Local chef Rawia Bishara pens her first cookbook

February 18, 2014 Helen Klein
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A day of snow that snarled traffic and kept many New Yorkers home from work did not deter fans of the Middle Eastern food cooked up at Bay Ridge’s Tanoreen from making the trek to the restaurant to celebrate the launch of owner Rawia Bishara’s first cookbook, Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking (Kyle Books, $29.95).

Nibbling on a selection of Bishara’s specialties – from tightly furled grape leaves to falafel  to petite spinach pies – the guests – friends and customers — toasted Bishara and her cuisine, lining up to buy books as Bishara, ready with a pen, autographed them.

“This book has been a labor of love for my mother, myself and the entire family,” remarked Bishara’s daughter and partner Jumana.

Rawia Bishara signing a copy of her cookbook, Olives, Lemons & Za'atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking, for Lori Bambina.

The lushly illustrated volume is part cookbook, part memoir. “It really meant a lot to me,” said Bishara, “because I wanted my children to understand where they came from.”

Bishara opened Tanoreen some 15 years ago without ever worked in a restaurant kitchen, recalled son Thom. “She was an amazing home cook and she had an idea of opening a restaurant, though she had no experience as a professional cook,” he said. “She cooks with love, she cooks with her soul, she cooks to make people happy, and she had the strength and courage and tenacity to end up where she has ended up. She is an inspiration to us and others.”

Tanoreen is located at Third Avenue and 76th Street.

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