Remembering Chef Manar Alsebai
A colleague’s remembrance of Chef Manar Alsebai.
I remember when I first met Manar, about a week after he started at the Brigham. He was in so many ways larger than life. What struck me most was his kindness and genuine interest in learning from me and what nutrition offers.
For one of our first cooking demos, we decided to have it filmed. I had been working with a few patients who mentioned to me that they wanted to try spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta. I asked Manar if he had a recipe for this and, as is Manar, he created this new recipe on his own time over the weekend.
Of course, all the work is done ahead since it is baked for 45 minutes with the wonderful herbs he chose including thyme, chives, sage, and parsley. So here we are with the film crew who are ready to film us for ~ 20 minutes. Manar takes out the beautifully baked squash and with a fork starts to pull the strands of squash. I start by introducing the segment and Manar describes what he did to prepare the squash. I discuss the nutrients and then we both realize – there is nothing else to say. They are filming away – Manar is looking at me with a very puzzled expression – is that all you got? Only about 3 minutes have gone by and we have to find some chatter for another 10 minutes or so. We managed to talk about every squash we knew anything about and every preparation method known to mankind.
After the filming – Manar was so gracious – never once did he say “what were you thinking in filming this recipe for demo purposes”? But that was Manar – so very kind and very forgiving.
Manar also really impressed one of my dear friends, chef Suvir Saran. Suvir came to the Brigham a few times and worked with Manar on some demos. He told me a number of times what a genius Manar was in the kitchen. Suvir texted me a few days ago and reminded me how Manar lives on through his good deeds and the foods he most lovingly cooked and shared with all of us.
Thank you, Manar, for the gifts you gave us. Your presence will be missed but never forgotten.
Dana Farber/Brigham Women’s Cancer Center