Tayybeh chefs to offer Syrian cooking classes in Vancouver

Vancouverites can't get enough of the techniques, ingredients, and stories of the female Syrian refugees who have become local culinary stars

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      Ever since Tayybeh: A Celebration of Syrian Cuisine started two years ago, it’s been the hottest dinner ticket in town. Tickets to pop-up dinners made with love and skill by the collective’s female Syrian refugees routinely sell out in mere minutes.

      The group has gone on to start a full-time catering company and launch a hugely successful food truck. Now, for the first time, it’s offering cooking classes.

      Demand from people wanting to learn the technique behind so many immensely flavourful dishes has existed since the group held its very first pop-up in October 2016, says founder Nihal Elwan. However, the team wanted to make sure it was ready before it took on the commitment.

      “Around Christmastime [2017], we had some of our dinner and catering regulars ask us if they can purchase cooking classes as gifts for loved ones,” she tells the Straight. “We were immensely humbled by all this but we felt we needed to make sure we have everything in place to ensure these classes were befitting of the reputation that Tayybeh was developing.”

      Tayybeh is clearly held in high esteem not only in Vancouver but also around the world. Several months ago, one of Italy’s top cooking schools, UNISG - Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche, brought students here to learn from the Syrian chefs.

      As the number of cooks and staff at Tayybeh grew, offering cooking classes became more feasible.

      The City of Vancouver's Parks Board approached Tayybeh with the idea of using Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre for classes.

      The first takes place Saturday (September 29) and the classes run monthly until January 2019. Each class can accommodate 14 people and is free of charge. In news that will surprise no one, these classes are already sold-out. (There’s a waiting list you can join.)

      However, Tayybeh is also offering classes via Tattle, a Burnaby-based travel-tech start-up. Its platform allows anyone to host or sign up for various experiences, or "tours". The first Tayybeh class is on October 6 at Moberly Arts and Culture Centre and costs $80.73. Capacity will be around 14 people. (More details are at Tattle.)

      “Syrian cuisine involves a lot of technique and hands-on work, so want those taking the classes to feel more intimately involved and have direct interaction with the chefs,” Elwan says. “We also want them to properly meet the chefs, as if in their own kitchens.”

      Tayybeh is in discussions with another culinary school, so there could be more classes in the works.

      In other Tayybeh news, its catering division has become one of the fastest-growing in the Lower Mainland, with more than 15,000 people served in less than a year. And some of the group's products are so popular that the chefs can’t produce them fast enough to keep up.

      “We are very humbled by all of this,” Elwan says. “Most of our women chefs, all of whom started their gainful employment with us, are working extensively and becoming major income providers for their families.

      “The impact that Tayybeh has had on their lives is truly extraordinary and keeps us striving to help more women do more,” she says. “Today many of their own daughters are also working with us, whether at the food truck or markets or in the kitchen.”

      More info about Tayybeh can be found here.