At ‘Women of Syria Dinner,’ Refugees Bond, Grow Over Food

Change can be difficult. It is especially difficult when you leave behind your home, your belongings, what you know and going to a place you know little about.

South Florida has received several families seeking refuge from Syria, starting a new life, in a new county, exposed to different cultures. Christa Tawil knows the experience, as a Syrian refugee herself. Christa reaches out to these families with help.

“They come here and they don’t have the language, the don’t have any skills because back home, women in our country don’t really work," she said.

They do now, thanks to Christa.

She’s the founder of “Zaytouna”, which means feminine olive. It’s a catering company providing authentic Arabic food, made by the hands of these women refugees.

“All these women are grateful to have jobs. This company started because we wanted to give these women employment so they can help their families," she said.

Christa needed a space to put these women to work, and executive chef and co-owner of Chef David Cuisine, Aaron Dreilinger, gave it to them.

“It’s been a real warm experience bringing people together over food,” says Dreilinger.

“He made this dream come true and all these women are grateful to have jobs," says Tawill.

They were also grateful to catch the eye and taste buds of Celebrity Chef Ingrid Hoffman, who had their food, heard their stories, and jumped into action to help shine the spotlight on this mission and menu.

She turned to the founder and director of one of the biggest food festivals in the country, Lee B. Schrager, of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, who gave them a platform to cook for a community of foodies.

Paired with James Beard Award winning Chef Alon Shaya, who works with Comal Heritage Food Incubator in Denver with the same mission as Zaytouna, the first ever “Women in Syria Dinner” at the Wine and Food Festival sold out.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to tell these stories through food, food is a unifier that brings people together. It takes the stigma away of different religions, different races”, says Hoffman.

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