By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The premiere of “No Passport Required” on PBS was filled with segments highlighting the different Middle Eastern cuisines, restaurants, businesses and the people behind them in the area.
During the 53-minute episode that aired on July 10, Chef Marcus Samuelsson visits the people who make up the Middle Eastern food scene in Dearborn and even cooks meals with two families.
“I think it’s a super important time for looking at the Arab-American experience in this country,” Samuelsson said in the episode. “I feel there is a lot of false narratives spread about its religion, its practice and about who they are as Americans.
“I think this is a unique opportunity to meet the people, eat the food, listen to the music and learn about the culture in what’s been called the Arab capital in North America.”
First, Samuelsson tried a falafel sandwich with Washington Post photojournalist Salwan Georges at Naba Brick Oven Bakery, 15723 W. Warren Ave. in Detroit, before heading to the home of a Syrian refugee family who recently moved to Dearborn.
Samuelsson cooks Syrian and Turkish meals with Yasser Alahmad at his home where he learned about the family’s journey to America.
Hashem’s Roastery & Market, 26509 Ford Road in Dearborn Heights, with imported coffee, spices, herbs, nuts, sweets and more was also featured in the episode along with The Bottom Line, 4474 3rd Ave. in Detroit, where co-owner Noura Ballout makes Yemen tea for Samuelsson.
Lena Sareini, Dearborn resident and pastry chef at Selden Standard, 3921 2nd Ave. in Detroit, took Samuelsson to her house where he learned more about Lebanese cuisine while baking a pastry filled with meat and eating a sweet cheese pastry.
Samuelsson takes a brief break from meals to meet with Syrian rapper Mona Haydar at the recording studio Assemble Sound, 2300 17th St. in Detroit, and then dines at Phoenicia Restaurant in Birmingham.
Phoenicia owner Sameer Eid said his restaurant’s success is due to his being fussy about picking ingredients at Eastern Market in Detroit himself.
For the final stop in the episode, Samuelsson visits Byblos Banquet Center, 7258 Chase Road, Dearborn, where he helps make a raw meat dish with Chef Nahdie Shukr.
After the Byblos stop, Samuelsson was invited to Shukr’s son’s wedding the following day where experienced the 700-person occasion.
“Now I have a little better understanding about this incredible complex, layered and super successful community,” Samuelsson said during the episode. “From Yasser’s family that just got here, to Sameer who’s been here for almost 50 years, to Noura and Lena who are young and modern. So many small businesses that provide an economic backbone for refugee immigrants setting up the next generation of Arab-Americans that are now Americans and are contributing with their passion for America but also for their own culture.”
Watch the full episode at www.pbs.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)