First edition of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants honours Kamal for his contributions to culinary developments in Lebanon

11 January 2022 – Kamal Mouzawak, founder of Beirut’s first farmers’ market, Souk El Tayeb, and regarded as Lebanon’s most prominent food activist, has been named the winner of the Foodics Icon Award by the Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants organisation. Mouzawak will be presented with the award at the inaugural edition of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants, taking place in Abu Dhabi on 7th February 2022. In presenting this accolade, the 50 Best organisation honours outstanding figures in the food sector in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Born into a family of farmers, Mouzawak is passionate and respectful about his country and its diverse regions, which produce a variety of natural foods and delicious local cuisine. As part of his vision to promote small-scale farmers, producers, and sustainable agriculture, he founded Beirut’s first farmers’ market, Souk El Tayeb, to celebrate and preserve food and traditions that unite communities in Lebanon. The souk spawned Mouzawak’s first restaurant, Tawlet meaning ‘table’, where each day one female cook sets the menu with dishes from her respective region, paying homage to that region’s cuisine, and introducing patrons to the diversity of Lebanese food traditions through home cooking. Since Tawlet Beirut opened in 2009, Mouzawak has launched five more restaurants, providing employment opportunities for women across the country. Mouzawak is also recognised as a culinary activist for his advocacy of sustainable and humane food production systems.

William Drew, Director of Content for 50 Best, comments: “Kamal Mouzawak’s contribution to elevating the slow food movement in Lebanon as well as preserving the culture of sustainable agriculture through Souk El Tayeb and his Tawlet concept is truly inspirational. The impact he has had on food communities through his vision of preserving Lebanon’s rich culinary heritage and identity makes him a most worthy recipient of this award.”

Over the past 18 years, Souk el Tayeb has evolved from a weekly farmers’ market into a food movement in Lebanon, adding educational programmes in local schools and food festivals to celebrate the country’s culinary heritage. Matbakh El Kell, an initiative that began as an emergency kitchen in response to the catastrophic explosion in Beirut to serve meals to food-insecure families across the city, is the most recent project implemented by Mouzawak. The success of one of Souk El Tayeb’s concepts, the farmers’ exchange programme, which connects Lebanon’s farmers with international investor networks, is now enabling Mouzawak to introduce producers’ restaurants to Dubai and farmers’ platforms in Saudi Arabia.

On being notified of his win, Mouzawak says, “I feel honoured to be selected as the recipient of the Foodics Icon Award this year. At Souk El Tayeb, we have empowered the lives of many, and I am delighted that the hard work of the team has been recognised. We aim to use this opportunity as well to amplify our voice and the need for strong communities in elevating nations and therefore improving the food industry.”

Tjalling van den Burger, UAE Country Manager & International Markets at Foodics, commented, “As the Restaurant Management Technology Partner for the inaugural edition of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants, we are delighted to be celebrating our regional icons on a global stage with the exclusive Foodics Icon Award. We convey our most heartfelt congratulations to Kamal Mouzawak as the first winner of the Foodics Icon Award. Kamal is a true inspiration for us all. From his passion and dedication as a social entrepreneur to his vision of celebrating food and traditions in order to unite communities, he is truly redefining performance in our sector through inclusion and hope.”

The inaugural Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, will be hosted in the UAE Capital on Monday, 7th February 2022, supported by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT).

The first edition of Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants event programme, including the awards ceremony and unveiling of the list, provides a unique opportunity for chefs, gourmets, and food and travel media from all over the region to gather and celebrate cuisine and hospitality, whilst also promoting the culinary strength and diversity of the region to a global audience.

The final pre-announced award in the lead up to the inaugural event and reveal of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 will be announced on 25th January, celebrating up and coming talent with the One To Watch Award.


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