“Shireen is the boss, and I listen to and do what she says” Joel Zahlan laughs as he teasingly nudges his wife Shireen AlHasawi’s shoulder. In any husband/wife business duo, witnessing a good-natured back and forth banter between the partners is heartwarming, but watching Shireen and Joel do it (or whimsically known henceforth as “Joleen”) creates a new level of #goals to live up to.
Joleen quite literally eat together, play together, and have so many interests that make them compatible. In fact, when meeting them at their restaurant Good Stuff, the effortless bond between them showed a perfect blend of professionalism, passion and friendship, combined with a true love and interest in food.
“My favorite thing here isn’t actually on the menu,” Joel says to me, his eyes lighting up mischievously. Shireen in turn rolls her eyes and laughs, calling out to the waiter “Bernard! What does Joel like to eat here?” Something he dubs “The Big Stuff”: a double patty original burger with cheese, 6 or 4 piece chicken strips, fries, and bottomless Coke Zeros. This “secret menu” anecdote is a food-loving indication that clears the mystery behind the fact that the couple’s second baby (their first being an adorable fourteen year old Lhapsa Apso Terrier named Flaco) would be an eatery.
“We really do love food— that’s how this started!” Shireen laughs, “we don’t like to diet and we’re not about counting calories.” And the couple both respectfully didn’t have to worry about counting calories for a while. Both Joel and Shireen were tennis players growing up, Shireen in Kuwait’s National Team, and Joel having been on his University’s team. “When we were both active athletes, we could eat whatever we wanted, because we would be exercising and training for four hours a day. Those days are gone.”
And so, Good Stuff’s inception was a means for the couple to embrace their love for food without compromising their healthy values.
Though being the only eatery in Kuwait offering a fully air-baked menu is enough of a novelty, for Shireen and Joel, Good Stuff isn’t only about guilt-free eating. Staying true to their slogan, “Do good, eat good,” they want to spread the word on guilt free living as well. Furthermore, Joel, whose background is in green engineering, has played a big role in curating all sustainable touches in the restaurant, from recycled menus, chairs constructed of 100 water bottles, plant-based straws, and glass-bottled Acqua Panna water.
“Glass is one of the most recyclable resources in the world – it can be melted down and made into anything. We want to promote sustainability, which is why we use recyclable materials and touches in our menus, cutlery, seating, It’s not just about eating healthy, you have to live healthy too.” Practicing what they preach, they are indeed, “simply green in everything”.
And lest we forget their air-baked philosophy! Instead of using oil, hot air is circulated around the food at a high speed, producing a crispy layer for maximum taste. The result: satisfying fries with a delightfully nutty after-taste, amazing sweet potato fries, truly healthy chicken strips, and still-succulent burgers of the beef, veggie, chicken and salmon variety.
“We have good stuff here,” Joel says cheekily, realizing the pun he had unintentionally made. “It satisfies our cravings, so we know it’ll satisfy everyone else’s as well.”
With that, Shireen adds: “I want everyone to know that we are not a ‘diet center’, but our food is made from better choices. You can still have your burger and fries, they just don’t have to be loaded with oil and other stuff that isn’t good for you. Good stuff only.
TRUTH OR DARE QUESTIONNAIRE
How would your mothers describe you as a couple in one word?
How would you describe your mothers-in- law in one word?
What is the most ridiculous question your partner has ever asked you?
Shireen: “So, you’ve got a big forearm?” when he found out I used to play tennis.
Joel: I feel like this is a trick question … (happy wife, happy life.)
What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done together?
Joel: Start a restaurant.
What is the theme song of your relationship?
Shireen: “Say a Little Prayer” from My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Joel: She’ll tell you it’s from My Best Friend’s Wedding, but I’d say Miguel, “Sure Thing”.
What word in the English or Arabic dictionary is most relevant to your partner’s personality?
Where would you like to live? What is your dream retirement location?
Shireen: Miami. (It’s a cane thing.)
Joel: Miami. (All about the U!)
If your partner could change their name, what do you think they would change it to?
Shireen: Youssif after his dad.
Joel: I don’t think she would change her name.
What animal best describes your partner?
Shireen: Panda, because he loves to eat and sleep.
Joel: Have you not seen her? Giraffe for sure!
What do you miss most about your childhood?
Shireen: Making lemonade stands over the summer in Ohio.
Joel: Growing up in Ghana with my two best friends.
What do you think is the one thing your partner couldn’t live without?
Shireen: Coke Zero.
Joel: Face cream.
How would you describe their handshake in one word?
What is your partner’s toughest character trait?
Shireen: His messiness.
Joel: Perfectionist (and slightly OCD).
Who do you think his/her favorite historical figure is?
Shireen: Leonardo da Vinci.
Joel: Nawal El Moutawakel.
What in the world does your partner least desire?
Shireen: Washing dishes.
Joel: Things with branded monograms.
What do you think is lacking in the world, which if there was more of would make the world a better place?
What is it that you liked most about each other when you first met?
Shireen: How down-to-earth he is.
Joel: That she is very caring.
Fill in the blank: “_____ makes a happy marriage.”
Photography courtesy of Mustafa Khumanpur.