Chef and bestselling cookbook author Sami Tamimi brought Palestinian cuisine to the Suvretta House for the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival this year as part of its Middle Eastern theme. This international cooking star also celebrated his birthday during the festival, while pleasing guests with his fresh and fragrant dishes. I attended one of Sami Tamimi’s three 5-course Gourmet Dîners at the Suvretta House and spoke with him about his experience at the festival.
Even though Sami Tamimi had traveled to Switzerland before, as he lives part of the year in neighboring Italy, it was his first time in St. Moritz. On day three of the festival, I asked him about his impressions so far. “The festival has been amazing,” he said. “I think it’s such a nice experience. To be able to showcase Palestinian food, first of all, and my food. And really to be surrounded by all these foodies and chefs, the banter and conversations.” He described this as the core experience of his participation in the festival — the opportunity to connect with other chefs and the exposure to other culinary enthusiasts.
Suvretta House, “An Alpine Hideaway for Generations to Come”
As one of 10 hotels in the St. Moritz area participating in the festival, the Suvretta House hosted Sami Tamimi during the first half of the festival. Executive Chef Fabrizio Zanetti for this hotel, and culinary director for the festival, helped Mr. Tamimi prepare for the event. Mr. Tamimi told me he brought two suitcases, one of which was reserved just for ingredients. Some of these ingredients included maftoul (Palestinian couscous), za’atar, olive oil and shatta (chili paste).
When choosing his menus for the dinners at the Suvretta House, Mr. Tamimi’s goal was to “give people some different flavors and a taste of the Palestinian table.” He spoke about how bread is such an important part of Palestinian food, not just eaten at the beginning of the meal. “We eat bread with everything.” He talked as well about the customary practice of sharing dishes across a communal table. When someone welcomes you into their home in Palestine, “they want to make sure you’re well fed.” According to him, this is a big part of Palestinian hospitality, “they’ll go out of their way to make sure that you’re happy.”
A Voice for Palestinian Cuisine
Through his work, he wants to show the positive side of Palestine, a place where he says people love life and have a great sense of humor. This desire to showcase not only the food of Palestine, but also its people and culture comes through as well in Sami Tamimi’s bestselling book, Falastin, which he co-authored with Tara Wigley. Published in 2020, it contains a foreword by Mr. Tamimi’s friend and business partner, Yotam Ottolenghi. Falastin is Mr. Tamimi’s third cookbook, his first two books — Ottolenghi (2008) and Jerusalem (2012), he co-authored with Ottolenghi.
“Falastin was never my story, he said. “It’s stories about modern Palestine and how people live there nowadays.” He wrote about people he finds inspiring; those working with food who are giving a voice to this community.
Sami Tamimi started out in the restaurant industry in West Jerusalem as an adolescent. His father told him he needed to earn his own money if we wanted a bike. After years of demanding work in professional kitchens, Mr. Tamimi has built a successful career sharing delicious food inspired in part by his youth. Through his cooking and his writing, he helps to tell the story of his homeland. And in the historic palace hotels of St. Moritz during this year’s gourmet festival, he once again enjoyed the opportunity to reach a new audience eager to learn about Palestinian cuisine and culture.
Sami Tamimi’s Menu at the Suvretta House
Here are the various courses that made up Sami Tamimi’s Gourmet Dîner menu at the Suvretta House, between January 21-23, 2023.
Fish koftas with sumac yogurt, red chili and dill
Za’atar and feta bread rolls
Mini Jerusalem sesame bread
Beetroot and sweet potato dip with pistachio, bulgur and mint
Green shakshuka with quail eggs and Aleppo chili
Cauliflower and cumin fritters with mint yogurt
Lamb dumplings with yogurt sauce, coriander and garlic.
Lemon chicken with za’atar, almonds and green Maftoul
Muhallabieh (cream pudding) with cherries, hibiscus syrup and Ghraybeh (shortbread cookies)
For more information:
Hotel Suvretta House, Via Chasellas 1, 7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland, +41 (0)81 836 36 36, firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Mortiz Gourmet Festival, Woehrle / Pirola Events & Public Relations, +41 (0)44 245 86 94, email@example.com
Please note: I stayed for two nights at the Suvretta House as a guest of the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival. As always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are purely my own.