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Were it not for the shawarma’s downmarket image in the Middle East, it might never have gone gourmet. «The shawarma needed a makeover, badly,» says Mohamed Parham Al Awadhi, an Emirati entrepreneur who along with his brother Peyman set up Wild Peeta in Dubai.
«We love shawarma in the Middle East, and in its current format it’s a perfectly good sandwich, but we saw a few aspects of it that was limiting, that stopped it from being as popular as the hamburger, pizza or the hotdog.»
Concerns over cleanliness prompted the brothers to put health at the top of their agenda. «It’s a very basic sandwich, often made by a not-very-clean-looking sweaty person, so there’s hygiene issues,» says Mohamed. «Most shawarma restaurants prepare their meat or chicken in their back-of-house kitchens, where the potential for food contamination is extremely high.»
«We have developed a service level agreement with one of the top food-preparation companies in the region, who use our own secret marination recipe to prepare our meat. I would be surprised if local government entities don’t stop meat and chicken preparation in non-food safety approved spaces very soon.»
Wild Peeta’s customers need never worry about unhygienic shawarmas again - and that includes a very famous gourmand who normally has no reservations about eating dodgy food. «One day my little brother Marwan called and asked if we wanted to spend some time being a host and tour-guide to a chef that was coming to town,» recalls Mohamed.
«We were about to pass until he said it was someone called Anthony Bourdain. I was in shock, because it was reading Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential that made me start cooking. I never imagined meeting him in person, let alone having him sit at our dining table in my family’s home. It was an honour and a pleasure at the same time.»
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