A Life Serving Others
Author: Molly Swift
June 21, 2018
On Memorial Day we reflect upon our fallen service members and the sacrifice they made. We also use the day to thank all service members, past and present. Among the pages of the Little Guide Augusta, we feature many of these brave men and women, one of whom, Nader Khatib, talked to me about how he relies upon his military service to make his business a success.
Nader, owner of Laziza Mediterranean Grill, joined the military when he was 20, leaving his birthplace of Detroit in order to become independent while figuring out what direction he wanted to take down the road. He trained and worked as a member of the security forces for two years, and then 9/11 happened.
Nader decided to re-enlist as a linguist, figuring his skills would be better suited for that field, and upon approval moved to Monterrey, California for training. Despite being born in Michigan, his family’s background caused his security clearance to be delayed. Nader received the clearance after four years,just as his enlistment ended.
Nader’s wife, Lisa, was serving in the Navy and stationed at Fort Gordon, so Nader moved to Augusta where he received a Bachelors in criminal justice. He took a job as a contractor. But, after five years, Nader says, he got bored of that gig and decided to open a restaurant.
Just like that.
Actually, the Laziza concept was an evolution of thought – Nader and Lisa realized Augusta seriously lacked any kind of Mediterranean representation in the food industry, and yet Columbia County was on the verge of massive growth. Clearly there was opportunity here.
Nader’s entire childhood was influenced by his family’s cooking and he was encouraged to get creative with cooking when he was just a kid – owning a restaurant seemed natural to him. Jobs as a teenage busboy notwithstanding, running a commercial kitchen wasn’t a part of Nader’s background, and so he planned the restaurant carefully over roughly 8 months.
September of 2011, Nader opened Laziza and hit the ground running and the restaurant soon became a destination for people in search of fast fresh food with a difference. Its popularity has only grown – business has doubled in the last few years.
Maintaining that success demands drive, commitment and hard work – all of which, Nader feels he can credit to his experience in the service. He also learned resilience, “You learn how to cope with facing things alone, and fend for yourself. And sometimes need to go through rough periods in order to grow as a person. I needed that.”
Nader’s work is paying off. The community has fallen in love with Mediterranean cuisine featuring heady spices such as cardamom, cumin and turmeric, as well as other ingredients not common to western diners, like grape leaves.
And Nader’s favorite dish? “The beef kabobs. Yeah, that reminds me of growing up because my mom used to make that. Every time we grilled, she’d always make these little ground beef kabobs that she put on sticks, a wooden skewer, and we’d grill them. I never get sick of that.”
Kabobs are just one thing on the menu that Nader wants people to feel comfortable trying. “I think a lot of people are intimidated by the funny names of the food, so they’re scared to come try them. But, at the end of the day it’s just chicken and rice. It’s just good food – good food, made fresh, by a local company.”