Owner and executive chef at Nazira Catering
Journey and motivation
Cynthia Bitar’s mother, Nazira, was one of the first women to enroll in the hospitality school in Dekwaneh, graduating in 1967. Nazira then worked in the restaurant at Al Bustan Hotel in Beit Meri, and later gave cooking classes for years. Thanks to her mother, Bitar grew up immersed in the world of cooking.
In 1997, Bitar decided to study at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, a school specializing in culinary arts and hospitality. She came back to Lebanon in order to develop the family catering company, which Bitar explains was the first one in Lebanon.
Bitar says that in France, men are more accepting of women working as chefs, whereas in Lebanon she sees a lot more sexism.
According to Bitar, there are several obstacles for female chefs, compared to their male counterparts. First, there are the physical constraints, with the heavy lifting required and the long working hours. Women, says Bitar, need to work more and do more in order to prove their professionalism.
Bitar has plans to begin working on her first book, as well as give cooking class. She also would like to expand her catering company outside of Lebanon.
Bitar believes that women should be confident and professional. For her, cooking is not just an ordinary job, it’s a passion, and chefs should fully immerse themselves in their work.