2021-February-16

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Secret Passions: Cooking with Ghassan Lababidi

BY KRYSTAL CHENG



Every day, we work alongside amazing people with really cool passions. Because we don’t always get the opportunity to meet them in person, we wanted to share some of their stories with you in our Secret Passions series.

One of those stories is about Ghassan “Guss” Lababidi, CX Partner Marketing lead and culinary aficionado. Guss’ travels for the last 20 years have led him to discover his passion for cooking and connecting with others through delicious food.

Just 7 months ago, Guss launched his blog, GussCooks, where he shares his deliciously healthy recipes inspired by his business travels.

Read on to learn more about Guss’ culinary journey, some of his family’s favorite recipes, and where he’s going to travel next.

Guss Lababidi lives in Southern California with his wife and three children.
Guss Lababidi lives in Southern California with his wife and three children.

CEC: How have your travels inspired your passions for food and cooking?

Guss: I have always had a passion for traveling and learning about cultures, which was why I was so lucky to have a career that allowed me to travel offsite to meet with partners and customers. I have particularly enjoyed the food aspect of my travels throughout these years because I’ve found that it’s one of the best ways to understand a country’s unique history, traditions, and even connect with the people you meet.

And of course, when I traveled to all of those incredible places, I couldn’t bring my friends and family with me. So, I brought back these recipes as a way to share those experiences with them.

CEC: Besides traveling, what else has inspired your cooking journey?

Guss: My culinary journey started when I moved from Lebanon to Dubai. For my first 10 years in Dubai, I was on my own and relied on takeout most of the time. But then I realized that I had an unused kitchen and lived alone, so I ventured out of my comfort zone and started cooking.

Back then, we didn’t have social media or cell phones — can you imagine that? I relied on a notebook with my mom’s recipes, letters she had sent from Lebanon, and frequent calls on the phone!

However, my blogging journey started with my neighbors. When my family and I moved to Southern California in 2016, we became good friends with our neighbors, a husband and wife from Malaysia. It wasn’t until months later that we learned the wife is one of America’s top Asian food bloggers!

Right before she and her family moved back to Malaysia in July 2020, she showed me the ropes of blogging. She gave me a camera, lightbox, and her book. So far, it’s been seven months since I’ve started blogging on Guss Cooks, and I’ve posted 62 recipes!

CEC: Where did you learn how to cook all the dishes on your blog?

Guss: First, I learned how to cook Lebanese food from my mom, who also has a passion for cooking. But for the other dishes, I learned how to cook them by asking restaurants what was in them or getting tips from friends.

I have food allergies, so I love to develop my own recipes from scratch or modify existing ones. There’s a lot of trial and error, but a lot of successes, too. When I nail it, I make sure it’s noted so I can share it with family and friends.

CEC: Do you and your family have any favorite recipes?

Guss: There are a variety of dishes that we love. My family loves fish, which is why there are five salmon recipes on the blog. Also, my family and I have a sweet tooth, so chocolate cake is one of our must-haves.

In terms of regional foods, my family and I have a lot of love for Italian food. I’ve been to Italy countless times, and I just love the way they cook their food. It’s beautiful to watch local Italians cooking because you can just feel that they are putting so much passion and experience into it.

CEC: Once the global health situation improves and travel restrictions ease, where would you go next? Is there a particular cuisine you’re really itching to try?

Guss: I would love to visit Lebanon to see my mom. Since I haven’t seen her in almost three years now, that would definitely be my first stop.

However, my second stop would be Thailand. After living in Dubai for 20 years, my wife and I regret not having traveled to Thailand, which is just a six-hour flight from Dubai.

I’ve traveled a lot to India and experienced traditional cooking. While Thai curry and Indian curry share some common ingredients, such as ginger, garlic, and turmeric, they are quite different. I would love to go to Thailand and experience authentic Thai food.

CEC: Are you working on any new recipes?

Guss: Yes! I currently have 11 new recipes lined up. I’m probably going to post my date and pecan cake recipe next, so stay tuned.

This moist chocolate cake with raspberry cream filling is one of Guss’ family favorites.
Lentil and vegetable soup is just what you need on a cold winter day. This warm and comforting dish is one of Guss’ many Lebanese recipes that pay homage to his childhood in Beirut.
Guss wasn’t kidding when he said that his family loves salmon! This is a snapshot of Guss’ delicious orange and soy salmon, which is just one of five salmon recipes on his blog.
Buon appetito! Ilaria’s spaghetti alle zucchine is simple yet satisfying. It is named after Guss’ dear friend Ilaria, who introduced him to the Southern Italian dish on a business trip to Italy.

CEC: Have your Cisco colleagues ever tried your food?

Guss: Oh yes! My team has been to my house several times before for BBQs. We’ve even done team building cooking competitions where we rent a kitchen, cook some delicious dishes, and judge the things we made.

CEC: Is there anybody out there who you would want to cook for?

Guss: Believe it or not, my mom has never tried my cooking! Although I’m terrified to cook for her, I know that she’ll be my best critic. I would love to see what she thinks of the recipes she’s passed down to me.

CEC: So, we had to ask. What’s on the menu for tonight?

Guss: Wild salmon. It’s a bit pricier than frozen salmon, but it has everything you need from a nutrition perspective. It’s not frozen or farm-raised, and it doesn’t have any dyes or colors in it either. I’m planning to do a coconut sugar garlic recipe, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a secret passion? Share it with us!

Your passions play an important part in shaping who you are. They give you that spark, that pep in your step, that fuel to your inner engine.

So, what’s your passion? Email wearecisco@cisco.com to share your story.

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