Lebanese entrepreneur Kamal Mouzawak is a man of many talents; he is a restaurateur, a hotelier and a humanitarian at heart. With his B&B, farmers’ market, community kitchen and numerous social initiatives, he showcases not only the richness of the Lebanese cuisine but also the strength of its community as well. After the Beirut port blast, Mouzawak was quick to jump into action.
You’ve just opened a new location for Souk El Tayeb. Can you tell us more about it?
The new location of Souk El Tayeb is in the heart of Mar Mikhael, an area that was devastated by the Beirut port explosion on August 4. Our building was destroyed by the blast, but we have spent the past two months rebuilding it. This space is very special to us because it is place we call home for our Souk El Tayeb weekly farmers’ market. In addition, this space will host our new Tawlet famers’ kitchen, as well as a Dekenet, and our newest addition, a community kitchen called Matbakh El Kell, which will serve meals daily to those in need.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Tawlet and Souk el Tayeb. How will the funds be allocated?
It will be used to rebuild both Tawlet and Souk El Tayeb, as well as launch our community kitchen. It will also support our staff members, farmers and producers.
Your staff and team members from World Central Kitchen joined forces to make Lebanese comfort food. How did the idea come about?
World Central Kitchen contacted us the day after the blast. They said they were ready to help, so we took this opportunity to cook what we love with passion for those in need.
You’ve been feeding over 800 people a day. How have you managed to do this?
It was made possible thanks to the unwavering support of our dedicated staff and the volunteers who worked together every single day.
You once said that if the country is dead, it needs people to bring it back to life. How are you planning to do this?
We never give up; we keep going with what strength we have left. It is by giving back and sharing food that we go on.
Tell us more about your plans to set up a permanent community kitchen to feed those in need.
The emergency kitchen was created and began operations on August 5. We have cooked meals for first-aid dispatchers, hospital workers, neighbors, families in need and volunteers. We are still living in the aftermath of this catastrophe. The need isn’t going to disappear. We recognize the urgency of creating a community kitchen to continuously provide warm meals throughout the year, not just in moments of disaster. The community kitchen will begin operating on October 1 from Souk El Tayeb’s new location in Mar Mikhael.
In your opinion, how can the hospitality sector survive these hard times?
Everyone is doing his or her best to survive. You simply take care of your own, adapt, and do whatever you can to keep moving forward.
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