Zoe Lucy, assistant manager at Aladdin’s Eatery in Mentor, is shown with some new menu items; the Lebanese Salata now made with quinoa, the popular Jasmine’s Favorite now made with brown, instead of, white rice and the Tropical Storm smoothie with kale.
Trading her stethoscope for fava beans, Daad Chamoun has managed to transfer her passions and skills from the medical field to her leadership in the restaurant world.
She came to the United States from Lebanon in 1985, where she worked as a registered nurse.
It was the people-to-people contact and helping people to find healthier ways of living that kept her interest and which she wanted to apply elsewhere. Now she owns and runs two branches of the Cleveland-area-based Aladdin’s Eatery, and she has the chance to employ those passions.
“I like to make people at ease,” she said.
She speaks about her patrons as guests in her restaurant rather than customers, taking a genuine interest in teaching people how to eat differently.
“On our menus we have printed, ‘Come as a customer, leave as a friend,’ ” she said. “I really like that.”
Members of her family started the franchise in the early ’90s in Lakewood.
Now there are 30 stores, including one in Washington, D.C., one to open in Boca Raton, Fla., at the end of this month and a new store in Canton expected to open in the fall.
She said when she first took over the Mayfield and Mentor stores in 2011, she had to explain to people what hummus was.
She used to pass out samples to get people to try different foods.
Now, she said, people have a wider taste palate and are willing to talk about how to incorporate health into their meals.
“Lebanese food is healthy food,” she said.
She also places great importance on the sources from which her food comes: free-range chickens, fresh vegetables and nothing processed whatsoever.
Now Aladdin’s restaurants are offering brown rice in their dishes, including the popular Jasmine’s Favorite, a medley of cooked beans, vegetables and rice, seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices served with homemade Tahini Yogurt or hot sauce on the side. Kale, arugula and quinoa — foods touted for their high nutritional value — are now offered as healthy options: the kale in the restaurant’s fresh fruit smoothies and all three in salads.
Gluten-free desserts are also available now, part of the company’s long-standing mission to provide options for various diets.
The baked goods, including bread and cakes, come from Jasmine Bakery, which is owned by the same parent company. Even the children’s menu offers healthier alternatives to traditional fare.
“Health is the most important thing in life,” Chamoun said.
But she stands by the philosophy that healthy eating does not mean having to compromise taste.
“The herbs and spices we use make all the difference,” she said.
And the success of that theory shows in their customer loyalty. Chamoun said business is increasing every year.
“Some of our customers are here one or two times a week,” she said.
And she takes that to the streets, helping out with community events and programs in lieu of advertising or marketing.
“It’s about building a customer base, building a reputation and earning loyal customers,” she said.
The money is better spent, she said, on well-sourced, healthy foods and community involvement. Chamoun offers assistance with Lighten Up in 2014, the sixth annual area weight-loss competition co-sponsored by The News-Herald.
“It means a lot to me, trying to help people get better,” she said of assisting with the contest. “You need to be involved in the community. It’s good for you, it’s good for them.”
Photo: Maribeth Joeright/MJoeright News-Herald.com
By Devon Turchan, The News-Herald