Syrian refugees nourish new life – and appetites – as Les Filles Fattoush

In News by Shane

In an industrial kitchen somewhere in the Town of Mount Royal, four women are chopping peppers, scooping za’atar onto pita rounds and adding the final touches to the bazergan or bulgur salad.

With the smell of sumac wafting through the air, they are preparing Syrian mezze, or appetizers, to serve at a film launch in Montreal.

But they are also following a recipe passed on from other communities across the country: Give Syrian women a chance to run their own catering service and they will find friendship and jobs in the kitchen, as well.

“The core of it was to empower them, to get them out of the house and earn some money. But it has become larger than that,” said Josette Gauthier, a filmmaker and one of two founders of Les Filles Fattoush.

“Refugees come and we give them a métro pass and a tuque,” continues Gauthier, whose latest documentary, Theater of Life, is about a famous chef in Milan who opened a soup kitchen for refugees as well as homeless and other marginalized people.

“But we’re at a very different place in society now, where we need to integrate them into our lives here and define what kind of society we are. This is like a first step for the Filles Fattoush, to help them move on and move into our society.”

Gauthier and co-founder Adelle Tarzibachi were inspired by similar initiatives across the country.

Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto, for example, is a non-profit organization that invites Syrian refugee women to cook a weekly meal at The Depanneur restaurant, run by Montreal native Len Senater. The meals are sold online for pickup or delivery and the proceeds are shared among the cooks.

The project has been a big hit with locals as well as visitors — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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