maître d’ - Tawlet Ammiq, Lebanon
Written by Daisy Carrington Photography by Arek Dakessian
With a menu designed and presented entirely by local farmers, Tawlet Ammiq – an eco-friendly eatery in the heart of Lebanon's 'bread basket' – dishes up the country's most authentic grub.
Kamal Mouzawakis a bit of a foodie celebrity in Lebanon. He is the founder of the Beirut-based Souk El Tayeb, the country’s first farmers’ market. He is also the driving force behind one of the capital’s best-loved restaurants: Tawlet.
Tawlet has been a darling for culinary activists the world over. The restaurant is a bastion of the farm-to-table theme. The buffet focuses on a different region of the country every day; meat-stuffed puff pastries from Tripoli, or a selection of kibbeh from Anjar.
Last year a group of partners, including the Al-Shouf Cedar Society, A Rocha, and the Swiss Development Agency, created the countrys most eco-friendly space in Ammiq – a village situated in the fertile Bekaa Valley – and invited Mouzawak to fill it with a regional rendition of Tawlet. The resulting Tawlet Ammiq is perhaps one of the the most environmentally and culturally responsible restaurants in the world.
The list of the restaurant’s eco-friendly features is very impressive. The building was constructed with recycled wood, it’s powered by solar energy, and air-conditioning is provided by an innovative system employing metal chimneys. Even the roof is green (literally – it’s covered in grass). Savvy insulation means the place uses 80% less energy, and all waste that can be reused or recycled is.
Mouzawak maintains that he never set out to fight a cause; “I’m just the son of farmers, and I believe in what they create. Really, though, I love seeing cooks celebrating and perpetuating their knowledge and passion for food.”
Setting the scene
Kamal Mouzawak doesn't believe people should make the trip to Tawlet Ammiq simply to sit and have lunch. This isn't because the foods not worth the journey it is. But Ammiq and the surrounding Bekaa Valley have so much to offer that they warrant a full days exploration. “There's so much to do and appreciate here,” maintains Mouzawak, referring to the fact that Ammiq sits on the last significant wetland in Lebanon, and it is home to migrating birds from all over Europe and Africa. “Why should people visit just to sit in our little restaurant, when there's so much more to see?”