THE TRUMP/SESSIONS XENOPHOBIC ANTI-REFUGEE BIAS THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERY ASPECT OF AMERICAN SOCIETY, INCLUDING OUR STAR CHEFS & OUR IMMIGRATION-INSPIRED CRUSINE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/in-praise-of-refugee-chefs-they-came-from-syria-but-they-represent-an-american-ideal/2017/12/06/64e7c4be-c400-11e7-aae0-cb18a8c29c65_story.html

Marin Cogan reports for the Washington Post:

“On a Thursday morning in June, near the end of Ramadan, Majed Abdulraheem arrives for work at Union Kitchen. The brightly lit, shared commercial kitchen space in Northeast Washington is filled with chef’s tables, pastry racks and the bustling of a dozen cooks building fledgling businesses. It’s Chef Majed’s second time at work today. Fasting makes the daytime heat of the kitchen too hard to manage, and so he was in the kitchen preparing orders late last night, into the early morning.

Abdulraheem, 29, works at Foodhini, a meal delivery service that employs immigrant chefs in Washington. The start-up was founded by Noobtsaa Philip Vang, a child of refugees from Laos, who discovered, after arriving from Minnesota to Georgetown three years ago to get his MBA, that he was missing the Hmong cuisine he grew up with. “I was really craving some of my mom’s food,” says Vang, “and I was thinking I wanted to find a grandma or auntie that was living in the neighborhood somewhere and just buy some of their food.”

He started mulling his own family’s immigration story: When his mom came to the United States, she had limited English skills, and finding work was difficult. His dad sometimes worked multiple jobs, sleeping in his car between shifts, to make sure the family had enough money to survive. What his mother did have, which might have been marketable if only she’d had the resources, was incredible skill as a chef. “There’s got to be a way to create opportunities for people like my mom,” he thought.

Abdulraheem is one of Foodhini’s first chefs. On its website, he offers a menu of his own design: bamiatan, a dish of crisp mini okra sauteed in garlic and topped with cilantro; mutabbal, an eggplant-tahini dip similar to baba ghanouj; and kebab hindi, meatballs cooked in a spiced tomato stew. Like Vang, his love for food and for family are inextricably intertwined: Many of the items on Abdulraheem’s menu are dishes his mother used to make for him when he was a kid growing up in a small town in southern Syria. Even after attending culinary school in Syria, and after years of working in restaurants, he still considers her, his original teacher, to be the better chef.

“You have to love cooking to be good at it,” Abdulraheem tells me through an interpreter. He is preparing the vegetables for fattoush, a staple salad of lettuce, tomato and crunchy pita chips. He stacks long leaves of romaine lettuce, one on top of the other, slicing them crosswise into small confetti ribbons as he talks, before perfectly dicing tomatoes. He cuts huge lemons in half, just once, and squeezes the juice out of them effortlessly. It’s a simple dish but one he loves to make, because it’s both universal and endlessly customizable. “I’m making fattoush, my wife will make fattoush, you can make fattoush,” he says. “But each time it will come out a little bit different, because it’s a reflection of you.”


Majed Abdulraheem and wife Walaa Jadallah at their home in Riverdale Park, Md. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

When Abdulraheem arrived here in 2016, he became part of a long history of immigrants — often refugees — who reached the United States and began making food. You can find this tradition in Eden Center, the Northern Virginia strip mall packed with pho restaurants and pan-Asian groceries, built up by Vietnamese refugees in the 1980s. You can see it in the popular Ethiopian restaurants on U Street; in the restaurants of Peter Chang, who fled Washington’s Chinese Embassy in 2003 and acquired one of the most loyal followings of any chef in America; or in the Thai and Indian restaurants in large cities and small towns across the country.

. . . .

What Abdulraheem and other refugee chefs bring when they come to America has implications beyond the kitchen. Cooking the dishes — sharing the foods of their home country — is a way of ensuring “that identity and heritage are not lost just because the homeland is,” says Poopa Dweck, author of the book “Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews.” They are “documenting history, in some way, for the next generation.”

It’s this diversity — the richness of so many cuisines and cultures, brought from all over the world — that makes American food so outstanding. At the moment, however, that tradition is under threat. The Trump administration has dedicated a lot of energy to barring Syrian refugees like Abdulraheem from coming into the country, while waging a multifront campaign against undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Continuing on this path would have a profound impact — not just on our food, but on our national identity.

It can be hard to explain to people who view immigration as a threat just what we stand to lose when we turn away from this ideal. Maybe a grand argument about American values isn’t the best place to begin. Maybe it’s best to start smaller, somewhere closer to home — somewhere like the dinner table.


Abdulraheem’s kebab hindi (meatballs cooked in a spiced tomato stew). (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

There are things that Majed Abdulraheem doesn’t usually talk about when he’s at work chopping vegetables. But they’re on his mind a lot: How, on his last visit to his parents’ home in 2013, they begged him not to return to his apartment in Damascus but to flee Syria across the border to Jordan instead. How he did as his parents asked. And how he never got to see his father, who became ill during his exile, before he died.

. . . .

The culinary education of refugee chefs is unusual. It is at once cosmopolitan — thanks to the fusing of different influences during the chef’s travels — and narrowly defined by both physical barriers and the limitations of circumstance. The journeys of refugee chefs often spark creativity, born of necessity. The education, just like the migration, is sui generis. Just like America.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

The irony is certainly not lost on me. Refugees overcome great obstacles to contribute to America’s greatness; immigrants (including, yes, those without legal status) help us prosper as a society; guys like Trump and Sessions are corrosive negative influences who contribute little of positive value and do great damage to our country, our society, and our collective future every day they hold power, despite having having been given every chance to make positive contributions.

America’s continued greatness, and perhaps our ultimate survival as a nation, depends on whether we can use the legal system and the ballot box to remove corrosive influences like Trump, Sessions, and their ill-intentioned cronies from office before they can completely destroy our country.

PWS

12-10-17

MAKING AMERICA GREAT: While Trump Tweets Insults, American Hero Jose Andres Feeds The Needy In Puerto Rico!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/food/wp/2017/09/29/jose-andres-a-naturalized-u-s-citizen-has-become-the-face-of-american-disaster-relief/

Tim Carman reports for the Washington Post:

October 1 at 1:11 PM
Families in the La Perla neighborhood of San Juan get water from a cistern truck. (Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)

Unlike the president, Homeland Security or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, José Andrés has no responsibility to respond to natural disasters, and yet the Washington celebrity chef has become a reliable presence in disaster zones, deploying his Chef Network to help feed thousands of displaced people.

Andrés was among the first responders in Haiti and Houston, and now he and his crew from World Central Kitchen are on the ground in Puerto Rico, improvising ways to feed countless residents who are stranded without electricity, drinking water and food in the wake of Hurricane Maria. With little ability to speak with the outside world, Andrés has used his Twitter feed to keep followers updated on his progress in the U.S. territory.

If President Trump has become a target of criticism for the administration’s response in Puerto Rico, Andrés has become a hero. The restaurateur’s social networks are overflowing with words of praise for the native Spaniard who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2013.

Heroism has not come easy in Puerto Rico.

“Today’s a hard day,” he said in a video posted Thursday to Twitter. “We’ve been getting deliveries, but we’ve been missing a few things. When we have bread, we don’t have cheese . . . But more or less, things keep falling into place.”

Andrés and company landed in Puerto Rico on Monday and wasted little time. He posted a photo of himself ladling out sancocho — a Puerto Rican beef stew — to locals. He also started soliciting donations and volunteers to help with the massive task of feeding a population that has survived two hurricanes: Irma early in September, followed by Maria later in the month. The Category 4 Maria was the strongest storm to directly hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years, wiping out power to the entire island.

Since arriving, Andrés has teamed up with chef José Enrique, a native son whose eponymous restaurant in the Santurce district of San Juan has served as one of two bases for meal preparations. The other is Mesa 364, a private-events restaurant launched by chef Enrique L. Piñeiro. Volunteers from the island and the U.S. mainland, working under the hashtag #chefsforPuertoRico, have prepared stews, sandwiches, paella and pastelon (a Puerto Rican lasagna with fried sweet plantains for “noodles”) for those in hospitals, senior homes and San Juan neighborhoods. They’ve used food trucks to help distribute meals.

In a series of tweets published Sunday, in fact, Andrés offered a number of suggestions to the president.

This isn’t the first time Andrés has set himself against the president: In April, the two settled lawsuits against each other after Andrés backed out of his lease to open a restaurant in Trump International Hotel.

He also tweeted:

According to Andrés’s PR team back in Washington, the crews in Puerto Rico are now feeding 5,000 people a day, and since Monday, they have served more than 15,000 meals. (In late August, Andrés was in Houston with World Central Kitchen, where they served 20,000 meals for victims of Hurricane Harvey.)

You could make the argument that his relief efforts in Puerto Rico are more personal to Andrés. He has a restaurant on the island: Mi Casa is a modern Caribbean restaurant inside a Ritz-Carlton property in Dorado, just west of San Juan. The restaurant took a hit from Maria and remains closed.

“While they are undergoing efforts to restore operations at the property, guests are not able to make reservations,” emailed Margaret Chaffee, spokeswoman for ThinkFoodGroup, parent group for Andrés’s family of restaurants.

Despite poor cell coverage on the island and a packed schedule, Andrés called The Post to provide a brief update on his team’s efforts. Well, sort of. The first words out of the chef’s mouth were, “I’m sorry, but I cannot speak right now.”

Andrés then spent the next five minutes answering questions, as those around him urged the chef to move along to the next task at hand. Andrés said they’re feeding close to 8,000 people daily now, between the two San Juan restaurants and the food trucks.

When asked how he’s managing to get supplies on the island, Andrés just said, “When you have a credit card, everything is possible.”

Andrés would like to expand his relief operations to Vieques, the small island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Vieques has been essentially cut off from all communications and supplies since Maria hit. But he’s not sure that will happen.

“We have to be realistic about what we can do,” Andrés said.

The celebrity chef said he was due back in Washington already but decided to extend his stay in Puerto Rico. He isn’t expected back in the District until next week.

“I cannot leave,” he said.

Then he begged off. His team was signaling him to get off the phone. “I really have to go,” he said.

This post originally published Sept. 29; it has been updated.”

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Read the original with all of the tweets and pictures at the link.

Jose Andres, a naturalized U.s. citizen is a talented, decent, caring, giving human being and an inspirational leader. Native-born American Nativist Donald Trump, the Charlatan-In-Chief, not so much.

PWS

10-02-17

immigrationcourtside FOOD/ECONOMY: How Much Does The U.S. Restaurant Industry Depend On Foreign-Born Workers? What Would Happen If They Weren’t There To Serve Us?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/17/restaurants-imagined-a-day-without-immigrants-in-one-city-last-year-it-actually-happened/

Caitlin Dewey writes in Wonkblog in today’s WashPost:

“Immigrants are part of the U.S. economy,” Roblero said, in Spanish, via Facebook Messenger. “Now I’m under house arrest. I haven’t left to see any of my coworkers, the restaurant is closed and I can’t work.”

Thus far, few restaurants have suffered the scale of the raids that Agave did. But in cities across America, restaurants, bars and hotels are bracing themselves for the possibility of further enforcement action under the Trump administration. On Thursday, restaurants in several major cities — including José Andrés’s Jaleo, Oyamel and Zaytinya in D.C. — shut down or cut service to demonstrate how much their businesses would suffer without immigrants.

. . . .

That has been devastating to the families of the employees, Valladares said, particularly those with young children. Many of the families fear being split up if their relatives are deported. They’re also having trouble buying food and paying rent while their primary breadwinners await immigration hearings; Cosecha is now providing for many of those needs. Only one of Mucino’s restaurants, the taco joint La Divina, is open and in need of employees.

On a recent Wednesday evening, the phone at La Divina was answered by a 21-year-old college student named Drew Smith. He was hired after the raids, he said, to replace a cashier who had been arrested, along with several new cooks who, early on, didn’t even know where to source ingredients. Smith loves La Divina: The people are nice, the tacos are good, and it “feels like working in Mexico,” he said.
“But it seems like less people come to the restaurant now,” he added. “I think there’s a perception that the tacos are different.”

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PWS

02/18/17