A “rags-to-restaurants” immigrant success story told through delicious comfort-food recipes
BOSTON – Chef and restaurateur Jay Hajj recounts his dramatic immigrant success story and the delicious recipes that have flavored his life in his new cookbook, BEIRUT TO BOSTON: A COOKBOOK, Comfort Food Inspired by a Rags-to-Restaurants Story.
Beirut to Boston” features a foreword by Food Network star Guy Fieri, appearances (and recipes!) from celebrity chefs Jamie Bissonnette, Ken Oringer and Ming Tsai, and gorgeous photography by Ken Goodman. “Beirut to Boston” is published by Page Street Publishing of Salem, Mass.
Packed with mouthwatering recipes and inspiring stories of perseverance and success, this cookbook highlights the turning points in Hajj’s career and the food that defined them.
“Beirut to Boston” includes the Southern-style breakfast that stole Bill Clinton’s heart, Guy Fieri’s favorite Thanksgiving sandwich, Ming Tsai’s special hummus recipe and the pâté of wartime reinvented. It also reveals the depth and breadth of Hajj’s skills and culinary influences.
Hajj was a 5-year-old boy when the bloody Beirut Bus Massacre exploded just outside his family’s apartment and ignited the long and deadly Lebanon Civil War. His mother struggled to feed four children, often eating from tin cans of pate and jars of homemade labneh cheese while hunkered down in shelters to escape the shooting, while his dad served in the Lebanese army.
Many of Hajj’s family members were killed in the bloodshed that followed before his family escaped to the then rough-and-tumble streets of Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood in 1978. Hajj, an Arab boy during a period of great racial tension in Boston, was forced to brawl to survive on the streets of Roslindale, then dropped out of high school and struggled through tough teenage years. But along the way, he was introduced to new cultures, cuisines, and flavors that opened his eyes to the magnificent world of food found on the streets of America.
Hajj found refuge in the kitchens of local restaurants, landing his first cooking job at age 13 thanks to Boston boxing legend and Italian-American restaurateur Vinny Marino.
Among the global comfort-food recipes that flavor “Beirut to Boston”
* Mike’s Famous Pilgrim sandwich, acclaimed by the Food Network as one of America’s five best Thanksgiving dishes
* Chicken live pate with pomegranate, onion and bacon marmalade, a tribute to the food Hajj ate as a boy in the shelters of Beirut
* Mountain-style saj bread, a Lebanese flatbread the Hajj family ate to survive while refugees in the Chouf Mountains outside Beirut
* “Be Prouda Ya Chowda” New England clam chowder that Hajj cooked on Guy’s Big Bite on the Food Network
* The secrets of homemade hummus, falafel and tahini sauce that Hajj perfected while owner of his first eatery, Temptations Café in Brookline
* Hajj’s “Best Buddy’s” shakshuka that celebrates his relationships with Sarah Markowitz and Boston’s Best Buddies International fundraiser each summer
* Yvonne’s oysters Savannah, which pays homage to Locke-Ober’s signature lobster Savannah
* Hajj’s favorite Lebanese desserts, which celebrate his mom Samira and her love of the Middle Eastern folk tradition of reading coffee cups
** Jay Hajj is chef and owner of beloved casual-dining landmark Mike’s City Diner in Boston’s South End, acclaimed as one of America’s best diners; a frequent guest on The Food Network; a married father of four children; and a prominent behind-the-scenes power player in Boston restaurant development. Hajj is also the landlord for several marquee Boston eateries, he purchased the culinary landmark Locke-Ober building in Boston’s Downtown Crossing in 2012 and today is one of the partners behind Yvonne’s, the celebrated “supper club” that opened in 2015 in the former Locke-Ober space.
BEIRUT TO BOSTON: A Cookbook
By Jay Hajj
Page Street Publishing Co.
$21.99 paperback, 192 pages
On-sale Date: May 23rd, 2017