Toronto’s Newcomer Kitchen helps Syrian refugees adjust, share culture — Free Speech Radio News


by Tanya Castle

Asma Al Hariri chops zucchini in a downtown Toronto kitchen. She is one of a dozen Syrian women preparing tonight’s Newcomer Kitchen meal. The dish: Sheikh El Mahshi Bil Laban, a traditional Levantine recipe consisting of zucchini stuffed with beef, cooked in a yogurt sauce thickened with eggs and seasoned with garlic and mint, accompanied by Egyptian rice.

Restaurant and culinary incubator The Depanneur hosts the Newcomer Kitchen. The initiative started out as a space for Syrian women to prepare home-cooked meals for their families while they were stuck in hotels upon arrival in Toronto and has since grown into a weekly take-out restaurant.

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WORKSHOP: Syrian Home Cooking with Newcomer Kitchen


MONDAY, Oct. 10  |  10am-5pm
An all-day cooking workshop on Thanksgiving Monday!

Back in the spring, The Depanneur reached out to the Syrian newcomer community and has been delighting in the delicious results ever since. Our Newcomer Kitchen project has become something of a local sensation, serving up 50 meals of traditional Syrian home cooking every week.

In that time, many people have expressed tremendous interest in learning some of these fabulous recipes, so for this Thanksgiving Monday, The Dep and Newcomer Kitchen are teaming up to offer a full-day, hands-on workshop delving into a some of our most popular Syrian dishes. The class will be led by Rahaf Al Akbani, one of Newcomer Kitchen’s coordinators, along with 2 of our talented Syrian cooks, and facilitated by The Dep’s Emily Zimmerman.

The class will cover a number of delicious and traditional Syrian recipes, and will include a meze lunch and food to take home.

— Morning —
Mutabal kousa  متبل كوسا 
Syrian home cooking is notable for its economy and minimal waste. The pulp scooped out of the middle of the zucchinis when they are cored to make Kousa Mahshi is not thrown out, but rather cooked up and combined with tahini and lemon to transform it into a subtle and delicious meze dip akin to baba ganoush.

Kibbeh bel Senia  كبة بالصينية
Kibbeh is one of the most quintessential Syrian dishes, made from a thick dough of bulgur (steamed, dried and cracked whole wheat). Many types of kibbeh are individually stuffed, shaped and fried, which can be very labour intensive, but this delicious vegetarian kibbeh is stuffed with a combination of walnuts, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds, garnished with pine nuts, baked in a tray like brownies!

Salateh Naameh  سلطة ناعمة
This essential Mediterranean salad can be found throughout the middle east, with tomatoes, cucumber, and white onion are finely diced and seasoned with olive oil, mint and lemon juice.

Khabaz Saj (خبز الصاج)
A simple fresh flatbread, handmade on the traditional domed oven of the same name.


— Afternoon —
Kousa Mahshi  كوسا محشي
Stuffed zucchinis were cherished by the former Ottoman Empire, and they made them popular from the Balkans to the Levant. Most popular are the beautiful, pale green young marrow or summer squash, but regular zucchinis work just fine. They are hollowed out with a special implement called a manakra (an apple corer works well in a pinch), and stuffed with a mix of ground halal beef and rice, or a spiced rice mixture for a vegetarian option.

Namoura  نمُّورة 
An classic Syrian dessert, a rich buttery semolina and yogurt cake, garnished with almonds and drizzled with a orange-blossom infused syrup.

$125 +HST


Newcomer Kitchen is a new project that invites groups of Syrian refugee women to use our kitchen to cook traditional Syrian dishes in a fun, social setting. Meals are prepared and packaged, and then sold online for pickup or delivery to pay for all the ingredients and provide an honorarium for the cooks. The project now supports over 55 women and has paid out over $16,000 directly into the community in only a few months.

Proceeds from the sale of meals goes directly to the newcomer cooks. However this does not cover the costs of the enormous amount of behind-the-scenes coordination required to keep this project going. You can support the Newcomer Kitchen project directly and our vision of expanding this model to support more women in more neighbourhoods!

Learn more about the Newcomer Kitchen project.

Every Monday, The Depanneur invites TO’s best culinary talents to lead fun, hands-on workshops.

Newcomer Kitchen on CBC Cross Country Checkup with Duncan McCue

Are we giving newcomers enough support to build a new life in Canada? — CBC Cross Country Checkup with Duncan McCue

Many Syrian refugees fled to Canada in the hope of a better life. The challenges are daunting: finding a home, a job, learning a new language …and a new culture. Are we giving newcomers enough support to build a new life in Canada?

They arrived in Canada fleeing war-ravaged Syria, a conflict that has displaced millions of men, women and children. It was the image of one dead child on a beach that spurred Canadians to action and now we have taken in 31,000 Syrian refugees. Soon the year will be up for the first wave of newcomers and their monthly government cheques will stop. Immigration and settlement workers call it “the crisis of the 13th month.”

As the excitement of escaping to a new country fades, how is the transition going? What are the challenges and the joys? Checkup visited one of Canada’s most diverse cities, Mississauga, Ont., to find out and hear some of those stories first hand.

Our question today: Are we giving newcomers enough support to build a new life in Canada?


Cooking Up Opportunities for Refugee Women | City Lab


Cooking Up Opportunities for Refugee Women

Through cuisine, Toronto’s Newcomer Kitchen fosters economic and social relationships for Syrian immigrants.

LISA FERGUSON @LisaFergieTO Sep 1, 2016

Practiced hands press layers of finely shredded phyllo pastry into baking sheets. Others follow with spoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Once baked, the knafeh Nabulsia will be drenched in orange blossom syrup and sprinkled with pistachio. “It’s always good to know how to cook something traditional,” says Majda Khalil, one of the bakers and a Syrian refugee. “It reminds you of home.”

The dessert prepped, six women crowd around a map, showing each other where home was before war ravaged Syria.

Len Senater is used to inviting strangers into his kitchen. It’s the business model of The Depanneur, Senater’s eatery and community hub housed in an old convenience store just west of Toronto’s downtown. For five years he’s been inviting strangers to come, make their favorite food, and sell it to the community.


Newcomer Kitchen at The Depanneur — Edible Toronto

Newcomer Kitchen at The Depanneur

Building Community for Syrian Refugees

I walked into The Depanneur on an uncharacteristically balmy day in early June. Maybe it was because spring weather had been sparse this year, but the sunshine and the heat of the afternoon permeated in a visceral manner. It signaled a season of renewal. People were smiling at one another while passing by on the street. Toronto had emerged from its winter shell, physically and emotionally.

The sunlight careened through the broad northwest-facing windows of the community kitchen-cum-restaurant-cum-social hub. The warmth inside was not just a product of the heat. The atmosphere at The Depanneur that Thursday afternoon was incubative.

At the periphery of the gathered group were young children dancing on tables, holding their fathers’ hands for support, while others were doing arts and crafts or napping in their strollers. A documentary film crew circled the perimeter, discussing shot angles in hushed tones. Several apron-clad women with nametags casually but methodically delegated tasks, balancing between clear directives and spur-of-the-moment decisions.


Syrian refugee women cooking up a business in Toronto — Metro Toronto

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 9.49.20 AM

Young recent Syrian migrant Jury Musri eats watermelon during a break in the preparation of a typical Syrian meal at a community kitchen in Toronto on Thursday July 7, 2016. The Newcomer Kitchen Project is an initiative for recent Syrian migrant women, organized by Len Senater and Cara Benjamin-Pace at the Depanneur restaurant in Toronto.

Walk into the Depanneur, a restaurant and gathering-place in Toronto, on any Thursday, and you’ll be hit with savoury and distinctly Syrian smells like kibbeh (bulgur balls with spiced lamb), Khyar belaban (cucumber-mint dip), or Torab el Melook (a trifle-like concoction of pineapple, custard and crumbled cookies).

You’ll also see around 10 Syrian women — from 20-somethings with babes in arms to grandmothers — busily making and packaging gourmet meals.

They’re part of a project called the Newcomer Kitchen. It got its modest start in April after Len Senater, The Depanneur’s owner, learned government-sponsored Syrian refugees were cooped up in crowded hotels…

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Syrian women in Canada cook up a taste of home — Middle East Eye

The Newcomer Kitchen, a volunteer-run initiative that brings Syrian refugee women together in Toronto to cook meals from their native country and share them with Canadians (MEE/Jillian d'Amours)

The Newcomer Kitchen, a volunteer-run initiative that brings Syrian refugee women together in Toronto to cook meals from their native country and share them with Canadians (MEE/Jillian d’Amours)

Jillian D’Amours Monday 18 July 2016

TORONTO, Canada – Chatting around a large wooden table, Syrian women methodically scoop a mixture of rice, tomatoes, onions, fresh parsley and mint onto grape leaves.

Wearing plastic gloves and aprons, they delicately roll the leaves and place them in small mounds on plates in front of them. Then, without skipping a beat, they grab more and start the process over again.

All the while, the animated and jovial conversations around the table do not stop – nor does the cooking.

This is the Newcomer Kitchen, a volunteer-run initiative that brings Syrian refugee women together in Toronto to cook and share traditional meals from their native country with Canadians.

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Syrian refugee women cook up fun and profit in Newcomer Kitchen project — CTV News

Syrian women prepare food at the Newcomer Kitchen Project, hosted by Len Senater and Cara Benjamin-Pace at the Depanneur restaurant inToronto on July 7, 2016. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Syrian women prepare food at the Newcomer Kitchen Project, hosted by Len Senater and Cara Benjamin-Pace at the Depanneur restaurant inToronto on July 7, 2016. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

by Lois Abraham, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Walking into the Newcomer Kitchen, one’s senses are assailed. Chopped onions bring a tear to the eye, the scents of lemon and mint mingle in the air, and amid the clatter of utensils and pots is the sound of happy chatter as Syrian women discuss combining the ingredients for yalanji — stuffed grape leaves — and gossip a little.

The women, who came from Syria as part of the federal government’s sponsorship program for refugees, were housed for months in hotels with no access to a kitchen to prepare food for their families.

The Newcomer Kitchen in Toronto is the brainchild of Len Senater, founder and owner of The Depanneur, which hosts pop-up food events and workshops. When he heard about the plight of the refugee families, he decided to open his kitchen to them to cook and enjoy communal meals.

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