BY JOE DISTEFANO
As the Culinary King of Queens, I’m so very fortunate to live in the most diverse and delicious destination in all of New York City. And I’m even luckier to be a Tastemaker for the World’s Fare, a celebration of global cuisine and culture, which will be held on May 18 and 19 at Citi Field. In the weeks leading up to the Fare, I’ll be profiling some of my favorite vendors from Queens and beyond. Today, a look at Tanabel, a Middle Eastern catering and event company from Brooklyn’s very own Chef Hannah Goldberg.
Chef Hannah Goldberg named her catering and events company Tanabel after the Souk el Tanabel in Damascus. Tanabel means “lazy person” in Arabic, and the company takes its name from the bustling market where merchants farm all of the intricate prep work Syrian food requires of women in their homes. Those women chop mountains of parsley and hollow out hillocks of squash, and deliver the finished goods to the merchants to sell in that “Lazy Person’s Market.”
Goldberg envisioned Tanabel as a space where women could contribute their skills and ingenuity to a larger project, doing what they could to make a life for themselves while growing a larger business.
“We pay a living wage and pride ourselves on meeting our cooks where they are, finding ways for them to contribute as much or as little as they’re able and to take pride in their work and in sharing it with their new neighbors,” she said.
Goldberg, who has been a chef since 2001, started the company — which celebrates the rich culinary traditions of the Middle East and employs refugee women — after the 2016 presidential election.
“I felt compelled, as many people did, to get involved, to stand up and affirm what America means to me,” she recalled of her involvement with the refugee task force of a local synagogue in the midst of an influx of Syrian refugees.
As a chef, Goldberg had been committed to helping to preserve traditional foodways at risk of disappearing, so working with refugee women to preserve and celebrate their traditional recipes felt like a very natural fit, she recalls. Tanabel employs women from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, each of whom bring their mothers’ and grandmothers’ recipes and traditions with them.
Tanabel’s very first cook, Fadila Maamo, hails from Aleppo, Syria, and came to the United States with three of her four children in the fall of 2016. Maamo and her family are Yazidi Kurds, with a lot of their own unique traditions, including Syrian kibbeh — fried bulgur torpedoes stuffed with spiced meat and walnuts, with a red pepper and pomegranate sauce and a little fresh cabbage and mint salad on the side — which will be served at the Fare.
“They’re just the best version we’ve ever had — juicy and savory and crisp — we’re so excited to share them with everyone at the Fare!” Goldberg said.
“I’m really proud to be a part of the World’s Fare this year; Tanabel is about celebrating the unique contributions that each of our cooks brings from her homeland and sharing them with New Yorkers who are curious and eager to understand them, their food, and their traditions more completely,” she said.
Joe DiStefano is a Queens-based food writer.
Try traditional fare from Tanabel at the World’s Fare at Citi Field (123-01 Roosevelt Ave. in Queens, https://theworldsfare.nyc) on May 18 and 19 from 12 to 8 p.m. Tickets from $19 to $199 (children under 10, $5).