He has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and has spent time in Michelin-starred kitchens.

But Minneapolis chef Aref Zalatimo is still chasing what he considers the ultimate high bar set by one of his biggest food influencers: his grandma.

Eid lunches at her house in Jordan were something special.

"Growing up, lunch at my grandma's house was always a big thing every year," said Zalatimo, who is Palestinian and grew up in Amman. "Especially after Ramadan, and fasting that month — the whole family gathering for a big spread of rice and lamb and salads and hummus and spreads and just everything."

To celebrate the Muslim holiday in Minneapolis this year, Zalatimo, who is executive sous chef at Tullibee, is taking over the Hewing Hotel restaurant's menu on April 10 and 11.

Besides his grandma's cooking, the dishes are inspired by memories of going out at night to experience "really abundant, beautiful spreads of food," he said. "I wanted to show up in a way that was authentic to me back home, but also to the community here."

After chef Marque Collins first approached him about taking over the menu for Eid, Zalatimo came up with an array of bold-flavored dishes, including a smoked mushroom hummus with black garlic, tuna kibbeh with compressed cucumbers, beef and pine nut stuffed eggplant and chicken thigh kebabs with pomegranate and tahini.

"I'm just really excited to be able to provide this experience and provide these flavors and just showcase the food," he said.

Cumin lentils with crispy onions will also be on the menu, as well as his cinnamon grilled lamb kefta — which he reimagined for the home cook in a recipe below, formed on cinnamon sticks and baked in the oven.

"As they warm up, the juices from the meat and the cinnamon kind of marinates," he said. "It's also just a fun way to eat them."

During the Hewing Eid dinners, diners can choose from the menu a la carte or pick a chef-curated tasting menu with five to seven courses, some served family-style and others on individual plates.

"My personal goal is to really deliver on the traditional old-world flavors in a fine dining setting," Zalatimo said. "So a lot of these dishes are imagined with a farm-to-table kind of mind-set behind it and keeping things seasonal and local, but staying true to the tradition and the flavors of the cooking techniques."

Eid Dinner at the Hewing

What: A special chef takeover for the holiday by Palestinian chef Aref Zalatimo.

When: April 10-11, 5-10 p.m.

Where: Tullibee, the restaurant inside the Hewing Hotel, 300 Washington Av. N., Mpls., hewinghotel.com/tullibee.

Tickets: Reservations are available through Open Table. Cost varies; order a la carte or the chef's curated tasting menu.

Cinnamon Kefta Lollipops

Makes about 30.

From Tullibee chef Aref Zalatimo, who writes: "Meatballs in their different variations are a staple in almost every cuisine. The origins of this humble dish come from the need to stretch often expensive meat into something sustaining and flavorful for the whole family. For this rendition, I opted to use cinnamon sticks to flavor the meat while making it fun to eat and pretty to serve. This recipe calls for 7 Spice Blend (9 Spice Blend will work), which you can buy at your local Middle Eastern store. I like to pair the lollipops with fresh tzatziki, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and some fresh parsley on top." Note: A slice of bread is about an ounce. If you can't find 7 Spice Blend, there are plenty of recipes online to make your own.

• 1 1/2 lb. ground lamb, beef or veal, or a combination

• 3 1/2 oz. white bread, any will do (see Note)

• 1 small onion

• 1 small tomato

• 1 small green chile

• 3 cloves garlic

• 1 bunch parsley

• 1/2 bunch cilantro

• 1 egg

• 1 tsp. oil, plus more for shaping meatballs

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 1/2 tsp. 7 Spice Blend (see Note)

• 1 tsp. cumin

• 30 cinnamon sticks, each about 4 to 5 inches


Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place meat in a bowl. In a food processor, pulse bread into crumbs. Add the onions, tomato, chile, garlic, parsley, cilantro, egg, oil, salt, pepper, 7 Spice Blend and cumin and pulse to a paste.

Pour paste onto the meat and mix gently with your hands until well incorporated.

Divide meat into 30 equal portions; each should be about the size of a golf ball. (Use oil on your hands to prevent sticking.)

Form the meat around the ends of the cinnamon sticks to form the shape of a football. One end of the cinnamon stick should be showing, making an easy handle when cooked.

Transfer to an oiled sheet tray and bake until the meat is cooked through and the outsides have browned nicely, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for a couple of minutes before serving.