Written by Sanaa Nehme
In this particular restaurant at the heart of Moscow, the recipe for comfort is at its best.
One spoon of care, a handful of good taste in music and decoration, all combined in a jar of authenticity and hospitality.
Welcome to “Kampus”, a restaurant whose owner represents a melting pot of cultures. Riad Al-Halabi is of a Syrian father, a Russian mother, with a business that serves the best Lebanese cuisine in town.
This is his story.
Being a perfectionist
I am a perfectionist. I give attention to details and choose my ingredients carefully. What I offer my clients goes beyond serving them food. I want to introduce them to a culture: Lebanese food is a culture; it is also very similar to the Syrian food. I pick my ingredients with care to give the taste 100%. Our openness and love for the clients keep them coming back.
But why a Lebanese cuisine?
Well, because my partner in business is Lebanese. As for the mood, I chose carefully the songs to play: I pick both Arabic and western music to try and meet all tastes among our clients. At the end of the day, not all of them understand Arabic and we must take that into consideration. Russian clients feel that all Arabic songs are the same! [Laughs].
Going back to the beginning…
I am originally from Shaghour, Damascus. I left Syria at the age of 20 and came straight to Moscow, where I studied Business and Management at the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia. Then I moved from one part-time job to another and they were all in the food sector. As if the restaurants chose me, and not the other way around! I had never been a leader in my life and it looks to me as if life pushed me to actually play that role. Today, my restaurant has two branches in Moscow with about 60 employees of different nationalities. The chefs are, however, either Lebanese or Syrians.
And then 2011 came…
The crisis in Syria did not affect my job. Russians are more “Oriental” than Western Europe. They value family and friendship ties and they appreciate hard work. They know well our countries. Therefore the war in my one homeland did not, by any mean, have an impact on my business in the other.
Work, work, and work
We have been catering for different occasions, different embassies and for businessmen in Russia. The Lebanese food is very famous worldwide as some of the healthiest food. The dishes that I serve here taste like Lebanon to a point where my Russian friend, who visited Beirut, even told me that he preferred my “Tabboule” here better!