Canada: Halal foods served at gourmet shop

Halal foods served at gourmet shop

Gourmet butcher shop.
Mohamad Fakih, owner of the Paramount Fine Foods Lebanese restaurant chain, has opened an upscale halal butcher shop in Mississauga. Toronto Star photo

Driven by the urge to unite “halal” and “gourmet,” Mohamad Fakih built himself a beautiful butcher shop in Mississauga.
Actually, the Lebanese-Canadian entrepreneur built Paramount Butcher Shop for his wife Hanan after she complained about the grungy state of halal meat counters and asked him to do something about it.
Hanan yearned for an upscale shop, something like a place called Goodies that her mother-in-law takes her to in Beirut.

Mohamad, who owns the burgeoning Paramount Fine Foods restaurant chain, polled customers and discovered they all want the same three things in a halal butcher shop.

The shop should be clean. The staff should be polite and friendly. And since everyone is time-starved, there should be lots of items “marinated with Middle Eastern flavours” alongside raw product.

Mohamad visited non-halal competitors and researched fine butcher shops in London, Paris and Australia before designing his own 3,400-sq.-ft. shop.

Paramount Butcher Shop opened March 16 in Kee Square on Heritage Hills Blvd. at Eglinton Ave. W.

Help yourself to free Turkish coffee when you arrive. Take a number and a staff member will help you move from the meat counter (beef, veal and lamb) to the chicken counter (kept separate to avoid any cross-contamination) to the deli counter.

“This place is built on full transparency,” says Mohamad. “I want to present Middle Eastern businesses differently, so the front shows what’s in the back.”

There are windows to the meat locker, where meat is dry-aged. The meat counters are left exposed at the bottom so customers can see the floors underneath. Mohamad is as proud of his meat saw as he is of the spray-foam sanitizing system for the back room floors.
It’s not every butcher shop that boasts an indoor charcoal barbecue so customers (especially those living in condos) can get meat grilled to order.

Mohamad happily jumped through hoops to get the grill permit. He has charcoal grills at his four restaurants in Toronto, Thornhill, Mississauga and (any day now) London, Ont.

He bought the struggling Paramount chain in 2007 and transformed it into a vibrant and growing empire that employs 250 people, many of them young and non-Muslim.

The Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurants showcase freshly grilled foods and breads.

Animals should be slaughtered manually, not mechanically, by a Muslim who says the name of Allah aloud. But to Mohamad, halal is about more than just slaughter. It’s about being conscientious about how animals are raised, a philosophy that dovetails nicely with the local food movement and the fact that consumers are asking more questions about what they eat.

Mohamad has lived in Canada for 13 years and got his start at Tim Hortons. Sure, his restaurants and butcher shops cater to Muslims looking for halal food, but he courts and welcomes non-Muslims.

He’s already at work on a second butcher shop, set to open in Mississauga’s west end this fall.