We got acquainted with the chef from Lebanon, Belal Bajouk, and learned about his first impressions of Kazakhstan and local residents.
I was born in Lebanon. My hometown is Beirut. I grew up in a family that is professionally engaged in catering — cooking, delivery and customer service. From childhood, I helped my parents at work.
I studied at the university with a degree in Hotel Management and Culinary Arts, after which took special courses in Italy and France. I graduated from Maryland, USA, where received a degree in Food Production Management.
I can call myself an international specialist. I have worked as a chief confectioner and chef in many countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, Djibouti, Yemen, Qatar, South Africa.
In 2009, the Marriott International hotel in Atyrau invited me to the position of pastry chef. I did not work in this region and did not know anything about Kazakhstan. I was interested in visiting Central Asia and adding a new country to my resume. That's why I accepted the offer.
About the first impression
For the first time I came to Kazakhstan more than 13 years ago. It was a July summer evening. I expected it to be dark at 22:00, but it was still sunny at that time. So I immediately liked the weather.
The local staff were friendly and welcoming. I noted the similarity of the Kazakh and Lebanese cultures. In our country, it is also customary to respect guests, help foreigners on the streets and maintain strong family ties.
I work for Compass Group, which is the largest international company that provides catering services. My position is the head of the division in Atyrau.
As a chef, I am responsible for the quality of the products, their preparation and presentation. My responsibilities include purchasing ingredients, controlling inventory, tracking prices, and managing the budget. In addition, I am responsible for the observance of sanitary standards in the workplace.
I am also a training manager. I conduct training sessions for staff.
I like my job. I am continuing the family tradition. I consider cooking a separate art form.
About Kazakhstan and traditions
This is my first time working in a country where the weather can drop to -40 degrees. It also surprises me that people are always looking for new ideas.
I have been to Borovoe, Astana, Atyrau and Aktobe. My favorite city after Aktau is Almaty. This is a place with an interesting history, friendly and open people, beautiful buildings and clean streets.
My colleagues are like family to me. Therefore, they often invite me to traditional events. Wedding traditions in Lebanon are similar to Kazakh ones. All relatives and friends are also invited here, they make up a holiday program and cook a lot of food. I know this from my own experience, since my wife is Kazakh. We have four children.
I do not plan to leave Kazakhstan. Maybe I'll stay here when I retire. I will raise children, learn more about the local culture, get acquainted with the traditions and learn the Kazakh language.