Following in the footsteps of Peace By Chocolate and of ice cream entrepreneur Samer Jokhdar, Piece of the East is continuing the trend of new Syrian food startups in Halifax by selling a mix of traditional Syrian desserts, zaatar bread and jam.
The story behind the making of their food, however, is nothing close to traditional.
The idea for Piece of the East came while Ahmed Alhraki, one of the co-founders, was working at the Parker Street Food Bank. One of his responsibilities there is to go through food pallets, and throw away any food that could be compromised or that has a short lifespan.
“Ahmed, one day when we were sorting, said: ‘I can make jam out of this; imagine the amount of jam I could make,’” says Sylvia Gawad, another co-founder of the company.
Gawad thought this over and proposed the idea of a company that could take all the food being thrown away and upcycle it into Syrian cuisine. With the help of Alaa Alhraki, Ahmed’s brother, and Ratat Harb they decided to start Piece of the East.
Melissa Hunt, the food management co-ordinator at Parker Street, was very happy to help them get started. She says that they wish they could upcycle the food themselves, but lack the personnel to do so.
“What they take are things that we can’t use. Things like a bruised apple or a bruised pear,” says Hunt. “Things that we wouldn’t be able to give to the clients.”
Most of the members of Piece of the East still work at Parker Street and put aside any food they can use to upcycle. They say they are not concerned about not finding enough food every week.
“We can make food with anything. We can make pickles, we can make jam, bread,” says Gawad. “The ideas are endless.”
With a few months of preparation, they opened Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Seaport Farmers’ Market. Crowds gathered around they kiosk while offered samples.
A few notable Haligonians also joined the celebration as Lena M. Diab, minister of immigration, and Mike Savage, mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality, came and met the team.
Piece of the East even broke into dancing, showing off their skills to the market and inviting others to participate.
Piece of the East will be at the Seaport Farmers’ Market each Saturday and Sunday.