I always had a passion for building community. Being a Syrian Palestinian child of immigrants who endured so much, I have had the unique privilege of understanding the world through a larger lens, but not without challenges. I often struggled to find a sense of belonging and community and faced the backlash of negative stereotypes of Arabs in the media. But my heritage remained strong in my household and I was surrounded by traditions, aromas, and flavors from the homeland.
A transformative moment in my life came on a high school trip to the Deep South, where I connected with former civil rights activists. I felt a deep connection with their struggles, remembering the stories of how my parents fought injustices of war, colonialism, and occupation. I learned that all communities have the power to fight for the right to live their lives with dignity and to strengthen their community. From that moment, I became committed to empowering communities that were experiencing the injustices of racism, poverty, and sexism. I became a community and labor organizer supporting different communities to have a voice in their workplaces and neighborhoods, including my own Arab community.
My journey always led me back to my culture; I developed a passion for food and people. I understood food as a universal tool for human connection and preserving unwritten history. On a soul searching trip to Syria and Beirut I discovered my calling when I walked into a street corner bakery. I was mesmerized by how it was filled with such life and vibrancy despite the political turmoil outside those doors. I yearned to create a space here that connects people, gives them sustenance, and provides a way to learn about the unheard stories of the Arab world. I came back and immediately pursued the path to become a baker and the rest was history.
Reem’s offers the experience of Arab hospitality through the discovery of flavors, aromas, and techniques of the modern Arab street corner bakery. We provide our take on classic Arab street foods, combining traditional flavors with high quality locally-sourced ingredients, all made with California love. We specialize in the man’oushe (pronounced Man-OOO-shay) a snack emblem of the Arab world enjoyed in the Levant. A man’oushe is a fresh baked flatbread topped with a variety of spices, cheeses, meats, and fresh vegetables, focusing on seasonality and unique ingredients not often exposed to the American public. In the street food setting, we bake our flatbreads fresh to order on a traditional griddle called a saj.
Reem’s wants to take people on a journey to the streets of the Middle East through the novel experience of Arab street food but also to invoke nostalgia in the food we make through fresh-baked bread, a common sought out food across all cultures. The spaces we create are intended to connect people across cultures, generations, and experiences.
Reem’s joined La Cocina, a women’s incubator program and launched in April 2015, serving its breads and street food fare through farmers markets, food festivals, pop-ups, and catering. Over the last year, we have built a recognizable brand, developed a loyal base of customers who return weekly for our food, and have been covered by numerous publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle.
Reem’s vision is to create an anchor establishment that will build and nurture strong and vibrant communities through the rich experience of Arab food and culture. We want to provide opportunities particularly to marginalized communities, such as living wage jobs, healthy foods, and spaces to meet and build with one another. I hope to one day open a bakery and cafe space where people can feel the warmth of connection, hospitality, and fresh-baked bread on a daily basis.
Over the last year, I have built a loyal base of followers through the mobile food setting. As my fan base has grown, so has demand for my food and a place to find me more consistently. I have struggled to grow to meet the demand as one person without all the necessary tools to produce more. This loan will support me to:
* Purchase a utility truck to transport my food and equipment to different locations- $7000
* Hire part-time staff to help me produce more in the kitchen – $3000
These two things will help bring me one step closer to my dream of opening a space by being able to get into more markets in the Bay Area.