What do you get when you bring together about 20 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim award-winning chefs? For one, a good chance of being served a tasty dish full of peace and goodwill. This was the “crazy” idea that Armenian chef Kevork Alemian had 16 years ago this month when he founded Chefs For Peace, a non-political organization in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Alemian’s inspiration came when he saw three chefs representing all three monotheistic faiths cooking together at a Slow Food food festival in Italy. Among the kitchen’s sharp knives and hot flames, the chefs worked as one, communicating effectively to get the job done. It was at this point that Alemian “realized that since all people have to eat, including chefs, why not cook and eat what we make together — but without any talk of politics.”
And so Chefs for Peace developed, with a group of like-minded food lovers attempting to use their culinary skills to bring people from all walks of life to the table, to discover more about each others’ different cultural identities and bond over that human essential: food. Cooking at events all over the world, abiding by some strict rules — there must be a chef from each faith, no use of alcohol, and all dishes must be halal and kosher — the chefs are demonstrating the fundamentals of any relationship, the need for mutual respect.
From world leaders to locals, Alemian explains how “thousands of people around the world have had their hearts, souls and bodies nourished as they have been exposed to the message that breaking bread together is a tasty and powerful way to promote peace and fellowship between people of different faiths.” This idea of food bringing people together seems so reminiscent of when Jesus fed the 5,000 on those five loaves and two fish that went such a long way! And the group does look to the Bible for inspiration when cooking up traditional Levantine or Jewish recipes with a modern twist.
Yet, perhaps most importantly, Alemian shares how these chefs not only have a love of food, “but a love of people — people of all faiths and nationalities.” This desire for peace led the group to cater a municipal function over six days in an ancient chapel in the West Bank.
It’s impressive to think that these chefs managed to bring both Israelis and Palestinians to the table when so many diplomats have failed. Now the chefs to take this message to the streets, creating a positive example of how to form bonds beyond the kitchen table.
How to serve up your own bit of peace at home or in your neighborhood? Inspired by Chefs for Peace, here are some ideas:
Break bread together
While Chefs For Peace ban politics from the table, you could ban issues you know to be contentious (as well as any screens!). Start with a prayer, and end in gratitude, and your table will be a no-conflict zone.
Let the Bible inspire you
Why not use this as an opportunity to open that Bible, source a few ingredients and get chatting about the passage from the Bible that inspired your dish? Just keep those expectations down — we can’t turn water into wine, and those fish are not going to multiply any day soon!
Why not have an evening when you bring neighbors together with their own cultural dishes and get them to explain the history behind them? If you don’t have neighbors of different faiths, look to your ancestors. A potluck of dishes from Ireland, Holland, or even the different States, could end up in a very tasty evening that could be topped off with music from all the different cultures — get those dancing shoes on now!