x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Life Lessons: Youssef El Deeb

Words of wisdom from the founder and chairman of Takhayal Entertainment.

Youssef El Deeb, the chairman of Takhayal Entertainment that produces Fatafeat TV.
Youssef El Deeb, the chairman of Takhayal Entertainment that produces Fatafeat TV.

Youssef El Deeb, 56, is the founder and chairman of Takhayal Entertainment, the company behind Fatafeat TV, the Food Channel of the Middle East. Based in Dubai, the Egyptian-Lebanese Canadian has a finger in many pies, including films and magazines.

1. It's all good. Worrying won't get you anywhere. The mind can, uncontrolled, take us to worlds full of negativity. Then there will be one gain: illness, of both the body and spirit. So, I have unlearnt enough to learn again that forgetting is a most important blessing. I have been known to see someone who has hurt me deeply, years later, and meet them with hugs, not remembering. I love it. It's not Alzheimer's. Not yet.

2. Some of the worst bad can be your best good. I grew up in very unusual circumstances, observing the worst the humans can be. I was deprived of food. And often, I was served rotten wormy cheese and mouldy bread. So I grew up to launch a channel about the joy of food with an invitation to enjoy life. So there! We're even.

3. Using our mind, we cannot know what is truly important. For years, at my film school in Toronto, I refused to film one particular assignment: a TV commercial. I thought then that this would "prostitute my art". A few short years later, the only directorial work I found was directing TV commercials. I had the most joy for 10 years in directing over 150 TV commercials. Almost all were about food. I was avoiding my fate. "Ha ha, we're even," says Fate.

4. You can buy me with a hard-boiled egg. It's my favourite food of all time. It's one of the foods I was not allowed to have as a child. It's the perfect package. But beyond all, it is a humble meal, and surprising to many Fatafeat TV fans, I disappoint them when they learn that my best meals are peasant-simple: cheese and bread, a boiled egg, a biscuit dunked in tea. Life is good. Very good, actually.

5. See with your own eyes, feel with your own heart. The Holocaust. So much noise was circulating about this subject a few years ago. I needed to know for myself. So I travelled to Auschwitz. You don't want to know what I found, and words do fail me, but I'll give you a big hint: indifference is the ultimate evil.