Do You Have Nafas, the Elusive Gift That Makes Food Taste Better?

The chef Mohamad Orfali remembers how his grandmother, whom everyone called Fatoum, spent her days in her kitchen in the Syrian city of Aleppo when he was a child there. If she wasn’t preparing feasts, she was preserving the season’s bounty to stock her pantry — everything from tomatoes and eggplants to peppers, pomegranates and grape leaves. Her cooking was so exceptional, her dining table was never without guests hankering for a meal.

“Nanti Fatoum had nafas for food, everyone swore by her cooking. My mother, not so much,” he said, laughing.

Mr. Orfali, 40, who now lives in Dubai,

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