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Kamal Mouzawak his cooking cares for people

Text: Anne Bessaguet - Photos: Clémentine Larroumet

“Nothing speaks better about tradition, history and the roots of a country than cooking. It is an expression of encounters and sharing. In a country like Lebanon, these expressions are necessary.”

kamal mouzawak, lebanese founder of tawlet and author of the cookbook “manger libanais” 

Kamal's recipe is to gather every religious belief in a single cuisine. That sounds totally unreal nowadays.

Clémentine Larroumet

Yes, and yet, when you're there, all discordances fade away to let cultural differences thrive together. Kamal brings people together. He has this innate power. When he invites you to come to Beirut, he spends time with you, takes care of you. His cooking cares for people.

In a country in which one must dazzle, Kamal is definitely an exception.

CL
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In the kitchen, everyone is reunited. Who can we find in the dining hall?

Clémentine Larroumet

When you imagine Lebanon, you think of a rugged country, of sun and nature. You do not feature the “bling” side of it, you do not suspect all the women dressed in Chanel. Kamal's feels like home. Be ready for a wide choice of meals... In a country in which one must dazzle, Kamal is definitely an exception.

As you leaf through the book, it's obvious that Kamal is the anti-bling...

Clémentine Larroumet

Yes, though they're also his clients. And they love one another. Kamal managed to federate all Lebanese. Tawlet remains a restaurant and yet has become a living spot. Squares and places are key hubs in a city. They have been swept away there. It needs time and keen human qualities to recreate convivial and sharing places.

Tawlet, it's a sharing moment around the table. Kamal does not ban differences, he rather includes them.

CL
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All things considered, would you say that creating and handling this restaurant can be seen as a powerful philosophical and political act?

Clémentine Larroumet

Cooking and eating is mixing. For Kamal, Lebanese cuisine is the essential home cooking. It's a women story. It's a sharing moment around the table. It does not ban differences. It rather includes them and invites everyone to converge towards a common goal: enjoying good food.

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Kamal would rather be called the cook than the chef thus dismissing our normal vision of this profession.

Clémentine Larroumet

This is a smart and loyal positioning towards himself and his clients. Kamal assembles, gathers, reaches out to people and brings them together. Nothing is thrown away. Gently, slowly, he composes with what he receives. These meals, all together, it's wonderful. So much generosity and abundance. Of course, this is quite typical in oriental cuisine but here it makes even more sense.

Spending some time with Kamal, be it only for a few days, obviously makes you grow.

CL

So this book is first and foremost an genuine encounter.

Clémentine Larroumet

Spending some time with Kamal, be it only for a few days, obviously makes you grow. But to be honest, as I go home, I don't ask myself what I'm going to do. I'm just glad to know Kamal. He enriches your imagination. And then comes the day when you're driven by the idea of doing something great together. The sense of narration, the rightful support compared to another, it all suddenly goes without saying.

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I have a feeling that you as well want to let yourself be moved...

Antoine Ricardou

Everyone marvels at our work but none of it would be possible without our fascinating clients. be-poles is nourished and driven by what they do. That's the studio's singularity.

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Could you tell this story without meeting Kamal?

Antoine Ricardou

Impossible. The meeting is the ink which enables us to tell. Its consistency is different every time, completely unique. It colors the story, it induces the narrative.

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An ink that sometimes makes you write and sometimes makes you draw...

Antoine Ricardou

We're always looking for the right way to tell stories. The narrative design is only based on the meeting. It is an exchange, it can take many forms.

Clémentine Larroumet

This is clearly how we play our part. Being able to report stories such as this one. Revealing the spirit, the tale, the way we experienced it. Powerful as it is. No betrayal.

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Every time it's a tailor-made role...

Clémentine Larroumet

It's a way of working. Ours. We work on a cookbook for Kamal because we believe that, to tell this story, we need this book. We need to see his life, his environment, to go through his pictures, to prepare some of his recipes. Sometimes, in order to tell a story, we need a place, a different space. We look for the medium which best suits the story.

You're lucky you can do that!

Clémentine Larroumet

What a chance to get to meet such people. To get to say “us” by the end of the trip.

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