Syrian immigrant, refugees open new restaurant while pursuing new life in Canada

Syrians making food, new life at new Dartmouth restaurant

A new Mediterranean inspired restaurant has opened in Dartmouth and it’s inviting locals to enjoy the authentic flavours of Syrian and Lebanese food.

It’s also a place where old friends have been able to reunite after immigrating to Canada and fleeing civil war in Syria, and so it’s much more than just a restaurant for these four friends — it’s also a place where they aim to build a new life together, here in Canada.

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“Family and friends are very important,” said Khaled Mojarkish, the co-owner of the new Station 1 Lebanese Kitchen restaurant that opened Friday in Dartmouth.

“I have some Canadian friends, but still, we need these friends who know these types of food and who know how to deal with these things,” he said. “Sometimes things get busy in the kitchen and it gets critical and they quit.”

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Mojarkish immigrated to Canada in 2007 and he’s been in the restaurant business for almost as long. He previously ran the Station 1 restaurant on Main Street in Dartmouth, where he worked long hours and had staffing issues in the kitchen so he looked for help back home in Syria.

Last year, Mojarkish helped sponsor a refugee family, which helped bring his new business partner Ousama Alkhatib to Halifax.

Alkahtib had a business background and it was after trying some of the food Mojarkish was making that he considered getting into the restaurant business, seeing an opportunity.

“I visited him and I tried his food, you know, and I really liked it,” said Alkhatib. “I could tell there was a big difference [in the food] I felt from other places here.”

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After some brainstorming, the two decided to go into business together and they opened the new Station 1 restaurant on Tacoma Drive and business had been steady, where they serve authentic Syrian and Lebanese food.

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Behind the grill, Mojarkish prepares the dishes as new customers file in.

Alkhatib handles the cash register and welcomes the customers.

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“I told him [Mojarkish] to just leave the administration job for me and keep the food as it is and we will do very well,” he said.

It just one year ago that Alkhatib and his family came to Canada as refugees, so he knows what it’s like to be in a new place and a new country.

Ziad Alasad just arrived in Halifax last month and was preparing the shawarma behind the counter. He had been a chef back home when the Syrian war escalated and forced him to flee to Lebanon, where he dreamed of a better life in Canada.

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“Moving to Canada was like a dream,” said Alasad, who is still working on his English and so Alkhatib translated for him.

“For Ziad, working with his friends means a lot and the support, even the psychological support he feels, it’s a relief, to be here working with his friends,” said Alkhatib.

While the Station 1 restaurant is still new, these friends have big plans — almost as big as the flavours in the food.

“I believe if you have the will you can do something here,” said Alkhatib, who remembers when he arrived a year ago during Canada Day celebrations and he said that pride and celebration made a big impression on him.

“Canada,” he said, “it’s a land of opportunities.”

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