All-refugee cooking company shares culture and home through love of food

Eat Offbeat is one of many catering businesses that had to re-invent itself when COVID-19 struck 18 months ago.

But its employees had a little experience with sudden, difficult change: They all came to the country as refugees. And they say reinventing their business model overnight came naturally.

The New York-based company, founded by Lebanese siblings Manal and Wissam Kahi, was inspired nearly six years ago by Manal Kahi’s dual realizations: that she couldn’t find hummus “like her grandmother’s” in New York, and that the perfect people to cook food from their home countries were the refugees coming to the U.S. from around the globe.

She partnered with the International Refugee Committee to find cooks and launch a unique business. Now, the group has also released its first cookbook, “Kitchens Without Borders.”

Chef Shanthini making samosas. (Karyn Miller-Medzon/Here & Now)
Chef Shanthini making samosas. (Karyn Miller-Medzon/Here & Now)

In Queens, New York, the group cooks in

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Finding Home Through West African Food and Cooking

There was a time, just a couple of years ago, when I would invite two dozen strangers over to my apartment for dinner. Twice a month, I would cook and serve dishes like fish pepper soup, seasoned with up to 10 different spices; fork-tender goat, braised for hours in a fiery red obe ata; baobab granitas; and lemongrass coconut soup over springy tapioca pearls — all in an effort to connect with the food I grew up eating in Lagos, Nigeria.

I have revisited those memories in the last few months, amused at what I once thought were the necessary logistics of serving four courses to a group of lively diners — timing the dishes, finding places for coats, getting the bar ready, to say nothing of today’s face shields, temperature checks and social distancing. And, although I was consumed with those details at the time, they were

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County Supervisors Propose Home Permits For Cooking, Selling Sell Food

Restaurant workers in Old Town San Diego wear facial coverings due to COVID-1...

Photo by Bennett Lacy

Above: Restaurant workers in Old Town San Diego wear facial coverings due to COVID-19 restrictions in this undated photo.

A plan by two county supervisors might pave the way for people to start selling food from their home kitchens.

County Supervisors Joel Anderson and Nora Vargas are hoping to make it possible for MEHKOs to operate in San Diego County.

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MEHKOs, also known as “microenterprise home kitchen operation” , allows people to sell food right from their kitchen at their private house.

RELATED: San Diego Hospitality Businesses Struggle To Find Workers As Tourist Season Begins

The business food concept was made possible in the state through the passing of AB 626 and AB 377 in 2018. Permits and licensing to operate are granted on a county-by-county basis.

Seven counties have authorized MEHKOs, and

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The benefits of home cooking

The benefits of home cooking

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