This week the restaurant Tawlet, opened in 2009 by Lebanese chef and food activist Kamal Mouzawak, will host a Soup Kitchen for the second time, offering families in need a free meal. The first edition of the ‘Restaurant of the heart’, on 16 March, brought together some 60 people.

A project like Soup Kitchen is typical for Kamal Mouzawak, who says: ‘Nothing can bring people together as much as the land and food.’ Referring to his latest project, he told L’Orient le jour: ‘Going to a restaurant is normal for most of us, but for these families it is impossible.’ By cooking for them the Tawlet team wants to show the families that ‘someone is thinking of them’.

They’ve all dressed up

For Soup Kitchen everyone on the team of the cooperative restaurant works for free, helped by a number of additional volunteers. On the first night, Mouzawak, who is a laureate of the Prince Claus Award 2016, was happy to see how much the guests were enjoying the evening. ‘They’ve all dressed up,’ the chef noted with joy.

On 20 April a new Soup Kitchen expects to receive 70 guests and Mouzawak’s plan is in the end to have these evenings every week and to inspire other restaurants to follow suit.

Organic farmer’s market

Soup Kitchen fits in with the projects Mouzawak has organized so far, all initiatives in the area of sustainable agriculture and food consumption.

In 2004 he set up Souk El Tayeb (‘The Market of the Good’), an organic farmer’s market in Beirut that is popular with people of all classes, creeds and cultures. Mouzawak advises food producers on organic farming techniques and provides training in storage, packaging and marketing, thereby ensuring that rural communities thrive.

In 2009 Mouzawak opened Tawlet (‘Table’), an open kitchen organized along cooperative lines. Every day a different member of the Souk El Tayeb community cooks and serves traditional dishes from their region. Tawlet also organizes cookery lessons and environmental campaigns, and now has branched out with similar initiatives in other regions.

Food festivals and more

Other schemes launched by Mouzawak include health and ecology programmes, food festivals, training projects with refugees from Syria and Palestine, and restaurants manned by chefs who serve traditional dishes from each region. One of his latest project is Beit (‘Home’), a series of restored homes in villages to showcase local traditions and indigenous food practices.

Top image: the team of Tawlet’s soup kitchen/restaurant of the heart; third from the right: Kamal Mouzawak

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