This month, Tayybeh’s legendary catering manager Rana Ashour, will be leaving Vancouver to pursue a new adventure. Having been with us from the very beginning and helped build Tayybeh’s reputation as one of the top caterers in the Lower Mainland, we sat down with Rana Ashour and asked her some questions to learn more about her journey with Tayybeh and to give everyone a glimpse into what makes the hottest caterer in the city tick. Here’s what she told us.
How A Volunteer Job Turned Into A Lifetime Opportunity
“Nihal and I were friends before Tayybeh started and our kids were the same age so we would always meet up for playdates. Nihal had an idea, as she just started volunteering with newcomer Syrian refugees. She wanted to help them out by organizing a fundraising event to help them settle and do something they love. When the Tayybeh women arrived in Canada, it was very hard for them to fit in. There were many language and cultural barriers. And coming from war. There were also lots of losses that they were dealing with. So Nihal and I started planning the fundraiser dinner and I remember me and my friends asking “how can we help?”
How A Fundraising Pop-Up Dinner Turned Into The Best Catering In Vancouver
“For the first pop-up dinner, I was driving the Syrian ladies. Another friend designed the logo which is the one that Tayybeh still uses proudly. I loved it, because Tayybeh meant delicious in Arabic but also ‘kind hearted’ in the Syrian dialect. It fit the brand perfectly. And this is really where it took off. The first dinner did so well, that we decided to do it again. As the dinners kept on happening, I naturally took the role of calling out to venues to see if they were able to host Tayybeh. The recognition and the popularity the dinners were getting made the job very rewarding. It wasn't even a job back then. But I just really loved it and I loved helping out and volunteering.
People loved the food. They kept asking for more. They wanted to have access to this all the time. They just didn't want to wait for another pop-up dinner that happened every month or two. And that was when Nihal decided to officially start Tayybeh as a Syrian (Middle Eastern) catering and food company. That’s when she asked me to join the team as the catering coordinator to take care of all communications, receive the orders, and communicate that to the team.
Tayybeh Catering: Every Meal is Home-Made and Prepared With Love
“It was great to see people appreciate and notice the effort that's being put into every order. We always get the feedback, up to this day, that they could feel how authentic the food is and how it's made with so much love and care. And that was the best part of my day. You know, just to hear that even though I didn't cook the food myself, just seeing the feedback and hearing people's feedback and all of these things was very rewarding for me.
Tayybeh’s mission–to support refugee women and allow them to work with something they are extremely passionate about–resonated with a lot of people. It was wonderful to see how people were eager to come in and just support the mission and try new foods while they are at it. Also to note, there was no Syrian food in Vancouver back then. So people didn't even know what Syrian food would be like. But people who are curious would come up first just to support but then they fell in love with the Syrian cuisine and always came back for more.
The whole team were housewives back in Syria. They were very involved with their families and cooking for their families and kids. And that is what made people love the food in this city! They could tell that this food was made with so much care because this is exactly the way they cook for their own families and kids. We never tried to intervene with the recipes. These are their own Syrian, authentic recipes. And the team comes from different parts of Syria which is why you can taste and feel the diversity in the spices used and everything in the process of making a meal. We also never tried to westernise the menu or the names of the items. We kept it all authentic. Vancouver is a great place for different kinds of cuisines and its people really appreciate it, how the food is made, how authentic and delicious it is!
How Tayybeh’s Catering Customers Are Taken Care Of
It has always been very personal yet professional. We would always create a very strong connection with the customer first, by fulfilling their needs and asking all the needed questions and like just the fact that we care about every event. We don't have a manual for how to cater an event, as we deal with customers with personalized and customized care. We just connect with them. And this connection really paid off because I still have customers who we've been dealing with for the last four or five years. At Tayybeh, we always try to be flexible and make it easier for the client. We don't offer fixed things and if you don't like something there are no extra charges to remove or add something.
Whenever we have an event, I would inform the team with the story of the people we will be serving and give them context. This has always helped the team get involved and truly produce the food from a place of care and love.
We also never forget to follow up and ask clients for their honest feedback. We are attentive and are always trying to improve our catering services.
Survival of the Fittest - How Tayybeh Thrived During the Pandemic
Tayybeh’s kitchen was in the Commissary Kitchen and we were sharing the space with lots of other businesses. During the first month or two of the pandemic, we would just walk in and it was so sad to see every day about one of the neighbouring businesses shutting down. It was a very stressful time of course, as we always felt that we were next. It took everything we had, but we knew we had to pivot and try something new. From catering to frozen meals to daily dishes. We quickly changed our position online and started producing individual meals and frozen meals to make for easy meals or skewers for people to cook at home during lockdown. And we made it!!
Proudest Tayybeh Catering Team Moment
It’s honestly very hard to think of one proud moment. There is a lot given the fact that we, all the women at Tayybeh, came together from the start to build the company. We were all learning from one another as none of us had experience in the food industry. I learned a lot from the ladies we work with. And I am also very proud to see how professional they are now. They're now professional chefs. We have catered dinners, office lunches, conferences, weddings and events. We catered dinners for the mayor. I am also very proud to see how far we've gone and how hard the Tayybeh women have worked to get to where we are today. We really did become a family. We all came to Canada and we didn’t have families or any friends. So seeing the team felt like seeing family every day. Many special moments have been shared that I will remember for a lifetime. Other proud moments of course include getting recognized nationally, from the City of Vancouver when we got the Award of Excellence for example.
What the Future Holds For Tayybeh and Middle Eastern Cuisine Catering
Honestly, after surviving the pandemic, the whole team has become invincible. And the spirit of the team has always been amazing. With the way the team works and delivers delicious catering food no matter what, I honestly can see that some Tayybeh products, like the pita chips and dips, going global. Everything is done from scratch and by hand, which makes me really believe that this will be appreciated and will be just asked for everywhere. The mission behind Tayybeh is so special and so genuine and that it will definitely pave the road for it to grow.
Final Note From Rana
Being the Catering Coordinator at Tayybeh has been such a rewarding job for me. It wasn't just the job. It was actually part of my identity, especially in Vancouver. It was also a new place for me. I learned a lot about Syria. And the Syrian cuisine, the Syrian dialect. I love the team and how they're always cheerful. It was always amazing to just be around them and all the celebrations we shared together in and outside of the kitchen will always be special to me. They inspire people so much. They don't even realise that but they do. And I'm just so proud of them and to have been part of this all women, mom-led team.