The acclaimed food writer Anissa Helou featured at the MEM Summer Summit

Anissa Helou
Anissa Helou

Institutional Communication Service

27 July 2018

Anissa Helou is much more than just a food blogger, a chef or a food writer. Her articles are featured in leading international media such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian and the BBC, which describe her first as a great narrator of her homelands, Lebanon and Syria. After her studies in interior design in London, she completed the Sotheby's Works of Art course, leading her to start working for the auction house, and becoming their representative for the Middle East. A few years later, she opened an antiques shop in Paris, and shortly after became a freelance art consultant based in London. Later, she lived in Kuwait acting as an advisor to members of the ruling family, eventually returning to London where she lives today. Since 1994, he has been publishing books on the cuisine of the Mediterranean Middle East, using this semantic field as a powerful means to create positive and common imageries of a land that is all too often considered for of its many problems.

Anissa Helou is one of guest speakers of the MEM Summer Summit, at which she will share her vision of the region during a public event (title "Culture on the table") on Friday, August 17, at 6:30PM at the LAC Lugano (hall 3).


Annissa, you have spent the first part of your life dealing with fine arts, eventually moving on to the world of fine cuisine. Is there a connection between these two worlds?

Yes, of course. Aesthetics and culture are common elements of both worlds. Food is culture as far as I am concerned and my approach to writing about it is to do with preserving traditional foodways and recipes, expanding culinary lore and inspiring young people to appreciate that learning to cook or learning recipes is more than just a practical occupation but also a cultural one.


The title of your latest book is “Feast”, a very positive term compared to a region known more for its problems…

This was my purpose, to present the religion and the people who practice it in a positive way given their rich history and culture.


In your view, what could be the specialty, the spice, or the produce that best represents the complexity of the MEM region?

Hard to say, throughout the region we find olive oil, lemons, fresh herbs, chickpeas, lentils and delicious breads, which is not surprising as the fertile crescent which is in the heart of MEM is where wheat was first domesticated!



The first edition of the Middle East Mediterranean Summer Summit will see 150 young people from 30 countries for a dialogue on the Middle East Mediterranean (MEM) region and Europe. The MEM Summer Summit, organised by Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) with the joint support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, has the ambition to encourage a realistic and constructive narrative of the MEM, addressing the situation in an innovative and tangible way.

Registrations at: