Anissa Helou was born, the daughter of a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother, in Beirut and educated there at a French convent school. Aged 21, she moved to London to escape the rigid social convention of her country and began to study interior design at Inchbald School of Design then at Sotheby’s training course, the history of art. She was soon appointed Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East. For a while thereafter, she owned and ran an antique shop in Paris, dealing in furniture and objets d’art which reflected her own sophisticated and highly individual taste. From 1978 until 1986 she was based in Kuwait and was adviser to several members of the Kuwaiti ruling family who were then forming collections of Islamic art. She also advised these and other collectors on the purchase of Victorian paintings, European silver, jewellery and Arts and Crafts furniture.

During this period she travelled extensively and she also started to build her own very personal collections. On her return to London in 1986, she housed her collections in her Victorian house transforming it into an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful and often bizarre treasures.

In the spring of 1999, she decided to change the course of her life. There were no half measures. She sold her house and put her remarkable and idiosyncratic collections up for sale at Christie’s. In the introduction to the catalogue the celebrated art historian and jazz singer, George Melly, described his arrival at her house to dine and to inspect the objects for sale:?‘when the taxi drew up she heard it and through the open door she stood in silhouette instantly recognised by her totally unique ‘coiffure’, an inadequately dainty word for this explosion with its dramatic white streak; the nearest equivalent is in fact that of Elsa Lanchester in ‘The Bride of Frankenstein’. Nothing scary about Miss Helou though. Her hair is more like the personification of her amazing energy. Her smile is as friendly as you can get. She is as lithe as an athlete.

An example of her acumen as a collector was the sale of a series of display panels of fishing tackle, one of which achieved a world record price. Having sold all but her books and most personal possessions, she bought with the proceeds of the sale a remarkable two-story warehouse loft in Shoreditch. This she decorated with her usual excellent taste, but this time as a severely functional, minimalist working space.

Anissa has always taken a strong interest in the food of the Levant. She has written several books about it. Lebanese Cuisine, the first comprehensive collection in the English language (1994) was her first. It was followed by Street Café Morocco, a fascinating introduction to the subtle flavours of the cuisine of that country. Both books achieved considerable acclaim. Mediterranean Street Food was published in 2002 and was equally well received. The Fifth Quarter, a pioneering book on the uses and delights of offal, followed in 2004. It is already beginning to overcome the traditional squeamishness of the British cook. Her fifth book, Modern Mezze was published in the UK in July 2007, and her sixth book, Savory Baking from the Mediterrean, was published in New York in August 2007. Levant, Recipes and Memories from the Middle East, is published in the UK this summer.

Anissa is an experienced, accomplished and photogenic broadcaster on radio and television and writes regularly for various publications, both in the UK and US. She speaks 3 languages fluently: Arabic, French and English.

Anissa continues with her unique style and her ferocious energy to demonstrate to the West the range of culinary delights offered by the East. She is presently working with a group of Egyptian entrepreneurs on launching various street food concepts. Their first, Koshari Street, is opening in Covent Garden in London in early May.

In 2013, she has been named one of the “100 Most Powerful Arab Women” by Arabian Business magazine” and she was also included in their “500 most influential Arabs.”

For a list of Anissa Helou’s radio and television broadcasts, click here

2007

  • Guest on Future TV’s Akhbar al-Sabah (Morning Stories) to talk about her two new books, Modern Mezze & Savory Baking from the Mediterranean. And her book signing party at Gruen in Beirut was broadcast on Future TV
  • Guest on BBC radio 4’s Food Programme to talk about mezze, also to offer a tasting of three different mezze dishes
    Click here to listed to the radio programme
    .
  • Guest on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Martha Stewart Morning Living with Kim Ashley and Betsy Karetnick to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean
  • Guest on WLFP-AM’s On the Menu with Ann & Peter Haigh to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking From the Mediterranean
  • Guest on WREL-AM’s Happy Cook with Dolores Kostelni to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking From the Mediterranean
  • Guest on WOR-AM’s Food Talk with Michael Colameco to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean
    Click here to listed to the pod cast
    .
  • Guest on WVOX-1460AM’s Between the Covers, with Josephe Montebello to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean
  • Guest on KGO TV’s View from the Bay to demonstrate how to make manaqish
    Click here to view the video.
  • Guest on KGO’s Dining Around with Gene Burns to talk about her latest book, Savory Baking from around the Mediterranean
  • Guest on Woman’s Hour to talk about her latest book, Modern mezze, and to demonstrate how to make baba ghannuge
  • Guest on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to talk about her latest book Modern Mezze
  • Guest on BBC Radio Northants to talk about her latest book, Modern Mezze
  • Guest on BBC Radio Kent’s Pat Marsh Show to talk about her latest book, Modern Mezze
  • Guest on BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s Steve Kitchen Show to talk about her latest book, Modern Mezze
  • Guest on Food Radio to talk about her latest book, Modern Mezze
  • Guest on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row to talk about whether food can be art

2006

  • Guest on Radio 4′s Christmas Eve Food Programme “From our Food” Correspondents” to talk about mezze in Lebanon
    Click here to listen to the radio programme.
  • Guest on KGO’s ‘Dining Around with Gene Burns’ to talk about the paperback edition of her Mediterranean Street Food book
  • Guest on Overseas Property TV’s ‘Destination Lunch’ to talk about Moroccan Food
  • Guest on LBC’s Chris Hawkings the Food Hour
    Click here to listen to the podcast.
  • Guest on UKTV Food’s Food Uncut to talk about Middle Eastern Ingredients
  • Guest on the BBC World Service’s The Word programme to discuss how restaurant menus are written
    Click here to listen to the radio programme.
  • Guest at the British Museum’s evening of Middle Eastern food, taking part in a panel discussion chaired by Fay Maschler on the
    food of the Middle East, with Claudia Roden and Mourad Mazouz
  • Guest on KXTR Radio in Missouri to discuss her book, Mediterranean Street
    Food, with Patrick Neas
  • First class at Anissa Helou’s new cooking school, Mediterranean Culinary Institute, featured on CNN’s Inside the Middle East
  • Guest on Al-Hiwar TV to talk about Arab cuisine and modernism
  • Guest on BBC Ireland’s radio to talk about offal
  • Guest on Radio 4’s Veg Talk to talk about nuts and to prepare Mühammarah, a Turkish/Syrian nut dip
    Click here to listen to the radio programme.

2005

2004

2003

  • Guest on Radio 4’s Food Quiz.
  • Three-times guest on Radio 4’s Copysnatchers to talk about noise, neighbours and food shopping.
  • Guest on LBC TV’s Morning programme to talk about her latest book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on Lebanese New TV’s Sahtak ala Sahn to talk about her latest book, Mediterranean Street Food, as well as her previous books.

2002

  • Guest on Radio 4’s Food Programme to name her favourite books of the year.
  • Guest on Radio 4’s Excess Baggage to talk about café culture in the Mediterranean.
  • Guest on Wisconsin public radio’s Converstions with Jean Ferraca to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on KABC-AM 790’s Food Talk with Mario Martinoli/The Restaurant Show to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on KSRK-AM (CBS)’s Karen Grant Show to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on KGO-AM’s Dining Around with Gene Burns to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on WHYL Radio’s What’s Cooking with the Baker to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on NPR’s All Things Considered (interviewer Jacki Lyden) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
    Click here to listen to the radio programme.
  • Guest on KCRW-FM’s Good Food (interviewer Evan Kleiman) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on KNRY-AM’s The Radio Kitchen (interviewer Michael Reining) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on WNBC-TV’s Weekend Today in New York to demonstrate how to make Spanish tortilla.
  • Guest on WICH’s A La Carte with Lee White (hosts Lee White & Mark Wayne) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on Martha Stewart’s to demonstrate how to make stuffed mussels, meat breads and potato cakes.
  • Guest on KEYT-AM (AP)’s A Matter of Taste (hosts Rachel and David Cane) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Guest on CBS-TV”s Saturday Early Show – News to do the segment Chef on a Shoestring.
  • Guest on KXAM-AM’s Radio Café (host Don Sandler) to talk about her new book Mediterranean Street Food.
  • Invited on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to talk about the use of mastic in middle eastern and north African cooking.
  • Twice guest on “Copysnatchers”, a Radio 4 programme where foreigners living in England air their views on the differences between their customs and those of the English; in the first programme Helou spoke about noise and in the second about neighbours.

2001

  • Wrote and presented Hello Helou, an eight-part series for Taste TV on the food of Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey and Iran. Hello Helou has also been shown on Gambero Rosso, the Italian TV food channel and in other countries such as South Africa and Sweden.
  • Guest on Taste TV’s Taste Today/Lebanese Cuisine as the expert on Lebanese food shopping and restaurant eating.
  • Guest on BBC World Service Outlook to talk about pastry.
  • Guest on BBC World Service Outlook to talk about chick peas.
  • Guest on Private Passions, Radio 3’s 1-hour programme to choose and talk about her favourite music.
    Click here to listen to the radio programme.

2000

  • Two series of cookery inserts for MBC’s twice-weekly women’s programme Anti.
  • Guest on Lebanese television LBC’s What’s New about her forthcoming book on Mediterranean street food and her television series Hello Helou.

1999

  • Appeared on Carlton Food Network to talk about where to shop for Moroccan ingredients in London as well as how to prepare various mezze and Egyptian dishes.
  • Featured in one of the Fantasy Rooms episodes on BBC 2 to talk about ancient Egyptian food and to present some typical dishes which she prepared.
  • Appeared on MBC’s Afternoon Show to speak about the food of the ‘Andalus’ and how it relates to Moroccan food – she also presented in the some typical Moroccan dishes prepared by herself.
  • Invited on Woman’s Hour to talk about almonds in the Middle East.
  • Was one of two panellists on Carlton Food Network’s Food for Thought taking questions from a live audience on the subject of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.

1998

  • Invited on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to talk about Moroccan food and demonstrate how to prepare a fish couscous.
  • Invited on Radio 4′s Food Programme to talk about cucumbers in the Middle East.
  • Appeared in several of ITV’s new six-part series Menu from Heaven to talk about Muslim fasts and feasts.
  • Appeared on various news programmes to talk about the first London Food Film Fiesta, which she helped organise, and her demonstration on aphrodisiac food to tie-in with the film “Like Water for Chocolate”.

1996

  • Appeared on C4’s Food File on to talk about the Lebanese larder.
  • Appeared on C4’s Food File to participate in an investigation into bois de panama.

1995

  • contributed a programme on Lebanese food to the BBC World Service Radio series Just a Taste.
  • appeared on C4′s Food File to prepare a festive Lebanese meal .
  • invited on Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour to talk about Lebanese food.

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