Ali Ghzawi, who is only 25 years old, won the Top Chef Middle East competition, aired on MBC over the past months. Ghzawi kindly took some time in his busy schedule to talk to The Insider about his journey through the culinary world.
Ghzawi’s story began at age 17. His classmates had raved about his delicious sandwiches, inspiring Ghazwi to begin selling them at school. In the process of selling 120 sandwiches a day to both students and teachers, Ghzawi discovered his passion for food. He knew then that he wanted to become a chef.
Choosing to become a chef is not thought of highly in Ghzawi’s culture. Nonetheless, his parents were supportive throughout his carreer and they continue to encourage him.
After completing high school, Ghzawi enrolled in the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Jordan, for a two-year culinary program. He was taught by master chefs from Switzerland, German, France, Australia, and America.
Following his studies, Ghzawi completed his first internship in Four Seasons Hotel.
Ghzawi’s ever-growing love for learning about food and different cultures led him to do his second internship in Spain, where he worked at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. During that period, he had the chance to work alongside chefs like Sergi Arola and Paco Perez.
Upon returning to Jordan, Ghzawi worked in Rotana Hotel for over three years. He started as a Demi Chef De Partie and finally become a sous chef.
As his journey continued, Ghzawi started working in W Hotel where he had various tasks such as creating the menu, recipe development, and setting up the kitchen and equipment.
During that period, Ghzawi received a message on Instagram from a Top Chef crew member who was fascinated by the pictures Ghzawi posted of the dishes he created.
The message contained an invitation to participate in Top Chef Middle East. It was not an easy decision for Ali Ghzawi to leave his current position and participate in a cooking show, in which he could be eliminated at any point.
He spent some time contemplating this big decision, in addition to the criticism he received from his upper management. Ghzawi took a leap of faith, and decided in the end to go the casting in Lebanon, where he succeeded and became one of the contestants.
Ghzawi made it to the finals, and was given over four months to prepare for the finale. But he could not find a place to train, especially after leaving his post at the W Hotel back in Jordan.
A possible solution was to train at his friend chef Peter’s restaurant in London. However, his visa got rejected. This left him feeling hopeless, as time for preparation was running out and h e had nowhere to train.
Ghzawi almost lost his motivation, but he then managed to get back on track after going back to The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts in Jordan, where he was able to improve his skills, and go over what he had learned. He also transformed his bedroom into a studying area, where he would read cooking books and watch cooking videos and shows.
In his preparations, he took into account the feedback other finalists received throughout the episodes so that he can have an understanding of their weaknesses and strengthens.
Ghzawi finished the competition as the victor, where he became the youngest Top Chef winner, as well as the first Jordanian to ever hold the title of Top Chef.
When asked about what other dreams a chef might have other than running a restaurant or writing a cookbook, Ghzawi responded by saying that “a chef has no limits”.
“Being a chef is like being an artist, because you can combine many flavors and cultures in just one dish”, Ghzawi explained.
“I want to take Jordanian cuisine to a higher level using modern techniques”, he added.
Ghzawi aims to write a book in the future called “At Twenty-five” where he will talk about his story and his love of cooking. Ghzawi is currently a guest on many cooking shows, radio shows, and other events where he gets to share his passion for food and inspire a new generation of chefs in the Arab World.
Written by: Lara Kaafarani