‘Nothing can bring people together as much as the land and food,’ says Lebanese chef, food activist, food writer and teacher Kamal Mouzawak. And nobody knows that better than he does. He has organized a number of successful 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.
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. His latest project is Beit (‘Home’), a series of restored homes in villages to showcase local traditions and indigenous food practices.
Among the accolades bestowed on him was the Prince Claus Award in 2016. The award committee noted his contribution to ‘inspiring reconciliation and respect between disparate communities, bridging ethnic, religious, political and social divisions through the shared human need and enjoyment of food’.