How These BK Chefs Cooked While Fasting For Ramadan

Line cook Lacine Camara in the kitchen at Huda Brooklyn. Photo: Christopher Edwards.

By: Christopher Edwards

With the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which starts on April 10 this year, Muslims are preparing to end one month of fasting for Ramadan, a time for prayer and deep reflection as part of the Islamic Calendar.

For practicing Muslims working in restaurants who are constantly exposed to food and drink, fasting from sunrise to sunset can be especially challenging. As several workers at Huda, a Levantine bistro in Williamsburg, fasted for the month of Ramadan, they expressed the struggle to stay on track as they stayed committed to their faith.

“It’s very tough. I mean, I tried to do it last year, But I was only able to do 15 days,” said Ismael Alcheikh, a bartender at Huda. “You don’t drink water, you’re not eating, you’re kind of like, grumpy, but you still want to make people happy. Your job is to make people’s experience enjoyable. You have to kind of forget about everything you’re going through and help people enjoy their time.”

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims refrain not only from eating food and drinking during daylight, but also from tobacco, sexual relations and any behavior deemed sinful.

“It’s not easy, but you have to do it,” said Lacine Camara, a line cook at Huda. “If you’re Muslim, you don’t play around with this [fasting]. It’s only one month out of a year.”

While fasting, Camara said he does not taste the food he’s cooking and will ask others in the kitchen do it for him.

Omneyah Hassan, a sous chef, said she makes a mental separation between what she prepares and what she actually eats.

“A lot of us [chefs] don’t really eat until late night anyway,” said Hassan. “With our schedule, we sleep pretty late compared to people with like nine-to-five schedules so it kind of balances out with the Ramadan fast.”

Huda, which opened five months ago, is owned by Gehad Hadidi, who is known for his French bistro La Bonne Soupe in Manhattan. Hadidi, who lives in Brooklyn, said he wanted to create a restaurant which was reflective of his Lebanese and Syrian heritage.

“The main concept was to express the wider culinary repertoire of our region” said Hadidi. The cuisine, described as “New Levantine” takes staples from Mediterranean dishes and offers fresh takes on them.

The workers said they’ll enjoy Eid by breaking the fast with their family and loved ones through a shared meal at home. Some find it customary to eat something sweet before prayers, while others visit friends and exchange gifts.


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