Article first published in July/August 2022
When lunch turns into dinner at the Hotel de Paris.
In 2013, Yasmina Hayek picked up a bronze medal at the Lebanese swimming championships. Not the usual accomplishment from a renowned chef who spends time in a Monaco kitchen with her beloved mortar and pestle.
Hayek is the executive chef at Em Sherif, which opened on April 2 at the Hotel de Paris. Her mother, Mireille, opened the original Em Sherif restaurant—named “mother of son Sherif”—in Beirut in 2011 and a decade later “the landmark in Arabic food” has more than 55 franchises worldwide. (In the spring, Em Sherif opened in Dubai with a deli at Harrods in London.)
Last year, Em Sherif Beirut was picked as one of the top nine female- led restaurants to watch by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants listing and chef Hayek is hoping the inspired Lebanese cuisine and trademark “one big family” feel will woo foodies in Monte Carlo.
“I grew up in a family and an environment where entertaining was a big part of who we were,” Hayek said. “We want our guests to really feel our unique ethos.”
Born and raised in Beirut, Hayek moved to France at age 18 to study culinary arts and management at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon. She later worked with French chefs Mathieu Pacaud and Jean-François Piège before joining three-star Michelin chef Rasmus Kofoed at Geranium in Copenhagen. She recalls, “Rasmus taught me about precision and passed on his amazing philosophy and a sense for detail when it comes to presentation and flavors. That level of perfectionism is essential.”
She told Harper Bazaar in 2019 that it was in Denmark where she first faced the challenge of being a female in the industry: “It’s very hard for women to find their place in a kitchen and it requires a lot of patience, perseverance and strength.”
Hayek knows about strength. On August 4, 2020, she was in Beirut when one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history wiped out a port and damaged more than half the city. She suffered a head injury and had to have 40 stitches. Her mom encouraged her to take time for herself and her career. “It was not this event that pushed me to leave but more our international expansion that forced me to focus, at this time, on projects outside Lebanon.”
Projects like revisiting the menu for the Monte Carlo location. “Our food is sophisticated, and we use techniques that in many cases have been forgotten. People of our generation just don’t cook like this anymore. We are carrying on traditions in our own way and staying loyal to them as we create authentic food for our guests.”
Her Lebanese know-how focuses on a few favorite ingredients. “Sumac, wild oregano and olive oil are all essentials for me. They are so versatile and go so well with everything from red meat to poultry, fish, sauces and vegetables.”
The classic dishes have an added à la Monegasque touch—lamb shank Kharouf with herb infused gravy (€75), a Siyyadiyeh steamed whole sea bass stuffed with caramelized rice and herbs (€75) and Maajouka, a kebab stuffed with cheese and pistachio pesto (€45). From the cold and hot mezzes to the spectacular desserts— Paris-Brest Em Sharif dates with Earl Gray infused cream puffs (€20) or Osmaliyeh, rose and orange blossom ice cream with kadaif (€18), this is a meal to share with friends who enjoy long conversations across the evening.
As Monaco, like France, struggles with a shortage in hospitality staff, Em Sharif will not be open for lunch this summer. Instead, a lounge menu will be served from 4 p.m. with dinner service from 7, including the 6-course Discovery menu at €160 per person (not including drinks). Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Place du Casino, +377 98 06 88 75