Q & A with Shane Delia


Shane Delia is best known as Chef and Owner of restaurants Maha and Biggie Smalls. Shane is a television presenter, host of his own TV shows Spice Journey and Recipe For Life, author of Maha Middle Eastern Home Cooking and Spice Journey: Adventures in Middle Eastern Cooking and a charity and brand ambassador.

The recently renovated Maha, located in Melbourne CBD is renowned for its fresh, unrestricted Middle Eastern menu. Since opening its door back in 2008 Maha has gone from strength to strength and continues to stay ahead of the game offering guests an unparalleled, unrestricted Middle Eastern dining experience.

We had the pleasure of meeting Shane Delia at his flagship restaurant to discuss all things food, passion and commercial kitchen equipment.

What inspired you to become a chef?
My earliest childhood memories of being happy were around food with my parents and grandparents. Whether it was growing and picking food, eating food or cooking food, there was always food around.

What drove you to the Middle Eastern cuisine?
I often get asked ‘if you’re a Maltese Australian chef, why are you cooking Middle Eastern food’. Malta was first colonised and settled by the Phoenicians, Phoenicia is modern day Lebanon or Syria. The base of our language is still Arabic, a good percentage of Maltese are Arabic, there’s a lot of cultural ties there. I suppose another influence is my wife Maha, she’s the namesake of the restaurant, she’s Lebanese-Australian and her family really opened my eyes up to the Middle Eastern kitchen and reignited my passion for cooking.

What is your most memorable meal to eat?
It changes so frequently because I have so many amazing dining experiences. I’ve had beautiful dining experiences on the side of the road in Lebanon, I’ve just come back from a holiday and eaten at 3 Michelin star restaurants in Paris, and then I sat with my uncle in an old beachside shack and ate a braised octopus dish in Malta – so it’s hard to pick one.

What sort of challenges do you often see in the kitchen?
I think one of the biggest problems we’re seeing and not just in kitchens but in hospitality, is a lack of qualified staff. A lot of people have an opinion on ‘why’ but not many people know how to fix it. A lack of young dedicated chefs and wait staff who are willing to be able to devote their life to a pursuit of excellence, irrespective of what sacrifices they have to endure is becoming harder and harder to find. Every generation says ‘but in my time as a chef….’ – they’ve always got a hardship story of how hard it was for them, and I’m trying not to be that person. But we are now seeing it more and more and the first thing that young people in our kitchen are saying is ‘work life balance’ as opposed to how much knowledge they can get out of the job in their early years as a chef or a waiter.

Can you describe your ideal kitchen?
I don’t have to – I can show it to you. I’ve got it. I’ve always dreamed of the kitchen we have in there now, I wouldn’t change anything. The space of the Maha kitchen is quite a challenging space, a challenging design. It was important we get the right kitchen designer on board. We got Chris Love, from Chris Love Design, who’s renowned throughout the industry, for not only creating beautifully operating kitchens but beautiful environments for staff to work in and I think that was one of our main objectives when we designed the kitchen, it didn’t just have to work well and have a good flow, it had to feel good.

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