Beirut: When food blogger Anthony Rahayel visits a restaurant, he doesn’t go alone; he takes with him more than 136,000 Instagram followers, 89,000 Facebook likers, 101,599 YouTube subscribers, and many TV viewers who watch his show “Mechwar”.
A photographer, a dentist, a food blogger, a TV presenter, and more, Rahayel has always been passionate about life and its details.
“When I was 12 years old, I was in the Lebanese scouts and I was handling the kitchen; I also learned photography at a very young age. I loved a hundred fields, but I chose to major in dentistry because I believe one should choose a major that sculpts his brain and then work in something he’s passionate about,” he said.
Luck isn’t a word in this food blogger’s dictionary for he believes a person draws his own path with his daily tasks; his journey is a proof. In 2002, he created a website about nightlife to showcase a Lebanon that doesn’t sleep at 6pm, and doesn’t only “have camels”. Eventually, he published a book featuring 700 pictures of the “beautiful side of Lebanon”.
However, when he got married and had his first kid, he gave the website to his partner and pursued another road. He started writing reviews on trip advisor and traveling 2 to 3 times per month.
One day, he woke up and realized that he doesn’t have a souvenir of all his trips, but, that wasn’t the only purpose behind his blog.
“I noticed that everything related to food recommended on social media is paid for, so, I wanted to start a genuine platform that gives honest reviews and helps people know where to go and where to eat,” he explained.
Hence, he started the blog No Garlic No Onions; the name refers to his allergy to both vegetables. It has become today a hub with over 7,000 articles and reviews, 89,000 Facebook followers, 166,000 Instagram followers and 1,800 YouTube videos.
The patriotic blogger noted that his reviews which range from falafel and foul restaurants to five-star eateries are written in the same day and are based on everything that happens the minute he enters the place. From the valet parking and the service to the food and design, he takes more than 60 pictures of the restaurant.
“Lebanon has many beautiful experiences to offer, to name a few: the traditional restaurant Al Halabi which started 40 years ago, the 5-stars restaurant Burgundy and Saj Em Bachir in Faraya. If I visit a restaurant and the experience is bad, I write a review and then give it another try after a month or a year to see if it has evolved,” he indicated.
Considering the fact that he never gets paid for his reviews or accepts free invitations, he describes the different kind of reward which he receives as priceless.
“When expats come back to Lebanon to try the experiences I showcase, and when I help local food heroes to increase the traffic of their small businesses, I feel like I want to do more. It is more than motivational,” he expressed.
Rahayel shared with Annahar a heart-warming incident that happened during his journey. When he visited Abou Chadi’s restaurant in Jal el dib, the owner frowned at him when he saw him taking pictures; he didn’t have Facebook or Instagram and didn’t understand what Rahayel was doing. Rahayel tried to make him smile, and after an almost successful attempt, promised him he will visit again to enjoy his foul and hummus.
The second trip was completely different; Abou Chadi was smiling, energetically welcoming customers, and eagerly asking for pictures with Rahayel.
“An employee there told me that after my visit, the restaurant’s traffic increased by 70 percent and the owner’s mood shifted 100 percent. He now treats customers differently and wants the place to evolve,” he said.
It was long before that incident that Rahayel realized that only 20 percent of the Lebanese population could read his blog or use Instagram, for many don’t have access to the internet or don’t use it frequently. Thus, he approached MTV with the idea of a TV show called “Mechwar” where in each episode a “food hero” is discovered; the show today is a great success.
Not only that but he took a step further and started Souk el Akel: a street food market where people can enjoy authentic and fresh street food prepared by some of the country's finest culinary artisans and skilled chefs. It started in Downtown Beirut, but it has roamed, and is still roaming, many Lebanese cities and villages ever since.
According to Rahayel, the purpose of Souk el Akel was to revive Downtown Beirut, introduce new dishes to the Lebanese people, unite the Lebanese community on the streets to enjoy real food. He also wanted to give local families the chance to cook and work in a food business by simply having a food stand rather than investing in a big restaurant.
As for the future, the credible food blogger has several plans ahead but prefers to keep them unannounced for now, he advises food bloggers and foodies to do the same.
“How can you trust a food blogger who gets paid for every post? My advice to food bloggers is to try to be genuine and put a plan for the next 5 or 10 years. Everyone can have an Instagram page and everyone can take pictures of food, so, if you aren’t different and if you don’t have a plan or an initiative you will disappear overnight,” he told Annahar.
Annahar is pleased to introduce the debut of “Dish,” a new section for all things Food. Section includes Recipes, Chef Interviews, new eating venues; restaurant profiles concepts; eating interviews, and dining options ranging from kitchen to clubs.
For recipes, food and dining tips send to Dish Editor: email@example.com
Dish - Reach Out and Taste the World.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.