Ali Baba takeaway food chain founder Karl Marjan says it important to always stick to the fundamentals of healthy, flavoursome food. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
For Karl Marjan, food has always been closely connected to family.
Thirty-four years ago, the chef and businessman arrived in Canberra with his brother, Mick, and opened a Lebanese takeaway restaurant outside Woden Plaza.
Restaurants in Belconnen and Civic followed and, in 1989, the Marjan brothers started their Ali Baba takeaway franchise, inviting their family members to move from Lebanon and join the business in Australia. ''In Lebanon there is a real passion for cooking,'' Mr Marjan said. ''Our grandfather had a restaurant. We have a passion for food. Most of the franchise in Canberra is owned by family, uncles, cousins.''
Three decades on, the business, which will launch a new ''superfoods'' kebab today, has 43 stores across the east coast of Australia.
Ali Babi national director Dominic Kain said the new menu item, which uses popular health foods such as quinoa, blueberries and Acai berries, is the start of a healthier approach across the entire menu.
Mr Kain said that included reducing the amount of sodium in their food by 50 per cent.
''It's going back to the core of what Lebanese food is, which is a healthy alternative,'' he said.
But despite the changes, Mr Marjan said the basic principles of the restaurants had not changed.
''All of our flavours and spices are selected according to a very old method of cooking,'' he said. ''The basics are the same and that is flavour and the quality of the food. I think once we start playing with that we're drifting away from the fundamentals.
''We were successful from day one when we opened the Woden store,'' he said.
''We have very loyal customers. One couple have been coming to us for 30 years.''