We live in a country where food is at the center of every home, conversation and ritual. Our rich cuisine has travelled the world and back, leaving everyone curious and envious. Yet, when it comes to world food trends, it seems we were not at the same pace, until lately.
For the past two years, food lovers all over Lebanon have been heading to Souk El Akel, a street food market, gathering cooks from all over the country who share a passion for exquisite food; they may be studying, pursuing a career or perhaps raising a family. It took someone who strongly believes in his country’s assets and talents to develop this concept. And it was none other than Lebanese food blogger , Anthony Rahayel.
We met up with the popular food blogger to chat about his latest project, during the special Souk el Akel edition, which took place in Baabda, right on Université Antonine’s campus on the last weekend of March. It was undeniably the ideal collaboration to welcome springtime.
After visiting street markets exclusively dedicated to food from the east to the west of the globe, the man behind No-Garlic-No-Onions, the food blog which has been attracting international epicureans to our country since 2012, decided to create his own version of a local food market. The purpose? Exhibit Lebanon’s amazing cooking skills out of the restaurants and into the streets but mostly, bring the Lebanese people together, away from old school purposes, for the simple love of food.
Anthony says the concept left a lot of cooks skeptical at the beginning: “for the first edition, around 10 cooks agreed to participate, out of the hundreds contacted”. However, after Souk El Akel welcomed 10000 food lovers, all those hesitant were now longing to be part of this peculiar event. Notwithstanding, Anthony says Lebanon has been doing street food before we even knew it, such as shawarma, knefeh and other grab-and-go items; we just needed to embrace it and make the best out of it.
Since then, Souk El Akel has become an official weekly rendezvous with the locals, every Thursday in Downtown Beirut, for thousands of people to come savor delicious food, mingle and enjoy the city. Anthony admits being very strict with his team and not to keen on compliments, keeping as a priority people’s taste buds satisfaction and amazement above all..
In numbers, Souk El Akel is 250 people involved, 70 kiosks and tens of thousands of gourmands who have been part of it till today. Now, the market is on the wheels, moving around the country, in Batroun, Tannourine and Ehden to name a few. Now that the crowd has headed to the market, it's time for the market to reach out to an even larger crowd. It’s also a way to involve more aspiring cooks while encouraging the city’s crowd to travel within the country and visit regions we all take pride in.
It’s becoming clearer every day that Anthony Rahayel, who is also known for being a full time dentist, has become the ultimate jaw dropper in the Nation!