I talk to many chefs who say they were born to be in the kitchen, but Jamal Kamal is the first chef who I have ever spoken to who was actually born in a kitchen. Yes that is right, Kamal, was born at home in his family’s kitchen and that may be the reason he can’t get enough of the restaurant business. Over the last nine years Kamal has opened a total of four restaurants in the Cold Spring/Beacon area, Angelina’s, Beacon Bread Company, Tito Santana’s and his latest, Ziatün.
Kamal, a Yorktown boy, was born in a Palestinian refugee camp but immigrated with his family when he was only two years old to pursue the American dream. One of eight kids, Kamal says he spent much of his time in the kitchen preparing meals with his mother and his six sisters. With so many kids, every time one meal finished preparations for the next began.
Kamal began in the restaurant business as a teen when he opened his first deli but it was in 2007 he opened his first full service restaurant, Angelina’s, open nine years ago. “When I first opened Angelina’s, it was about making a living, it was about survival of the fittest.” The most important thing at the time was that he could pay his bills and support his family. Even though, his passion was for the food he grew up on he felt that it would be too much of a risk to open a restaurant that was not mainstream and that people might not know or be at first willing to try. So he did his research and discovered that besides Chinese, Italian food was the number one takeout food in the U.S. and hence Angelina’s was born.
For Kamal Angelina’s was a great introduction to the restaurant business because you can do a lot of different types of food and customers are willing to try them when they are created as specials.
After Angelina’s was running on all four wheels it then became time to offer something else, something that was not already being offered in the area and that could stand up against “buying a slice.” Again research brought him again to his next restaurant idea when he saw that throughout the country tacquerias were becoming the next big trend.
So him and his wife took a road trip to California and ate in a hundred Taquarias After eating at the good, the bad and the ugly we came back and put together a menu that featured the best of what we ate, liked and discovered. They came back and opened Tito Santana’s Tacqueria. “In this restaurant we did something we really wanted, something we love and see if everyone likes it. And it worked because people were open to it and we were able to build a loyal following who were open to trying what we had to offer.”
It wasn’t long after that it was time for Jamal to bring what he felt was missing in Beacon to the area. “We felt Beacon need a great breakfast joint with homemade everything”. Beacon Bread Company opened in 2014 and features a scratch kitchen where everything is homemade. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch also offers a retail section for takeout.
For Jamal owning a bakery provides an added bonus of allowing them to bake bread and fresh baked specialty goods to their other restaurants allowing an added dimension that other restaurants simply can’t offer.
This year, Jamal opened, what he claimed to be the restaurant that has brought it full circle for him, opening Ziatün. Ziatün with is pronounced “Zay-toon” means “olive” in Arabic and is based on many of his mother’s recipes, a combination of Middle Eastern influences. “My mother had wonderful way of putting together spices which you will taste in these dishes. A Picture of his mother when she was just 15 hangs on the wall and he claims that seeing her picture there hanging there keeps his food true and authentic.
If you are familiar with Middle Eastern cooking there is a good chance you are familiar with cookbooks such as Gaza Kitchen and Palestine on a Plate. Jamal uses these to gain inspiration and keep Ziatün fresh by offering weekly Middle Eastern Traditional old specials.
So what is next for Jamal? Well, although he has been quoted recently that Ziatün was going to be his last restaurant, he admits there is more to come. Did I hear Burger Joint?
Angelina’s Pizza & Brew
43 Chestnut Street, Cold Spring NY 10516
Beacon Bread Company
193 Main Street Beacon NY 12508
Tito Santana Taqueria
142 Main Street, Beacon NY 12508
244 Main Street, Beacon NY 12508