Les Filles Fattoush bring Syrian cooking into Quebec kitchens with new recipe book
Catering business employs new arrivals to Quebec, while sharing their culture
Adelle Tarzibachi sees her catering business both as an entry point to the job market for Syrians fleeing war, and a way to share the love they have for their culture with Quebecers.
Since starting Les Filles Fattoush in 2017, 30 Syrian women have worked with the company, which has expanded into selling their own blend of Syrian spice mixes and products at gourmet markets across the province — and now, a cookbook.
"We didn't want to use the word refugees, and a lot of the women don't call themselves that anyway," says Tarzibachi, of choosing the company's name.
These women take pride in their work, and in making a new life for themselves in Quebec. And they were tired of hearing only about war when people spoke to them about Syria.
Tarzibachi immigrated to Montreal in 2003 and started her own import business, including specialty food items, from Syria. She also volunteered to help Syrian refugees settle in Canada, but wanted to do more.
Quebec documentary filmmaker Josette Gauthier, who has travelled the world to speak with refugees, noticed that many women enter the job market in their new countries through the food industry. So Gauthier asked Tarzibachi to help start a business to help Syrian women find employment here.
Tarzibachi chose to name the company after fattoush because "it's the most colourful salad. And with the pita bread, It's something everyone in Syria eats."
The new French-language cookbook features classic Syrian recipes including kibbé (a mixture of bulgur, beef and spices), Syrian grilled cheese sandwiches and the famous fattoush.
Wiam Aljouny is one of the women who works for the company, and is featured in the cookbook. She came to Montreal in 2015 with her husband and two sons. In Syria, she was an accountant for an airline and her husband was an engineer with his own business.
Their lives have changed drastically since they left the country. Her husband is now an Uber driver while he saves enough to one day become certified again.
Despite their struggles, Wiam says she's happier living in Canada.
"I found myself here," she says. "I am happy when I am cooking".
Aljouny also works as a cook for a daycare and loves to see the children enjoying what she makes, a job she was able to get thanks to her experience with Les Filles Fattoush.
She delights in sharing her cuisine and culture with Quebecers, and hopes they can taste the love she puts in every dish she prepares.
Aljouny recommends trying the book's version of kibbé that's made in a pan rather than individual portions, because it's satisfying to eat and a little easier to prepare if you're just getting into the cuisine.
For a sweet treat, Tarzibachi recommends the debes bi thiné, toasted pita with a spread of sesame paste and grape molasses.