Chef Jay Hajj Writes New Cookbook

Chef and restaurateur Jay Hajj at his back-yard grill. (Photo by Ken Goodman)
Chef and restaurateur Jay Hajj at his back-yard grill. (Photo by Ken Goodman)

Mike’s City Diner in the South End is a beloved Boston institution and widely proclaimed as one of the best diners in America.

The man behind Mike’s, chef and restaurateur Jay Hajj, recounts his dramatic immigrant success story and the delicious recipes that have flavored his life in his new cookbook, “Beirut to Boston: Comfort Food Inspired by A Rags-to-Restaurants Story” (Page Street Publishing, Salem, MA).

“Beirut to Boston” features a foreword by Food Network star Guy Fieri, appearances by political luminaries such as the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino, recipes from celebrity chefs Jamie Bissonnette, Ken Oringer and Ming Tsai, and gorgeous photography by Ken Goodman. Hajj wrote his book with the noted Boston Herald food writer Kerry J. Byrne.

Packed with mouthwatering recipes and inspiring stories of perseverance and success, “Beirut to Boston” highlights the turning points in Hajj’s career and the food that defined them.

Hajj found refuge in the kitchens of local restaurants, landing his first cooking job at age 13. Today, he is a frequent guest on The Food Network; a married father of four children; and a prominent behind-the-scenes power player in Boston’s restaurant development.

Hajj is the landlord for several Boston eateries. He purchased the culinary landmark Locke-Ober building in Boston’s Downtown Crossing in 2012 and today is one of the partners behind Yvonne’s, the celebrated “supper club” that opened in 2015 in the former Locke-Ober space.

Among the global comfort-food recipes that flavor “Beirut to Boston” are Mike’s Chicken Liver Pate with pomegranate, onion and bacon marmalade, a tribute to the food Hajj ate as a boy in the shelters of Beirut; Mountain-style Saj Bread, a Lebanese flatbread the Hajj family ate to survive while refugees in the Chouf Mountains outside Beirut; hummus, falafel and tahini sauce that Hajj perfected while owner of his first eatery, Temptations CafĂ© in Brookline; and Yvonne’s oysters Savannah, which pays homage to Locke-Ober’s signature lobster Savannah.

According to Boston restaurant critic Mat Schaffer, “From battle-scarred Beirut to Boston’s best breakfast and brunch, Jay’s story is both inspiring and delicious.”

“Beirut to Boston” has been nominated as one of the finalists for “Cookbook of the Year” by judges from The Readable Feast in Boston. The winner will be announced at The Readable Feast Culinary Books Award Gala on June 23 at the Boston Public Library. For more information, visit www.thereadablefeast.com.

Best Wishes to Jay and Kerry!