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This Culinary Initiative is Championing Palestinian Food With a Cause

“I don't know anything about anything, but I know food and culture, and I know I have to do something with that.” With a dinner planned for December 14th, Culture on a Plate is all about Palestine.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

This Culinary Initiative is Championing Palestinian Food With a Cause

While global palates flock to sample European cuisine, the vibrant dishes originating from the Middle East are too often left unsung. Past initiatives have mostly platformed Middle Eastern street foods, rather than exploring the full culinary lexicon of these regions in a fine dining context. Omnia Adel, founder of Culture on a Plate, is determined to change that by shining a light on Palestinian food culture through a series of intimate dining experiences spearheaded by award-winning chefs.

"Palestinian food is more than just street food, Lebanese food is more than just street food, and Egyptian food is more than just street food. All of these cultures and their cuisines deserve a proper spot in the limelight," Omnia Adel shares in an exclusive virtual exchange with SceneEats. "Our chefs have centuries of skill embedded within their very being, and our recipes themselves are relics of history. So why aren't we getting the platform we deserve?"

A dentist by trade but a 'third culture kid' at heart, Adel conceived Culture on a Plate to preserve traditions through the universal language of food. By gathering an elite cohort of chefs and like minded individuals from Egypt, Palestine and beyond yearning to spotlight the Palestinian cause through food, Culture on a Plate champions traditional Palestinian fare, with all the proceeds from the dinner going to the Egyptian Red Crescent.

“I’ll be quite honest, I’ve always wanted to do something, I just never knew what that something was. I’m not a chef, but I understand food. I’ve been quite in touch with so many cultures and all their facets, most specifically food. I’ve come to appreciate and respect so many tastes from throughout the world,” Adel shares. “The idea for Culture on a Plate wasn’t quite planned per se, but something akin to it has been simmering within me for quite some time now. Given the recent events, I knew I had to step in and start a fundraiser, but the question was how?”

The answer eventually came in the form of a menu of Palestinian dishes Adel had constructed in her mind. "But because I wasn’t a chef, I couldn’t quite do anything. I just knew I wanted to have something so authentically Palestinian and yet taken above and beyond," she notes.

Assembling the guest chef lineup proved more challenging than expected at first. “It was such a communal effort reaching all the chefs, I was quite scared that all I’d hear would be ‘no’, but the yesses just kept coming and coming. Names kept popping up; Chef Suzanne Sabah, Chef Farah Charkawy, Chef Wesam Masoud, and so many more.” Adel reached out to myriad individuals within the F&B industry, be it chefs, entrepreneurs, and suppliers. Pitching her initiative, Adel received one definitive answer from all: “We’re in.”

“Culture on a Plate could not have been possible without every single person and entity that believed in us and believed in the cause,” Adel says. “You know that feeling you get when you realize everyone around you is actually genuinely happy to be doing something? You have no idea the amount of hiccups we had, but it all worked out.”

Lamb Qedreh, Motabaka, Samak Bel Tehin, Maftool and Rumaniyeh only scratch the surface of the traditional Palestinian fare proudly presented by Culture on a Plate during their inaugural dinner at Sheikh Zayed’s Zst. The line-up of culinary artists includes chefs Bassel Al-Attiyat, Farah El Charkawy, Suzanne Sabah, Marwan Hazem, Wesam Masoud, Alia El Askalany, Dina Dahmash, and Youssef El Azzouni, the baker of the bunch and Godfather to the group, as Adel proudly states.

“I want the new generation - my younger sister’s generation - to understand and talk and share our food and collective cultures, have pride in our heritage, and scream it to the world,” Adel says. “I want her to say ‘I wanna take my friends to the luxury Syrian restaurant around the corner.’ I hope this initiative inspires people to take their cultures, and put them on one hell of a plate.”

After having held its inaugural dinner earlier this November, Culture on a Plate will return for its second edition this Thursday, December 14th, at Sheikh Zayed’s Zst.