In 2017, in the heart of Sammamish, Washington, not far from his family’s home, Wassim Fayed and his wife, Jennifer, built a little slice of Lebanon to bring to their community the flavors, scents, beauty, and culture of their homeland. Tanoor Lebanese Grill was a hit from day one, as diners were entranced by the atmosphere of warm summer days in the mountains of Lebanon, the romance, the beauty, and authentic fare. Today, with a second location in Seattle and their extraordinarily popular hummus and babaghanouge sold in Metropolitan and PCC Markets throughout the area, tanoor is feeding an ever-growing, eager public.
To many, tanoor’s success is no surprise. In the late nineties, Wassim and Jennifer had grown a single restaurant in Florida to five thriving locations, so they clearly know the business. But this is a success story that almost never was, one born purely from the heart and a lifelong passion for bringing people together through food. “After we sold the restaurants in Florida, I joined Microsoft, and my wife and I swore never again,” he says. Or so they thought.
With a degree in computer engineering from Florida Institute of Technology, Wassim spent the next 21 years in Microsoft’s Redmond offices as principal program manager, helping in the development of some of the most amazing server management technologies. Along the way, he and three community leaders established the Sammamish Muslim Association, and started a mosque and community, where he served as imam. “When I was about to retire from Microsoft, everyone at the mosque kept asking when we were opening a Lebanese restaurant, so we finally decided to do it again, this time using all our experiences and research to open a beautiful, upscale halal concept,” he explains.
Tanoor’s diners are no doubt celebrating Wassim’s decision, as they enjoy a traditional, celiac-friendly menu of Lebanese mezze, salads, grilled items, desserts, and more, all made from the best ingredients, fresh produce, and 100% halal beef, lamb, and Tahir hand slaughtered halal chicken. Behind the scenes, Wassim brought his Microsoft skills to bear with advanced technologies that he coded and designed specifically for tanoor. “Tanoor combines my passion for cooking, coding, and customer relations, and the teachings of the Quran, which I have carved in my heart to make me the person I am today.”
We joined Wassim for a conversation about the not-so-secret recipe for his success.
Where does your passion for food come from?
My mom was a really good cook and I used to love spending time with her in the kitchen. When I was six, I pulled a chair to the stove and cooked my own dessert. My mom came in and asked, “Where did you get that?” I said, “I cooked it myself!” From the time I was 12, I cooked almost every family dinner, and they all really liked it. Now I’m cooking for a larger family—our customers!
While tanoor brings diners the tradition and authenticity of Lebanon, you designed sophisticated technology to run it. Tell us about this.
I did. We have a full suite of products, including an in-house POS system, which provides a 360-degree view of the business and tracks daily sales to the item level. The technology is at par with major restaurant chains solutions, but what sets our POS system apart is that it’s designed and coded by a restauranteur who knows firsthand what is needed to run such a business.
Tell us more about your community work as one of the leaders of the Sammamish Muslim Association.
For the first 12 years of the mosque’s inception, I took the responsibility to lead the prayers as the imam for the community as a Hafiz Al-Quran, meaning I have the Quran memorized from cover to cover. I also give lectures and Quran explanation sessions to members of the community and lead many youth activities that teach them leadership skills and give them an in-depth understanding of the core beliefs in Islam.
What do you enjoy most about your work, Wassim?
Seeing the real-life changes in the lives of the people around me. One of my greatest joys is seeing my best chefs—four to date—graduate from tanoor and open their own restaurants using our guidance to open their businesses. Our staff is an extension of our family, and we take care of them in every way we can, including paying them top dollar compared to the industry. Islam teaches us that wealth comes from God, so if I am generous, he will be generous with me. It all comes back in the end.
Wassim contributed to multiple protocol standards in DMTF and ISO standards in the field of remoting protocols, which included Redfish, WS-Management and PowerShell remoting.
Owner — tanoor Lebanese Grill