Interview
| Paloma Tracey Diaz

Q&A with Manu Canales, Head Chef and Creative Mind behind Le Bab

Tell our readers a bit about yourself. Where did your love of cooking come from?

I have loved food and eating for as long as I can remember, it gives me immense pleasure. It felt natural that from an early age I played and experimented in the kitchen and ultimately became a chef. 

 

 

An Anglo-Spanish Chef living in London cooking Middle Eastern cuisine. Which other food cultures or cuisines have particularly inspired you?

Any culture, technique or ingredient can inspire me. There is always so much to discover, but if I had to pick one cuisine, from recent travels it would be Mexican. Absolutely everything about it is great!

 

How has the pandemic affected both your professional and personal life? 

It´s been difficult on the professional side and it still is but we will recover. On the personal side and on the plus side, it has helped me to put things in perspective, get  creative, and dedicate some time to things that I had put on hold for a long time. It’s been far worse for others!

 

With different locations around London, why did you choose Old Street to open your new late-night kebab shop?

We have always wanted to open a smaller site in your classic kebab shop set up. Old Street is London’s nightlife heartland, so the perfect location for the new late-night site, which honours Britain’s kebab culture and is open until 5am. We’ve created a new kebab which is exclusive to Old Street and is the ultimate late-night special – the Pepperoni Pork Shawarma. It’s basically a mash up of our signature pork shawarma and the flavours of a pepperoni pizza!

 

 

Kebab is sometimes synonymous with Street Food. Why did you choose opening restaurants rather than pop ups?

I think pop ups are exciting and can be very interesting, however we were looking long term, so restaurants made for sense for us. Our guests can come to Le Bab Old Street to experience a kebab in it’s original street food form, or visit Kebab Queen for a fine-dining experience.  

 

 

What’s your favourite dish to cook?

I really do enjoy cooking anything, but I get quite excited watching how any one pot wonder evolves in the process of cooking, be it a curry, casserole, stew or soup. From the raw ingredients at the start to the final product that might not be ready until the next day, all the changes in texture, flavor and arome amaze me, it’s a very sensorial journey. 

 

 

What are the biggest challenges you face as a chef and restaurateur today?

Right now it’s the shortage of chefs and staff across the hospitality industry, we are in a huge crisis and all operators are suffering as a result. 

 

 

Who inspires you?

Humble people that work hard and patiently, who develop their talents without expecting wealth or glory. Kindness is key!

Where do you like to eat in London?

We are spoiled for choices in London, you can savour any type of cuisine, but I am partial to a late night trip to Chinatown. 

What is next for Manu Canales, his team and Le Bab?

Surviving the pandemic and stabalising the business is our number one priority, but we’re constantly continuing to develop our food and hope to take Kebab Queen as far as it can go! 

 

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