As this activity is carried out under the leadership of Mr. Mouzawak’s business partner, Christine Codsi, Mr. Mouzawak is building a new opportunity in France, with Tawlet Parisa canteen and grocery store opened this month in district 11.
During the restaurant’s opening week, Mr. Mouzawak talked about his journey from market to market, his feelings when leaving Lebanon – a former French official – and how food can come together.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What was your goal when starting Souk el Tayeb?
I tried to change the world. I still want to change the world! It’s not that I decided to do it, I just followed a stream. I haven’t done anything in my life with a long-term plan. During the war, Lebanon was divided into many small parts, each inaccessible to the other parts. But when the war ended, the whole country opened up. I’ve been traveling for over a year writing a guide to Lebanon and exploring this country I’ve heard of, but never been able to visit. I was not only amazed by its natural beauty but also by the connection between the people I met. Whether Christian, Muslim or Druze, we are all the same. I’ve been to people with open arms, and they’re even wider. Then I wrote about travel and food, learned about macrobiotics and slow food, joined the board of Slow food organized for several years, and know food is the way to unite.
Why a farmer’s market?
I have always dreamed of a farmer’s market in Lebanon like the one I visited in Trabzon, Turkey, where only women were farmers. They bring with them whatever they have in the garden or have earned. It is very simple. Wherever I go, I visit the farmers market because that’s where you discover people. Products would not exist without the people who grow them. It’s the same idea as Tawlet. What’s behind a restaurant? The people who grew the ingredients, the people who brought them to you, the people who cleaned, cooked, and served them. All I do is about developing and perfecting the whole person.
Why do you think it was successful?
Maybe because we talked to something people missed: Simplicity, authenticity, and truth. It’s food, without all the stories and marketing. It’s a person selling their food and that’s it. Also, we never stopped running Souk el Tayeb, even during conflicts. For us, the resistance is not a fight, the resistance is not the farmer’s war for the market. Because if the producer doesn’t sell on Saturday, they don’t have the money for next week.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/travel/kamal-mouzawak-food-lebanon.html Kamal Mouzawak is upholding Lebanese culinary traditions