Our guest is Jabber Al-Bihani who started his journey as an engineer and during a trip to Barcelona, took part in a commonplace but nevertheless transformational experience of breaking bread with complete strangers. He’s sought to recreate that experience since then through Komeeda (based on the Spanish word for “Food"), where he gathers people of varying backgrounds to share stories and food at pop-up dinners at local restaurants. The particular dinner where I met Jabber was part of a series called “Displaced Kitchens” which featured newly settled refugees who cooked recipes of their homeland while sharing the struggles they’ve faced. With immigration being a very relevant topic, these dinners - Jabber’s form of “activism” as he calls it - have served to humanize the refugee and connect Americans to people they would normally only hear about on TV.
We cover a lot of ground in this episode and many of these topics are definitely hard to discuss without getting too political. Jabber talks about:
- Starting Komeeda and how food has helped heal our deeply divided society,
*Listen in particular to his story of the time a Black Lives Matter Activist sat down to share a meal with a Trump Supporter.
- Giving back and helping when things seem overwhelming; how to channel your energy and create change if marching in the streets isn’t your cup of tea,
- His experiences balancing between a conservative upbringing and a rapidly changing world,
- And the importance of questioning your own beliefs.
Most importantly we talk about just being and doing “you”, which is all we can really strive to do. Listen up and we hope you enjoy this episode!
HIGHLIGHTS & LINKS
5:30 - The story behind the name; a meal with strangers in Barcelona
8:45 - From Pervious Pavements to Dinner Experiences
14:10 - The Komeeda Promise // Experiencing more than just a meal: access to the chef + opportunity to engage with others
17:30 - The challenges of restaurants in today’s dining culture
20:40 - Engineering skills that helped vs. skills Jabber needed to pick up
24:00 - Experiencing food as an “Influencer"
28:20 - A Black Lives Matter Activist meets a Trump Supporter for Dinner // The power of small changes and breaking bread
36:00 - The Refugee’s Road
40:45 - On Trump’s Travel Ban, Yemen, Activism outside of Protesting
46:10 - Working with Refugees // Lutfi’s Story
53:45 - To help is to be human
58:00 - On critics and how you just can’t win // “Do you”
1:00:00 - On forming you own conclusions and questioning your beliefs
1:01:20 - On solidarity // the irony of self-division when others think we’re all the same
1:05:00 - On our (in)ability to predict the future // “Just Do It"
1:09:30 - On Tribalism and how “new” our culture and human experiences are
1:13:00 - Where Jabber is headed in the future: redevelop war-torn nations
1:15:45 - On writing your own story and being a catalyst
1:17:00 - Does Jabber consider himself an activist? // On just being you
Rapid Fire with Jabber:
Most Influential Person: Pharrell
Most Useful Tool(s): his Mac
3 Ingredients That Describe Jabber: Jalapeño, Watermelon, and...Dates:?
Resource for the Common Person: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
If Jabber's Life Story was written in one sentence: "Good Food, Good People"
Vocab & Other Links:
Glow Thai Restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beers
Lutfi Mohammed - Komeeda's first refugee chef
International Rescue Committee / International Organization for Migration
Gulf Countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
MS-13 - an international criminal gang from Los Angeles, CA
Hijab - veil traditionally worn by Muslim women
Da'esh - Arabic acronym for the terrorist organization ISIS
Eid - Islamic religious holiday marking the end of Ramadan
Follow the Story...
*The Komeeda Team is currently working on a cookbook while also hosting Displaced Dinners nationwide. Contact them for more info!