The Window of Zaza

Written by
Sabrina Hoong

I was Picha’s first ever intern and person to work with these 3 insane(ly incredible) ladies, and that was how I met our Syrian chef, Zaza.

The moments I shared with Zaza, were mostly from what I had observed through him. Zaza was easy-going, enthusiastic, hard-working and passionate. He used silent actions to communicate most of the time (due to our language barrier).

When I went to collect his food for catering for the first time, I couldn’t find his unit block so Zaza playfully stuck his head out of his window from the top floor to call me.

I looked up and thought to myself - he must Zaza’s son or younger brother, as I imagined Zaza as someone in his 40-50s. But the young spirited man turned out to be Zaza the mighty chef himself. He was unexpectedly young and amusingly behaved even younger.

To my pleasant dismay, 5 heavy trays of food awaited me on the top floor. I only had 5 minutes before I was officially declared late by Picha standard #muchstress (time is essence and we take pride in our timely, punctual delivery #marketing).

Worried at first, I asked Zaza nervously if his food was ready (a hint for HELP!). Zaza smiled his bright, handsome smile at me and begun carrying the first tray down 5 floors of stairs as there was no elevator. The somewhat fearless me hurriedly followed –or at least tried to- in confidence.

But when Zaza swiftly fetched the last tray with light steps, I was –don’t laugh- still struggling with my first. Briskly, Zaza cheerfully took mine over. Instant relief and ease flooded me as I knew then and there that with Zaza, we’d never have to worry. He took care of things and had it all under his control.

I remember once, Zaza made us some new Syrian dishes for tasting. As we arrived with 2 photographers for food shooting to upgrade our menu page, Zaza revealed that if he knew our plan earlier, he would have prepared a feast for us to shoot.

Bearing in mind that the dishes he cooked was already a feast that could fill 3 times of all our bellies combined. That was the Zaza we loved so dearly, always wanting to make us/Picha proud in the challenging business world we face.

Being the passionate overachiever who loved to impress those he cared for, Zaza put in all his heart to grow Picha with us. He was the living embodiment of what Picha stood for. Peace, compassion, trust, respect and above all, love.

Zaza was not just a loving father, husband, brother, son, uncle, nephew, cousin. He was also a selfless friend to the world, even to the war-wrecked world he once knew and lived. A kind-hearted soul who took so little from the world, yet gave so much of himself to others.

I have also recently lost my dad to cancer. Sometimes it is bearable, sometimes not at all. My heart goes out to his stronger than ever wife, Rania and cheekier as ever little Taim, who is tough to jaga but too easy to love, reminding us so much of Zaza.

I can imagine the unbearable pain they are going through. Their loss can only be comforted by knowing and believing that Zaza is in a better place now, continuing to impress all those around him.

Death, is a reminder to the living on the beauty of life.

Pain, well pain, is the constant reminder that our loss is very much real, but it also becomes part of life’s beauty as we persevere with strength and dignity despite adversity.

Picha shares all that beauty, and never tried to hide the pain. Losing Zaza is one of Picha’s greatest pain, but I feel that the Picha team is embracing it with so much grace and composure, channeling the pain into something better (The Zaza Movement) for the greater good, as always.

One last thing to share is my fondest memory of Zaza - that carefree moment of him peacefully enjoying his tea after a long day of cooking, sat down in silence by the balcony as he mindlessly looks out through the same window where I saw him for the very first time.

And I know that, if I ever miss him, all I have to do is relive that infinite moment in my mind and find him right there, for he lives on in this living memory of mine.

Along with his favourite roses, red.

Love, Sabrina.