Hello Neighbor and Scratch Food & Beverage Pair Up for a Very Special Dinner
The community dinner will feature Syrian cuisine, raising awareness of Hello Neighbor's mission and promoting connection and conversation with the region's refugee families.
photo courtesy Scratch Food & Beverage
Hello Neighbor, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit founded in 2017, started with the idea that the lives of recently resettled refugees could be made better by matching them with local mentors who would volunteer their time to help the immigrants acclimate to their new home. To date, the organization has paired 97 families from 13 countries with Pittsburghers committed to welcoming them to our community.
“One thing I’ve seen [over that time] is how much food brings people together,” says Sloane Davidson, Hello Neighbor founder and CEO. “Even if you don’t yet have the language skills, you have something else you can connect with. If food isn’t the number one thing, I don’t know what is.”
To that end, Hello Neighbor helped to encourage its members to use food as a means of economic enfranchisement, introducing the Hello Neighbor Cookie Table last Thanksgiving. It was a resounding success, with Syrian women preparing more than 3,000 baklava in 72 hours; 75 cents of every dollar went to the people who made them. Several more cookie tables followed, introducing Pittsburgh to pastries such as basbousa, osh el bulbul and ghoriba. “We’re empowering people while at the same time giving Pittsburghers a chance to connect in a way they might not have before,” Davisdon says.
Building on that success, Hello Neighbor partnered with Casa Brasil in Highland Park for a pop-up dinner in April. Now, the organization will expand on the theme with what likely will be a series of dinners at Scratch Food & Beverage in Troy Hill. The first dinner takes place on Wednesday, June 19, the evening prior to World Refugee Day. “It’s a great time to celebrate how immigrants and refugees make the city and the country better,” Davidson says.
Scratch’s executive chef, Chris O’Brien, is working with a Syrian refugee named Alya, a Hello Neighbor participant. Alya will lead the collaborative preparation of the dishes and O’Brien will help the kitchen on the evening of the dinner.
“She’s an amazing cook. She’s gone through things that I never will,” says Scratch owner Don Mahaney. “Having the opportunity to intentionally have conversations about people’s experiences is humbling,”
The three-course-plus-dessert meal will feature dishes such as grape leaves, papaginush, malfuf mahshi (stuffed cabbage ), laham bajine (meat pizza), kibbeh and more. There are two seatings and tickets are $35, and vegetarian options are available.