Refugee wants to give Halifax a taste of Syrian-style ice cream
Samer Jokhdar dreams of reopening his ice cream parlour, but this time in Halifax
An entrepreneur forced to leave his ice cream shop behind in war-torn Syria is hoping to revive his business in Halifax.
Samer Jokhdar, who ran his shop in the ravaged city of Homs, won the top prize of a $1,000 grant at a workshop last month for Syrian newcomers hoping to open new businesses.
The event was hosted by Enactus Canada, a national charity that works with entrepreneurs, and Fusion Halifax, a non-profit organization focused on civic engagement.
Jokhdar used his winnings to buy ingredients and an ice cream machine. He's still looking for a space to sell his Syrian-style frozen treats.
"We think his idea to be very successful," said Abdul Kadar Sadieh, a Halifax restaurateur who judged the contest.
"We think all people will like it."
A sweet Syrian treat
Jokhdar said Syrian ice cream's density and use of nuts make it stand out from what is typically dished up in Canada.
Plus, it's slower to melt.
"The ice cream waits for you," he said through an interpreter.
Jokhdar ran his ice cream shop north of Damascus for 11 years, scooping more than 40 flavours and varieties. He said he's eager to bring traditional Syrian ice cream recipes to Canada.
Forced to close doors
Before fleeing Syria with his wife and three children, Jokhdar said power outages lasting two or three days made it challenging to make ice cream.
Supplies also started running low. Jokhdar said the farmer he relied on "couldn't produce the milk because they were captured."
Soon, ice cream became an unrealistic luxury. People left their homes only to get basic necessities such as bread and vegetables.
"It was so hard to go outside of the houses because it was very dangerous there," he said.
Jokhdar closed his shop in February 2012, fleeing to Jordan. He came to Halifax one year ago, bringing with him some hard-to-find ingredients for making the ice cream.
Searching for the right tools
He ordered an ice cream mixer from the United States, but still needs to find a wooden pestle used to beat the ice cream. The tool was stolen while he was in Syria.
Jokhdar, who is learning English, spent several days visiting shops around the city, showing photographs of what he was looking for.
It was a challenge, he said.
"They said, 'You may find it, you might not find it.'"
'Very special and very beautiful'
Jokhdar said he'll keep trying, as it's his dream to open an ice cream shop in Canada and "rebirth the heritage of Syria because it's very special and very beautiful."
For now, he's testing his new machine in his apartment and looking for a space to open up shop.
When asked when he'd like to open his doors, Jokhdar said he doesn't want to waste time realizing this dream.
"Tomorrow, I hope that."