Cook like an Egyptian
Executive Chef Dean Waziry likes his coffee like his women – bitter. But put him in a well stocked kitchen and he’s all sweetness and smiles.
Waziry came to Vail’s Marriott Mountain Resort roughly 18 months ago, full of the buzz and energy of New York City. Though Vail’s nightlife has been a bit of a culture shock, he’s planning on sticking around.
“I’ve taken a lot of ski lessons, but I don’t really ski,” he said, sheepishly. “I enjoy the view more than anything else. The mountains, the trees, nature – it gives you a chance to sit by yourself and figure out who you are, what you want to be.”
As for Waziry, he wants to continue racking up achievements in the kitchen – winning formal culinary competitions as well as having a busy night in the restaurant go flawlessly.
“I never compete for second place,” he said. “I’m very eager – always looking for what’s next. I’m satisfied most of the time, but there’s no limit to what I dream.”
Waziry has been busy creating a new menu for the Marriott Mountain Grille, which will debut later this month.
“My style doesn’t change much,” said Waziry. “I like to cook good food, but I don’t like to title it.”
He’s careful in how he describes his restaurant – fine cooking, not fine dining. For the past four years, he’s offered a grilled marinated filet mignon on every menu he’s created. Marinated in a porcini butter, it’s served with a port wine sauce and a tarragon reduction. It makes an impact on the eye, for he plates it as a tower of truffled mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach, baby vegetables and the beef.
“Anyone who tries is loves it,” he said. “I’ve served that filet to Al Gore, to the son of the Iranian president, to members of the Senate. Adam Aron always asks for it when I cater for him.”
Though he calls the recipe simple, it’s time consuming. The two sauces alone take hours to reduce to the right consistency, and few people would have all the ingredients on hand. Which might be why he shares the recipe so willingly.
“I have no problem giving away my recipes,” he said. “I can always create more. And that’s a challenge. Besides, I like people to know what they’re eating.”
The chef grew up in Egypt, the land of exotic spices and sweet honey. He left his homeland when he was 20, and carved out a niche in New York City. Egyptian cuisine has a style all its own, which is ingrained in him.
“Egyptian food has a robust flavor,” he said. “Lots of spices and ingredients. And for a meal, there’s no such thing as a meal without six or seven courses. Mom would spend all day in the kitchen. That wasn’t unusual.”
Though there aren’t traditional Egyptian foods on his menu in the restaurant, a dinner party at his home is a different story.
“It’s never a bad time for falafel,” he quipped.
His family also left Egypt, and they now live in Miami. When he goes home, his mother likes him to go to the market.
“I always come back with a thousand different things,” he said.
They’ll talk about the many dishes his grandmother used to make. Whenever one of his interpretations hits the right chord in her memory, she’s very pleased, he said.
“Cooking is not a job or a style,” he said. “It’s an art. And every dish is a piece of art with lots of color and a good mixture of ingredients.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.