Having moved to London with his family during his high school, Faisal was mugged and beaten during his first few days in the city. An incident that led him to lock himself in his house with fear, the only thing that sustained him during those days was binge watching BBC Food and subsequently experimenting in the kitchen with whatever inspired him on TV. “There was a little supermarket right under our house in London, I would only get out of the house to buy ingredients from there, and return home to experiment,” said Faisal describing his first foray into the culinary world.
After finishing his high school, Faisal moved to the US to study Film and Photography at the University of Miami. “My father is a big believer in formal education, and he wanted me to do something more mainstream, before I went to cooking school.”
During his stay in Miami, Faisal was amazed with the variety and depth of food options available in the city that is a melting pot of cultures. While there Faisal would organise Iftars for a small community of Kuwaitis living in Miami, as a way for everyone to be able to connect with their culture even if they were miles away from home, sometimes putting together meals for as many as 25 people.
Having completed his undergraduate studies, Faisal moved back to Kuwait for an apprenticeship first at the Sheraton and then briefly with Le Notre, post which he returned to London to study at Le Cordon Bleu. “Going to London was more than just studying cooking. It was a mix of facing my fears and returning to the place where my love affair with cooking started. Needless to say, it was the best year of my life. The kind of exposure I got studying with some of the best teachers, working with Michelin star restaurants and exploring everything there was to explore about the world of food.”
In his heart though, Faisal always knew he would eventually return to Kuwait, to his country, his people and his culture.
“I wanted to be a part of the evolving food scene in Kuwait. In the last three or four years the food scene in Kuwait has progressed tremendously. People here now understand different cuisines and flavours and are willing to try new things.”
Having returned to Kuwait, Faisal assumed the role of the executive chef and partner at Street Al Makan, a Korean underground style eatery. Departing from the usual, Street Al Makan serves food, that does not claim to be authentic. The food although inspired by Korean cuisine, takes ingredients available locally and combines them with items that have a certain nostalgic value for the locals. Dishes like Indomie, Machboos Fried Rice and the ice cream sandwich tug at its customers’ heart strings while pleasing their taste palettes.
What started off as one restaurant, today has evolved into Almakan United Company with multiple food concepts like Table Otto, Pam and Cow, Street Café, Experimental Eatery and Zubabar. The one thing that runs common through all these is Faisal’s idea of exposing his customers to a new style of food. Through his work, Faisal always takes the road less travelled to create food that inspires.
He himself though is greatly in awe of two Kuwaiti chefs, namely Ahmed Al Bader of Prime & Toast fame and Basil Al Salem, the man behind Gastronomica. Faisal often travels to London and Paris to explore the food scene there and confesses that most of his menus are compiled on the flight back home. “London has always been my favourite food city, but now Paris seems to be gaining as a close second. The way Parisian chefs are using their traditional techniques to cook food from other countries is something I am very inquisitive about,” said Faisal.
As a chef who can create fantastic plates from whatever ingredients are available to him, Faisal’s favourite is still braised meat with a side of mandi (slow cooked goat on rice) with crispy fat and lamb stew and his mom’s Um Ali. He someday aspires to earn a Michelin star himself and is only terrified by the idea that his kitchen may run out of butter.
Faisal Al Nashmi, is a game changer, someone who has in the last few years transformed how Kuwait views food, and from the looks of it he is only just getting started. A man who does not believe in passing trends, Faisal believes that he is not competing with the market, but instead creating a niche of his own, and we couldn’t agree more.
You’ll find the results of Faisal’s passions mainfested through social media on these tags: