Special Report: Randy Potts and Chef Chad Houser Take a Taste of Texas to Lebanon

(clockwise from top left) Souk el Tayeb market in Beirut; Houser’s makanek corn dogs served at Tawlet; cherimoya fruit; Jammal Bayeh, the mother of famous Lebanese pastry chef Georgina Bayeh; Kamal Mouzawak and Houser. (photography courtesy of Chad Houser and Randy Potts)

Last March, Chad Houser (co-chef and co-owner of Parigi) and his friend, Randy Potts, traveled to Lebanon. Their goal was to meet Kamal Mouzawak, a Lebanese chef and restaurant owner. Mouzawak operates Tawlet, a unique restaurant in Beirut that rotates talented cooks who prepare food the only way they know how: buying local. This culinary buzzterm isn’t a trend, it’s a way of life in Lebanon. And Houser and Potts spent a week in Lebanon visiting farmers, wineries, and restaurants. Houser got a chance to cook a Texas-inspired meal at Tawlet. Their story, written by Potts, is inspiring.

In March 2010, I read a story in the New York Times about Kamal Mouzawak, a Lebanese chef and restaurant owner. The Times piece dubbed Mouzawak “the Alice Waters of the Middle East” for his dedication to bringing together people from different religions and cultural backgrounds by creating a farmers market in Beirut. He is a farm-to-market visionary.

I told my friend Chad Houser about the story, because I knew he and Mouzawak shared the same belief in the powerful bond that can be created by cooking and sharing food. His mother grew up on a farm in East Texas and spent her summers selling produce at the Dallas Farmers Market, and his family had a tradition of big Sunday suppers built around the bounty from their garden. Houser brought that spirit to Parigi, the restaurant where he is co-chef and co-partner. He is also president of the Dallas Farmers Market Friends and one of the founders of Cafe Momentum, a nonprofit restaurant that serves as a culinary training facility for at-risk youth. So I knew Houser would appreciate Mouzawak’s story.

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