FROM the delicious grilled leg of lamb slices his beloved mother served him when he was sick, to the lavish charity dinner parties he has organised, good food has always been an integral part of Nelson Restom’s life.
The East London hairstylist, who owned the city’s most glamorous hair salon before emigrating to Australia 10 years ago, returned to East London two years ago and recently published the second of his cookbooks, titled Another Efficient Kitchen.
Like his first cookbook, My Mother’s Efficient Kitchen, which Restom brought out in Australia four years ago, his latest recipe collection focuses on more than 100 dishes gleaned from his Lebanese roots as well as some Asian-inspired recipes using ingredients like ginger, chillies, oyster sauce and lime juice which he came across during his sojourn Down Under.
But it is his late mother, Elaine Yazbek Restom, who has had the greatest influence on his cooking style and the dinner parties he loves to host at his elegant Esplanade apartment.
“My mother was the queen of Kibbeh (minced meat and spices) and mahshy (stuffed vegetables) and I picked it up from her by watching and helping her in the kitchen. She was a very organised and innovative cook,” Restom said.
And, because his mother had to count the pennies when bringing him and his four siblings up, Restom also inherited her budget-wise approach to cooking and waste-busting food storage, which is also covered in his book and which he refers to as “economy-driven shortcuts”.
A self-confessed obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping a well-stocked pantry and efficient food preparation, Restom said he could at any time whip up a three-course meal without first hitting the grocery store.
“I’m a ‘just in case’ person so I have enough stuff in my pantry to survive a nuclear holocaust. It gives me a sense of security.”
This means his kitchen is never without ingredients like tahini (sesame paste), olive oil and bulgar wheat, while his fridge is always stocked with mince, brinjals and pimentos.
Another testament to his rigorous approach to cooking is a fixation with cleaning as he cooks, and having everything ready by the time dinner guests arrive.
My Mother’s Efficient Kitchen and Another Efficient Kitchen are available for R150 each at Sculptures hair salon and Quartet gift shop in East London or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org