Mary and Nada Khoury have dreamt about starting an authentic Lebanese catering business for years. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, they went against the wave and finally launched Ziyara Cuisine in the San Francisco Bay Area, California in the United States.
Hailing from Tripoli, and as daughters of great cooks, the sisters had many special family recipes to be inspired by.
Back home, their mother’s cooking is highly touted by friends and family alike. She even ran her own catering business from home before the pandemic and the economic crisis.
Their father also found his passion in cooking in an unexpected way. “[My mom] wanted to take night culinary classes but was too scared to go alone, so my dad would escort her. He was hooked and saw it through and became a chef,” Mary told The961.
With the pandemic, Mary and Nada knew that starting their business would be nothing short of a challenge. But they didn’t mind the slow rise. They were focused on what they wanted.
“We needed to weave our different skills together and knew that, as individuals, we had all hit rock bottom, so desperation was our motivation,” Mary truthfully explained.
A remarkable statement that could be an inspiration to many these days.
Meaning A Visit, “Ziyara has been a concept that my sister and I discussed many times since 2018, but we realized we couldn’t do it without our parents because we needed support in our personal lives and in the kitchen,” Mary said.
When their mother moved to California after quitting her 26-year job in light of the crises in Lebanon, and their father finding himself basically jobless with the spread of the virus, the sisters finally took the plunge.
“We opened in December 2020 solely as a catering company, and we got people who knew nothing about us making huge orders and then loving them. People continue to tell us how overjoyed they are that these dishes are available to them here,” Mary said.
“We receive so much support from strangers who continue to give us tips and advice on delivery services, or expansion thoughts – at first I would try to understand why they are helping us, and the answer was always the same: You are making real home-cooked food we need this in the Bay and we want to see you succeed.”
Even non-Middle Easterners are enjoying their meals and experimenting with new flavors, specifically the pumpkin kibbeh, a specialty of the Lebanese northern cuisine.
Among Ziayara’s most popular dishes are home-cooked Lebanese shish barak, koussa, kibbeh, ka’ak, fatteh, and you name it.
These Lebanese girls even make their own dough for their manakeesh and Tripoli-style lahm b Ajin (meat pizza), another specialty of Tripolitan cuisine, and now a big hit in the Bay Area.
Best yet, they’ve brought Lebanese desserts to the Golden State. If you live in the area, do no miss those!
Pouring their hearts into their business, Maya and Nada are currently focused on increasing their weekly meal orders.
They let us in on a little secret too, one day they hope to get into frozen packaged food and selling to stores so everyone can have a piece of “Ziyara” at any time.