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Chef Spotlight: Executive Chef M.J. ALAM of Limani in NYC

Executive Chef M.J. Alam, originally from Bangladesh, moved to Montreal in 1992 at the age of 23, where he began working at the famed Greek seafood restaurant Milos. There, Chef Alam worked his way from the ground up with no prior culinary training. After a brief hiatus, which saw the opening of Alam's own French-inspired Greek restaurant, he returned to the Milos family in 1998 as a sous chef in its New York City location and was promoted to executive chef in 2000. In 2014, Chef Alam accepted the top toque position for Limani's new restaurant at 45 Rockefeller Plaza.

Chef Alam's passion is healthy food: combining only the freshest, hand-picked ingredients from his trips to the Mediterranean and throughout Europe, with locally produced, farm-fresh products New York City vendors. Chef Alam takes great delight in finding new and rare discoveries that lead to spontaneous culinary creations, which result in "seasonal surprises" much to the delight of Limani's patrons. Chef Alam's mantra is to stay true to simple Mediterranean flavors especially the Ladolemono - the traditional Greek lemon and olive oil dressing - so that the taste of the fish is the star of the show.

Limani originally filled a void of elegant and traditionally prepared Greek cuisine in the Long Island community. Chef Alam's ultimate goal is to establish a regular clientele in NYC, known to him on a first-name basis, that appreciate his re-creation of the Greek home where food inspires "sharing and happiness" across the table, which is only enhanced by the restaurant's impeccable service. The care and love that goes into the food preparation will surely take Limani's tradition of being the Best Fish and Best Greek restaurant on Long Island to become a favorite among Manhattanites, bringing new accolades in the years to come.

Chef Alam currently resides in the Briarwood area of Queens with his wife and five-year-old daughter, and is expecting another daughter this January.

Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Chef M.J. Alam about his career and Limani in New York City.

What was your earliest interest in cooking?

I developed a passion for cooking in my early 20's when I moved to Canada. I began working at the famous Milos restaurant with no prior culinary training, and eventually left to open my open restaurant.

Who were some of your career mentors?

The Chef I worked with in Canada taught me all the essentials of Mediterranean cuisine so I consider him my greatest mentor.

What culinary styles have influenced your career?

I am greatly influenced by Mediterranean cuisine and the use of organic, freshly sourced ingredients. I enjoy preparing seafood and vegetarian dishes the most.

What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?

My approach is simplistic- I only use light oils and handpicked ingredients when preparing dishes so that the Mediterranean flavors truly stand out. Our signature dish is the charcoal grilled octopus, which is sashimi quality and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil; served with white onions, grilled red & golden peppers and handpicked capers from Santorini. I also love the whole fish, specifically the sea bass. In both, I love the flavor and way they're prepared, especially the smokiness and you can taste and see the food.

What is your favorite meal?

Limani's top sellers, which are simply but elegantly prepared are Kolokithi (paper thin cut zucchini and eggplant served with lightly fried kefagograviera cheese and tzatziki), tomato salad and grilled octopus salad. My additional personal favorites as mentioned are the grilled octopus salad and the whole fish of sea bass.

Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.

Limani opened in November 2014 at 45 Rockefeller Plaza. The space is 8,000 square feet and seats about 200 people. At Limani, we stay true to the culinary components of the original Roslyn location, which is authentic Greek preparations and small-batch items. I believe that sharing is happiness and our traditional but modern approach shines through in the food and the décor to bring it all full circle.

Limani is located at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10111. They serve lunch and dinner 7 days a week and offer a pre-theater dinner special. Reservations are suggested. Call (212) 858-9200 or visit https://www.limaniny.com/NYC/index.html.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chef Alam



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