Laila Najm

Chef & Writer

 

I celebrate my Middle Eastern heritage through showcasing Levantine ingredients as much as possible.

I moved to New York from Amman, Jordan to dive into the world of culinary arts. It was a move I had been planning since I was a teenager, daydreaming in my bedroom while listening to The Velvet Underground. I was captured by the allure of New York, a concept formulated in my mind through images borrowed from tv shows, rock n’ roll albums, and books. After college, I finally actualized my dream of moving to New York and went straight to The Culinary Institute of America. Flash forward eight years later, I have somehow built a life in this country as a Palestinian-Jordanian immigrant. In that time, I’ve both cooked in and ran professional kitchens throughout the Hudson Valley as well as, started a Middle Eastern multi-course pop-up series in the area. During my time in the States, I had to learn how to navigate in the capricious environments of kitchens as a woman of color. While it hasn’t been easy, I have fought, and will continue to fight, for a more inclusive version of this industry. 

The culinary arts are an endless world of creativity and inspiration, a language that’s spoken by all, a world filled with boundless self-expression. A discipline capable of melding cultures, telling stories, and unraveling history. The culinary world is a subculture full of those who are willing to push themselves beyond their assumed capabilities. We are the people who cook for strangers, setting the backdrop for memorable evenings for the rest of society. We are the backstage players, the unseen craftsmen, often misunderstood but joined together by a common love of food and an array of quirks that would otherwise be shunned by the rest of society. Fundamentally, cooking is an honest craft; inconvenient at times, agonizing at others but one where we find joy, acceptance, challenge, and exhilaration.

Operating with sustainability in mind, while emphasizing a locavarian mentality.