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Shahir’s Scrumptious Success

Sherri Tran

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Disclaimer: Pun overload

Shahir Massoud is an ’06 Schulich graduate who has a passion for painting and enjoys an occasional drink. Not to mention, he is also the executive chef of the Levetto restaurant chain and a host for CBC’s The Goods. However, Massoud had to overcome many challenges, face failures, and endure moments of doubt before becoming the successful public figure he is today.

While he had a strong passion in regards to the culinary arts, he did not believe that it would one day become his career. Rather, he deemed it as a simple interest like that of painting. Unsure as to what type of education and field to pursue, his father, a jack of all trades, advised him to attend business school as it is a “good foundation” for everything. Little did he know that the education he would obtain from Schulich would become a delicious foundation to his career.

Upon graduating from Schulich and with only five months left prior to obtaining the CPA certification, Massoud managed to pass all his exams due to the level of preparation that Schulich provided, however, he was constantly getting fired.  He was unable to fulfill the work requirement to attain the certification and realized that his passion did not lie within the field of accounting. He found that sitting in an office was flavourless and was more interested in activities and careers that were amusing, enjoyable, and savoury; thus, he decided to pursue his passion, cooking.

At the age of 26, he began his new journey; still, he considered himself a “failure.” He was fired multiple times, his parents were devastated, his life did not consist of a cherry on top, but Massoud persevered. After veering away from his initial objective, he decided to move to New York to “enroll in the famed French Culinary Institute” to create his own path. His new resolve began with a distasteful start; he was frightened and pulverized with this new environment. Yet, this mentality did not last long as he decided that it was time to seize the mouth-watering life that he desired. With no real experience as he lived a preserved life, he only controlled how hard he worked. Thus, he put his effort to use in hopes to spice up his life.

He came across an alluring restaurant, and he proceeded to knock on the door to talk to the chef, Mario Batali. While Massoud had a craving to learn, he explicitly admitted to Batali that he “didn’t know anything.” He didn’t know the fundamentals to cooking, let alone creating an extravagant dish. However, he looked at Batali and approached his questions with humility, boldly stating that “if you show me what to do, I will do it… I am here to work, here to learn, and I’ll do whatever you show me.”

With the right zesty attitude, Batali took him under his wing and Massoud began to garnish his new life. The provided offer was not a simple one as many before him were fired for incompletion or failure to take the task seriously. His shifts began right after he finished school, 4PM, and carried on until midnight every day. His job consisted of “peeling squash and chopping brussel sprouts in the basement.” Nonetheless, after having been in the basement for weeks repeating the same tasks, he began to question himself, “what am I doing here?” He felt as if he was making no progress and proceeded to have a self-deliberation. Massoud reminded himself that hard work never failed him; place trust into that mentality and something good will come out of it. “hard work never goes to waste… it will be recognized” he said, “even if you can’t see it now, it will pay off.”

The results were appetizing indeed; Batali eventually brought Massoud up to the kitchen and began to train him. Once his skills were honed after a long period which consisted of intense training, he returned to Toronto where he “helmed the kitchen at Cinq 01.” He was awarded with a “very good” rating from Toronto Life which made him “one of the youngest chefs to achieve the feat.” While he did not obtain the CPA certification, his efforts dedicated towards his studies early on were not fruitless. He recognized the criticism and made use of his obtained knowledge.

In Schulich, the courses educated him of general knowledge including, but not limited to, business planning and presenting a pitch. However, he felt as if the extra-curriculars affiliated with Schulich were what fermented the real-life experiences, applicable to many incidences. In his third year, he was a part of APEX and in his fourth year, he ran to become president of UBS, formally known as UBC, to represent his peers. He decided to take a different approach for marketing; rather than mindlessly distributing flyers, he decided to talk to each person individually to gain each distinct vote and trust. He learned that “no matter who you are, you can never be everywhere at once,” an experience that later became extremely valuable to his current career.

These experiences, as mentioned, applied to his experience at Cinq 01. While he received praise, he also took this rating as a criticism. The food was finger-licking-good, but the restaurant was mismanaged; profit was not made. He stated that it is not enough to solely have a right location, solely good food, or solely good service. All the different aspects had to be incorporated into a single delectable element and the education attained at Schulich allowed Massoud to confront these many features at once.

In addition to these applications in Cinq 01, his knowledge and experience gained through his time at Schulich is pungently illustrated through his successful restaurant chain, Levetto. He used the experience he gained from running for UBS president and implemented them into the service he provided. Massoud “talked to each customer that walked through the doors,” ultimately building a warm and toasty culture that welcomed all. He also lead a team using the experience gained from extra-curricular rather than a course as it was much more hands on. Moreover, he was also able to become a host for CBC’s The Goods by “seizing the little [opportunities] and adding them up.” Through his networked connections, he paved his own glazed path.

Through it all, the figure that Massoud looked up to the most, the one who advised him when he needed help, the friend who he could talk to, was his father. He immigrated to Canada from Egypt with English as his second language. He consistently pushed Massoud to obtain his goals and achieve his desires. He reminded Massoud everyday the importance of  “forging strong relations with people… and never lose sight of the way you treat them.” While he did not have the same advantages as Massoud had, he created his own definition of success and encouraged Massoud to do the same, and that he did.

Massoud’s definition did not consist of wealth or status and as his father mentioned, it “doesn’t matter what anyone says, it’s only about yourself.” As he reflected on his accomplishments, an individual that at age 30 had three restaurants, he realized who he was, and felt that he himself did well.

While we focus on an individual’s success, we tend to overlook their struggles, failures, and perseverance that got them there. Shahir Massoud is an example, demonstrating his long flavoursome journey that led him to his sweet success.

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