Marwan: from Zanzibar to Thailand to Port Perry

I am always intrigued when I go into a fine restaurant, to find out who is the master behind the art of the delicious cuisine. Such was the case with the relatively new eatery in Port Perry, Marwan’s Global Bistro.

Marwan Dib (pronounced Deeb) is the brainchild behind the concept of a Mediterranean eatery, with a western slant. “I wanted to create dishes that people would enjoy, and which catered to the entire community,” Marwan explained.

Adjusting his trademark cap and sporting his warm grin, I asked how he became a chef, and what prompted him to open his Bistro in Port Perry. He smiled, sat back and explained how his history played a giant role in the life he now leads.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Marwan was the son of an army Major and a bank manager, who tried to raise their three children during the height of the civil war. When Marwan’s fifteen year old cousin was murdered in the turmoil, the family took a deep look at its safety and future. Suddenly, one night a bomb hit their house and they narrowly escaped.

Marwan’s father had enough and began to make arrangements to move his family to safer ground. They were granted a Visa to enter the US and stayed in Michigan, where they had family. The intent was temporary, as they had always wanted to live in Canada. Six months later, when Marwan was eight, they relocated to Toronto.

Marwan attended St. Timothy’s Catholic School, and upon graduation went to Sacred Heart in Newmarket, where they were living. During his high school years Marwan worked in the food business, as a grocery clerk at Westin Produce, at Wally B World, Taco Bell and Kenny Rogers Roaster. “I really enjoyed working in the restaurant industry, which determined where my future would lie,” he said, proudly.

Upon graduation, Marwan received a scholarship to attend culinary school in London, Ontario, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He worked part time in a Greek restaurant. “The owner took all the time he needed to make sure I really knew the business,” Marwan explained. “He taught me a great deal about food, service and the importance of patrons.”

When he completed school, he and his brother, along with two other friends, purchased airline tickets to London, England, with a plan to see the world. From there they bought airfare to a small area north of Lamu Island in East Africa’s country of Kenya. Not certain what to do next, they pooled their money and bought a dhow, which they sailed to Zanzibar.

“The winds were so slow, that some days we were only able to travel a kilometre or two,” Marwan said, as he reminisced.

They stayed in Zanzibar for a few months and decided to sell the boat. Unfortunately the next morning, when they went to the beach to prep the boat for selling, it had vanished. All that was left was a piece of the mast, sticking out of the water.

With help from a few friends they were able to retrieve it, and finally sell it. Marwan made his way to the Zambezi River and hitched a ride on a large, hundred foot dhow, where he, his brother and their friends, slept on the palm leafed roof. Working as a cook in various places, Marwan travelled to Capetown, South Africa. After two years on the road it was time to head back, and he booked a flight to Egypt, where he toured for a month and a half.

After a couple of weeks in New York City, the would be chef returned to Newmarket where, at the age of 24, became the chef at Oregano’s Italian Restaurant. The travel bug was again surfacing, and Marwan headed to Brazil, then to Europe, Costa Rica, Australia and India, where he stayed a year. From there he secured a teaching position in Thailand.

“It was amazing,” Marwan commented. “I thoroughly enjoyed the work.”

It wasn’t long until some of his friends introduced him to Yui, the girl of his dreams. The relationship was casual for about a year, but then it became serious, and after a five year stint in Thailand, Marwan and his fiancé returned to Canada.

The couple were married and Marwan wanted to settle down. He took his culinary career seriously and was hired as executive chef at Newmarket’s prestigious Nature’s Emporium. After a few years, and the birth of their daughter Lily, one of Marwan’s co-workers suggested he visit Port Perry to see the town and her husband’s brand new brewery, the Old Flame.

Marwan and Yui fell in love with Port Perry, and a matter of months later he secured space, renovated it, and opened Marwan’s Global Bistro, right on Queen Street. The success he experienced in the first two years was astounding, and the town embraced its new entrepreneur.

Recently Marwan took over the space next door, which is currently being renovated into Port Perry’s first Gastro Pub, a high end bar specializing in craft beer, cocktails and fine wines, complemented by unique, finely crafted cuisine. The Port Social, as it is to be known, is scheduled to open soon.

Port Perry and the surrounding area have embraced Marwan’s Global Bistro, who in two years has brought much to North Durham.

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