How a Palestinian Master Chef Is Using Food to Help Unite Detroit — Cooking in America
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How a Palestinian Master Chef Is Using Food to Help Unite Detroit — Cooking in America


(clapping rock beat) – [Narrator] Born and
raised in southwest Detroit, George Azar, a first
generation Palestinian, has cooked and trained in fine dining at some of the top
restaurants around the world. In coming home, he saw a void
in the culinary landscape, and taught himself to cook the thing he loves to eat
the most, Vietnamese. And shared that cuisine
and excitement for it, with the people he grew up with. Now in the middle of
rebuilding his restaurant, Flowers of Vietnam, George
is bringing those flavors and techniques that he learned, back home to southwest Detroit. (upbeat drumming jazz) – We try to keep it as
genuine as possible. ’cause I’m not Vietnamese,
– Okay. – So I feel like I need to
respect that as much as possible. – Well let’s see if it’s genuine or not! – Oh chef, oh chef!
– (laughing) – Chef I hope you brought your knives. – I brought everything from my stall chef, yes chef.
(both laughing) – We’re cooking Bo Tai Chanh. A cured beef salad that’s sliced thin. We sear it in a spiced mix with ramow. Do you know what rau mau is? – I don’t
– It is, I call it, the Herbs
de Provence of Vietnam. Perilla, a rice paddy herb, mint, rarump, Thai basil, cilantro,
the little rau mau salad and some seasonal fruit. – That’s what I love
about Vietnamese cuisine, it’s so fresh, I love that
you’re bringing that to Detroit. – Vietnamese food seems to be something new to Detroit proper. I couldn’t tell you how many
times, someone comes in here and says, “Man, I’ve never
had Vietnamese food before.” Everywhere I’ve ever lived,
has been Vietnamese food in close proximity.
– Yeah. – And one day, I’m like man I gotta drive all the way to Madison Heights right now, to get a Banh mi and a boba smoothie? – As chefs, we wanna cook
what we wanna eat too so– – Right, so that’s exactly
how we really started it, it’s exactly how it started,
I’m like man what do I, man, I’m craving this the most everyday! – Where does this knowledge
of Vietnamese come from man? – One is through research, the other, more importantly, is from my sous chef. In terms of authenticity, when we sit down and design menu items,
stuff like this where, geographically, it makes more sense to do. – Born and raised Detroit? – Absolutely. – And your parents? – From Jordan, but they’re Palestinian. Only time I’ve ever left really, is to like go to school or work, and I’d always find myself back. – Why always back to Detroit? – It’s my home, you know southwest Detroit has always been a thriving community, and people have left,
it’s time to come back. – We were driving down the street, and there’s a building that’s
been practically decimated, and right across the street is a completely brand new building. – My whole block is vacant, there’s nothing but opportunity here. – These are the flowers
in the cracks right now. – Right. – Next is a broken rice.
(Modern Jazz tune) We have a pork chop. – We got it sous-viding right now. And this has been marinating in what? – Garlic, lemon grass, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, golden mountain. – This is a–
– Chinese sausage. It’s like a sweet sausage
with a star anise flavor. – Okay.
(Jazzy rap music) This is our sugar cane shrimp. (upbeat hip hop music) Because Vietnamese food is somewhat, foreign to Michigan, or
Detroit’s taste buds, I took a chicken wing,
it’s like “yeah come in.” You look at this familiar chicken, but then it’s like you
taste that fish sauce. – Slowly ease these guys in, I feel that’s the way, we’ve got to make everyone feel comfortable. – Yeah, you know man, we gotta think back what truly is the
foundation of dining right? – Yeah
– It’s like… – This business is, a
business of servitude. Once you start calling food art, it becomes pretentious,
food is for everyone. We caramelize palm sugar,
finish it with some aromatics. A red boat fish sauce, some shallots. (futuristic techno) (clapping rock music) – I’m getting all of those flavors, man. It’s big and bold, with all
those herbs and spices in it. Salty, sweet, spicy, herbaceous, savory, umami, (laughing)
– Umami? – Herb, (laughing) all of that. We got it all. – That’s the iconic Vietnamese cuisine sensation while you’re
eating it, you just said it. – Your parents came from
Jordan straight to Detroit? – Well my dad did.
– Okay. – And my mom came here
when she was around five. Both my parents came
straight to southwest, and they met in southwest. – What was your upbringing, was it always a diverse community or? – Oh, 100%, southwest Detroit, growing up i had friends from
like the west side come over and they’re like, “man, you
got the best neighborhood, “bro, we don’t even
have to leave anytime!” We got the music store,
we got the grocery, we got the corner store, predominantly it’s always been Hispanic, right. Everyone speaks Spanish
to you first, in a way, and then if not, then you
kind of Spanglish it out. But it’s always been diverse, always. We see one color in southwest for sure. – But we’re in the middle of rubble. (both laughing) So once this all comes together,
it’s gonna be beautiful. Detroit’s in that same
state of rebuilding. – There’s definitely a
narrative of two Detroits. I feel that way because I see them both. There’s highly developed areas
that keep getting developed. All of a sudden this facade of this, it almost feels like out of
site out of mind type (beep) like “what do you mean,
there’s not two Detroits, “what are you talking about,
we all live in the same city.” there’s still people
dying, there’s still people not being educated properly because we have a failing school system and also, (beep) the Comeback City, if
we can’t properly educate youth because once all these
young mother(beep) that are here right now, once they start
having kids, guess what? They’re going right back to the burbs. ’cause I can guarantee
you, they’re not sending them to Detroit public schools. At one point I felt personally, that I’m like man, this (beep) is so bad. Our Mayor was getting federally indicted! You know what I mean,
for some gangster (beep). Racketeering, that some
gangster (beep) man. Kwame could of been Governor. The dude knew how to maneuver
in a political arena. He just got caught up in
trying to be a gangster, and it’s like man just be you! You know what I’m saying?
– Yeah, yeah. – We filed bankruptcy, the
only major city to ever do so. The Comeback City, where’s it really at? You know what I mean,
like not discrediting anything that’s going on
in the city right now. ‘Cause it’s definitely changed, the Comeback City is not comeback yet. We can!
– Yeah. – But if we don’t recognize that, it will never happen, it
will be a failed city again. Part of the reason why I’m
also in my neighborhood, is because, until we have restaurants, in neighborhoods, other than
that are already developed, we’ll never be one Detroit,
it’s always be two Detroits. Right now is gonna set the framework for the next 10, 20 years. We hold that power as chef people, to bridge the gap and make two, one. – You know what I mean?
– Yeah, yeah. – so, we communicate through the cultures. Every single culture, recognizes
a gesture of hospitality. I’m just hoping that,
other parts of the city, people start to do the
same I guess, you know? We’ll see what happens
in the next ten years. We’re not the Comeback
City, we’re still coming. (upbeat drumming) – We’re going to Amar
Pizza, where these brothers decided to bring Bangladeshi
flavors to Detroit. (electric strumming)

About Earl Carter

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63 thoughts on “How a Palestinian Master Chef Is Using Food to Help Unite Detroit — Cooking in America

  1. I have never been to Detroit so this is intriguing. So sad what happened to the city. Hope it continues to rebuild.

  2. Please don't rush your projects, it is very apparent that you recorded your voice lines in a crowded space and with a low quality mic.
    None of your subscribers will be mad if they have to wait a little longer on a video. So please hold that standard, not only for us but for these amazing chefs

  3. This was an amazing piece, great content, lighting, sound and editing. It deserves a follow-up once the restaurant is built out for sure. Peace.

  4. Terrible to hear of the Palestinian refugee crisis; that is the flood of refugees from Detroit fleeing to Palestine for a better life.

  5. When I saw Palestinian Master Chef I was thinking I was about to see some food of the region, but it's Vietnamese. So there is zero reason to mention he's Palestinian, other than the fact you wanted people to click, him being Palestinian has nothing to do with what he's cooking. And 'helping unite Detroit' ? Kinda invoking the Palestinian – Israeli crisis and again it has nothing to do with this video.

  6. This video is pretty incredible. Real talk and good food. Glad someone is FINALLY doing it. Thank you Eater for not going soft in Detroit and telling a real story.

  7. I am not sure what and why Palestine was needed here. "Chef using food to help unite city." His ancestry doesn't add anything to the story, but for some reason someone decided to make a point out of it.

  8. Nice twist, got to give him props for trying. The raw beef is technically cooked in lime juice, and drizzle with garlic infused oil and eaten with shrimp paste sauce.

  9. I can't even get authentic Vietnamese I where I live and we. Got loads of viet restaurants because of laborers but they just don't taste right

  10. Not tryna ruin the mood in the comments, but what type of Palestinian serves pork. I kind of expected it tbh, Gigi hadid Do Khaled this guy I don't think they've to a mosque in thier lives.

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