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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Mother-daughter modelling duo Rita and Jessica Kahawaty open Lebanese kitchen
WE ALL BELIEVE the food we serve is the best representation of our country’s cuisine, but how many of us would be willing to put our money where our mouth is and attempt to sell the fruits of our culinary labour? Well, as it happens, Dubai-based international model Jessica Kahawaty has done just that by joining forces with her mother Rita to create a new food delivery concept: Mama Rita.
Rita Kahawaty is also a model though her passion has always lay in the kitchen where she has spent many years feeding family and friends with her own simple take on wholesome traditional Middle Eastern and international dishes. Rita’s own mother Nahil actually taught her how to cook using fresh vegetables grown in the Lebanese mountains by her father Simon. Recognising this gift, Jessica wanted the world to enjoy the flavours of her home and thus Mama Rita was born. We spoke to the duo to find out more.
What made you decide to turn enthusiasm for food into a business?
Rita: Everyone has been telling me for years that I should do a food business. My friends, family and anyone who tasted my food loved how delicious it is. Jessica and I were brainstorming about two years ago when we first thought of a cookbook.
Jessica: But a cookbook didn’t quite achieve the aim I wanted. I wanted people to try my mother’s food from her hands and that’s when we started thinking of a food delivery service with the feeling that you just got this package from our home.
What do you feel Mama Rita offers that other Lebanese outlets are missing?
Jessica: I have been living in Dubai for six years and my mother was with my father and brother in Australia. I ordered a lot of food as I don’t cook but there was always a part of home missing. The food was either too oily or you felt like it was produced in a mass kitchen. I didn’t feel a personal touch. I didn’t know who the chef was or their story.
Rita: Mama Rita follows its slogan "From My Kitchen To Your Home" and the food and has a clean, home feel to it. You feel like a mother just cooked you a meal and served it to you on a plate.
For a first timer, what would you recommend someone order?
Jessica: The Beetroot Hummus. I tried every single one in the market and nothing compares to the rich chickpea flavour followed by bursts of beetroot.
What makes Dubai the optimum place to open this kind of venture?
Rita: Dubai is a fast-paced city with lots of young people working and away from home. We wanted to fill that gap to provide a sense of home for those who are time sensitive. Dubai often sees both parents working so this is also for mothers who want the best for their children.
What is it about Lebanese cuisine that makes it so popular? Can it be part of a healthy diet to stay photo-fit?
Jessica: We have a variety of Lebanese, Arabic, Russian, Italian, French dishes and more. Our menu is extremely versatile, it’s cooked with clean ingredients and we are so picky about where we get our produce from. We don’t use fats or oils in the cooking and make sure everything is flavoured with spices as opposed to unnecessary ingredients that are deemed unhealthy.
Who in the celebrity world would you like to cook for? What would you serve?
Rita: I’d love to cook for Queen Rania or Amal Clooney. They are powerful women from Arabic origins who would appreciate good, healthy, homey food. The nostalgic feeling in our dishes will definitely appeal to them.
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