Montreal catering company empowers Syrian refugee women

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WATCH ABOVE: A catering company set up just over a year ago to help Syrian refugee women is growing. Global's Phil Carpenter reports – Jun 10, 2019

A catering company set up just over a year ago to help Syrian refugee women is growing.

Les Filles Fatoush now has a kiosk at the Jean Talon Market where the public can purchase a variety of Syrian spices and dishes.

“It’s excellent,” beams Cynthia Chackal, whose parents moved to Canada from Aleppo, Syria, several years ago. She helps run the stall.

“The food is very rich in flavour.”

The company was formed by three women in 2017 to help Syrian refugee women feel at home in the city. They wanted to help the women integrate and to give them jobs.

READ MORE: Syrian refugee women cook up a taste of home with Montreal business

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“It was part of the welcoming movement of the Syrian refugees in Montreal and Quebec,” explains Genevieve Comeau, one of the women running the group.

She says that by giving the women jobs in which they can use their own cooking expertise, it helps the refugees feel productive.

Now with the kiosk, she and her partners want to help empower the women even more by selling their products directly to the public. Comeau says the exercise will teach the women about sales and customer service and get them to practice French and English.

“Slowly they will come to the kiosk and try to sell their food, talk about their food, meet the people and meet the producers at the marché,” she says.

Comeau says the idea is to give the women a wide variety of work exposure to make them more employable if they choose to leave the Les Filles Fattoush.

They haven’t begun working at the kiosk yet. For now, Chackal runs it with a couple of other employees and believes the company will continue to do well because the food is authentic and varied.

READ MORE: Syrian refugee opens his own barbershop 3 years after arriving in Montreal

“We have some baba ganoush, some moutabal, some muhammara, some hummus and, of course, our grape leaves,” she says.

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Clients like spice merchant Benoit Marcotte Girard agree. He buys spices from Les Filles Fattoush to sell at his shop, Épices de Cru, and says it’s hard to find good quality Syrian spices, but the one the refugees sell are exceptional.

“The sumac is really nice, the pomegranate molasses is a lovely flavour,” he tells Global News. “It’s different from the Turkish style — it’s sweeter, the Syrian style.”

That’s why Chakal is convinced the women will excel once they start working at the stall — they’re proud of the food they make, as well as their heritage, just like she is.

The kiosk will be open at the Jean Talon Market until October.