Omar Mouallem
The Last Baron, Edmonton

It was 2013, and Edmonton writer (and, full disclosure, former WL contributor) Omar Mouallem had hopped into his car to drive across Alberta and chase down a story/obsession about a quirky regional chain called Burger Baron. Like with all of Mouallem’s work, the resulting article blended riveting storytelling with a dash of the oddities of life and a slice of a deeper subtext that was both personal (his family owned a Burger Baron franchise in High Prairie) and broader (how the Lebanese diaspora became attracted to the chain).

Omar Mouallem. Photo by Aaron Pedersen.
Omar Mouallem. Photo by Aaron Pedersen.

In the years following the article’s publication, Mouallem’s stature kept growing—several books published, bylines in The New Yorker—but the story behind Burger Baron never left him. The pursuit ultimately culminated with him stepping behind the camera and, in the middle of a pandemic, creating a documentary. The Last Baron is a visual deep dive into the chain’s origin story, and the original short doc that screened on CBC received such acclaim that a full-length feature—set to debut in late 2022 and now titled The Lebanese Burger Mafia—is now in post-production.

Food for Thought with Omar

What’s the most useless tool in the kitchen?

The bread-maker. Some foolish hubris convinced me I had time to make my own bread, and that I could best the $4 loaf at the deli two blocks away. Nothing enjoyable has ever come out of that machine in the five years I’ve owned it.

Best movie scene dealing with food?

At the risk of getting cancelled, I’d have to say that the lobster boiling scene between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall was so perfectly improvised. I’ve never seen better chemistry between two people and a crustacean. Interestingly, it was the first scene they shot for the movie. It’s just too bad that, well, you know…

Once travel is fully up and running, where’s the one restaurant you’d love to travel to?

I still daydream about the most epic mezze I ever had at Damas, an upscale Syrian restaurant in Montreal that is truly one-of-a-kind.

THE WHOLE STORY: Introducing Western Living’s 2022 Foodies of the Year