Syrian sisters Sharon and Carol Salloum from Sydney’s Almond Bar will be part of a shining roster of exciting cooking talent coming together for two delicious dinners to spearhead the arrival of the #CookForSyria project in Australia.
Details of the Sydney event, to be held later this month, were announced today, with plans for Melbourne coming soon. The Salloum sisters join chefs including Kylie Kwong, David Thompson, Peter Gilmore and Mitch Orr for the first #CookForSyria dinner.
The #CookForSyria project, started by London Instagrammer ClerkenwellBoy last year, attracted support from top British chefs including Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi, raising more than £210,000 pounds (AU$350,000) through dinners, supper clubs, bake sales and donations. (The project has its own Instagram account, too.)
The February 27 dinner in Sydney will kick off a month of fundraising for UNICEF Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal, helping to deliver emergency supplies, protection and support to millions of children affected by the conflict in Syria.
Coming together for the Sydney dinner along with the Salloum sisters will be Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong), Peter Gilmore (Bennelong and Quay), David Thompson (Long Chim), Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room), Paul Carmichael (Momofuku Seiōbo) Darren Robertson, Mark LaBrooy and Andy Allen (Three Blue Ducks), Mat Lindsay (Ester), Clayton Wells (Automata), Luke Powell (LP’s Quality Meats) and Mitch Orr (Acme & Bar Brose).
Plans for a Melbourne dinner in early March are still being finalised, with Thompson - currently bedding down his newly launched Long Chim branch in the southern city – keen to support that event, too.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the big names who have come together for this,” says Sharon Salloum. Salloum was last in Syria back in 1991 – plans to visit in 2011 with her sister, parents and other family members had to be put on hold when war broke out – but still has a lot of family there.
“My parents are both one of nine children, and the majority of my aunties and uncles still live there. It makes it really real. We have been blessed - our families haven’t been in direct danger, although a couple of them have had to move,” she tells SBS.
Salloum says the #CookForSyria project – which will also involve cafes and bakeries across Australia throughout March – is a fitting way to raise money. “Hospitality is such a big part of Middle Eastern culture.”
And since Almond Bar opened ten years ago, Sydney has been learning about the Middle East, and Syria – not just to do with the Syrian conflict, but through food, too.
“When we started the restaurant ten years ago, people didn’t know what labne and zaatar were – now people make their own labne and have zaatar in the pantry.”
Sharon and her sister will both be cooking for the event, making a selection of vegetarian dishes.
The Sydney dinner will see the all of the chefs involved serving up signature dishes with a Syrian twist. Thompson’s contribution will be a pomegranate salad.
“I am delighted to be involved with this. I’ve had the good fortune to spend time in that work of the world - I love the Middle East - and I went to Syria about eight or nine years ago. I loved it, the depth of history, the food, the hospitality and the kindness of people.
“Especially at this time, it’s important to help these people and extend the hand of hospitality to people who need it, through no fault of their own,” he tells SBS.
The two dinners are part of a month-long #CookForSyria project.
Chefs, café owners and bakers around Australia have also been invited to join the fundraising effert by putting a Syrian-inspired twist on a dish and donating $3 from each sale to the Syria Crisis Appeal.
Businesses that have already committed to the March campaign include No 1 Bent St, Billy Kwong, Long Chim (Sydney, Perth & Melbourne), Quay, Bennelong, Acme, Automata, Ester, Bar Brose, The Bridge Room, Momofuku Seiōbo and Three Blue Ducks.
Home cooks can also get involed - UNICEF is encouraging people to raise funds by hosting their own supper clubs and bake sales (find recipes and tips at http://cookforsyria.com/recipe/).
Tony Stuart, CEO of UNICEF Australia, tells SBS the funds will do enormous good.
“UNICEF is thrilled that some of the best Aussie chefs have come on board to support this initiative to help raise much needed funds to support children who are affected by the conflict in Syria. This is a great example of how Australians with a fundraising idea can provide help and hope for children particularly as the conflict enters its seventh year.”
There’s also hope for a Down Under version of the Cook For Syria fundraising cookbook. Demand for the UK version was so strong the initial print run sold out - it's back in stock though, and now available in Australia.