From Lebanon, with love

Poland Today sits down with Sandra Massoud, a Lebanese restaurateur living in Poland, to ask about her experiences in the country

Sandra Massoud was born in the coastal city of Jounieh in Lebanon to a Polish mother and French-Lebanese father. Having studied banking and finance in Lebanon, she moved to Poland in 2005 to do a Masters in Finance at Kozmiński University in Warsaw. She now manages ‘La Maison’, a restaurant serving a fusion of French/Mediterranean cuisine in Warsaw and is married with four children, three boys and a girl.

What were your first impressions of Poland?

My grandparents live in Zakopane and some of my favourite childhood memories are from the two or three months we’d spend with them in the summer during the school holidays. I grew up with my parents and sister in Lebanon, where there were no flights because of the war in my home country so we’d drive for six days to get to Zakopane. I loved it there when I was young and I still do now. Because I didn’t have family in Warsaw, I didn’t go until I got married there in 2004. I also remember how different the food seemed because I was used to the simple mountain food we ate in Zakopane. You can eat whatever you dream of in Warsaw!

Was there anything about Poland that took you by surprise?

When I moved to Warsaw to study, I found it hard being away from my family. In Lebanon, families are very close: we’re always together, surrounded by people ready to help with anything, so no-one feels alone. I love that, and it’s something I try to teach my children everyday. I had also expected Poles to be cold people since the weather is cold, but I was pleasantly surprised: they’re very welcoming, homely and have a strong sense of hospitality, much like Lebanese people.

What is your most memorable experience of living in Poland so far?

Opening my restaurant was a very memorable, emotional experience for me. I love cooking for people because I love to see people happy while they’re eating and experiencing different flavours and textures. The idea of opening a restaurant came to me the first week I visited Warsaw because I missed French-style pastries. I didn’t act on it until I was having a coffee on Chłodna street (in central Warsaw) ten years later: it was one of those summer nights, and I fell in love with the street and its history. I heard that the restaurant was for sale, and that’s where the story began. I would love to stay in Poland in the future.

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Written by: Liam Frahm