The Current

New life, new business: Syrian refugees bring taste of home to Canada

This is the story of a new life, in a new country with a successful new business. It starts in the kitchen where three Syrian refugees created a catering company to bring the taste of home to Canada.
Karam Kitchen was created with the help of Kickstarter. Their doors opened in August and they're already turning a profit. (karamkitchen.com)

Read story transcript

>> Recipe: Salateh Malfoof (Cabbage/Pomegranate)

Dalal Al Zoubi, Manahel Al Shareef and  Rawa'a Aloliwi have all lived through hell. The three women are from Syria, and they fled their country when the war began to destroy their lives. 

"Everything in Syria was no good. Everything was fire and bombs," says Dalal.  The teacher and her husband fled with their four children to Jordan, where they could barely eke out an existence.  

The building was hit and he was buried under the rubble for hours.-   Manahel  Al  Shareef on her husband Faisal who was trapped 

So when Canadian Immigration called to ask them to come to Canada, "We said okay!" she laughs.  

Manahel and her husband Faisal also spent time in Jordan before arriving in Canada. They fled their home city of Daraa after Faisal was hurt.

"My husband went to check on his mother, and there was an air strike.  He hid behind a house to wait it out.  The building was hit, and he was buried under the rubble for hours," Manahel says. 

It took six men to free him. But with serious injuries, the family eventually fled to Jordan to seek medical treatment.  From there they were offered refugee status in Canada. 

From left to right: Rawa'a Aloliwi and Manahel Al Shareef making tabouleh in the Karam Kitchen, Hamilton, Ont. (Lara O'Brien/CBC)

Last winter, the women ended up being housed in a Toronto hotel, along with Rawa'a, another Syrian woman who had escaped the war with her family.

I would like  Karam  Kitchen to be to the women what they want it to be.- Brittani   Farrington
All three families decided to settle in Hamilton, Ont., and that's where they met Brittani Farrington.  Originally from the U.S.,  Brittani was helping refugees new to the city. Her church wanted to throw the newcomers a welcome dinner. 
Dalal Al Zoubi finishes a batch of hummus. (Lara O'Brien/CBC)

 "When I asked Dalal, she said 'yes ... but we want to cook!', says Brittani.

From that first dinner,Karam Kitchenwas born. It's a catering company that serves traditional Syrian dishes. The business has taken off, and they are hoping to grow and hire more Syrian women.

Brittani recognizes that these women have left everything behind.  

"I would like Karam Kitchen to be to the women what they want it to be. Either their long-term career or a launching off point." 

Right now all the women are just happy to be working.

"For me it is good. I feel happy I work in Canada, " Dalal says, smiling. 

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

​This documentary was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien and documentary editor Josh Bloch. Special thanks to Pacinthe Mattar for translation and voice work.


Here's a recipe from the Karam Kitchen: 

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Provided to The Current by Karam Kitchen (The Current)

Recipe for Salateh Malfoof

1 green cabbage, sliced thin
2 bunches mint, chopped
1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pomegranate
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sumac
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt

Slice green cabbage thin. Add to a salad bowl. Chop mint finely and mix in.

De-seed a pomegranate. Add half of the seeds to the salad bowl and reserve half for garnish.

Create a dressing with olive oil. Mince garlic and combine. Cut lemons and add juice. Sprinkle sumac.

Top salad with your dressing and add remaining pomegranate seeds for garnish. Salt the salad to taste.