched my first business. As a teenager, I was driven by my desire to combine two of my favourite concepts: business and food. I took advantage of growing online businesses and started selling desserts: chocolate cakes and red-fruit mille-feuilles. That same year, I completed my first internship in a central kitchen in Beirut, Lebanon. Through this experience, I gained culinary skills, but more importantly, furthered my desire to learn about the industry.
Throughout high school, I interned at restaurants ranging from family-style eateries to fine dining, these experiences elucidated food and service as an experience - an art. Considering the intersection of business strategy with creative innovation excited my hopes of leaving my own legacy.
Recently, I planned my newest venture through a Dubai-based kitchen called Just Bao offering Bao buns, which are small meals housed within warm, white, fluffy buns bursting with different flavours and fillings.
What are your other extracurricular activities?
I enjoy drama, tennis and skiing. I’ve been a part of various plays and musicals, both inside and outside of school. Most notably, I played a dentist by the name of Orin Scrivello in Little Shop of Horrors, Rolf in The Sound of Music, and a lead actor, Archie, in Thirteen the Musical. In addition, I also play tennis inside and outside of school.
At school, I have been a member of the tennis team since ninth grade. I regularly play tennis outside of school where I participate in a number of tournaments. During the winter, I participate in competitions for alpine skiing in Lebanon while in the summer I water ski on a lake near my house.
My dream is to build a culinary empire, one that spans continents and influences, whether it’s in a restaurant or on a supermarket shelf. This journey started in my parents’ kitchen and has taken me through international cuisines. While I don’t know where it will end, I’ll savour every moment, as I did when I curated my first culinary masterpiece.
Jean’s tips for students keen on a career in entrepreneurship
Earn as much experience as possible in the industry. No matter how small the experience is, it will help you gain a better understanding of this career. You can also mention these experiences in your applications which will show your interest in the career and therefore make you a stronger candidate at college admissions.
Visit haleeducation.com for more information how to help students find the best university fit and carve a seamless path to college admissions.