Did you know that the Saleh brothers who started Neomonde Bakery in 1977 used to deliver their pita bread in a Ford Mustang? Or that when they finally upgraded, they could only afford a used mail truck?
The business the Saleh brothers – Samir, Joseph, Mounir and DeGaulle – started has grown into a retail and wholesale operation. The retail side includes three cafes and stores; one on Beryl Road off Hillsborough Street, one in Morrisville and another in North Raleigh. The wholesale bakery sells to grocery stores from here to Texas. The brothers are also partners in Sitti, a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Raleigh owned with developer Greg Hatem’s company, Empire Eats.
Those details of the brothers’ humble business beginnings were among the gems that more than 80 diners learned at the recent Ethnosh gathering at Neomonde Bakery and Cafe in North Raleigh.
Raleigh food blogger Kristen Baughman, 24, who writes the Gadabout Food blog, imported the event series from the Triad where Donovan McKnight started Ethnosh. McKnight launched Ethnosh last year in Greensboro, introducing diners to Vietnamese, Korean and Ethiopian restaurant owners. McKnight has plans to export the concept to other markets, and Raleigh was the first such venture.
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“I really wanted to bring it (here) so that other people could learn about these immigrant-owned restaurants in Raleigh,” Baughman said.
If you can’t travel to other countries, Baughman reasons, food can be a gateway to those communities’ cultures and traditions.
Baughman organizes the events with local restaurants, recruits local bloggers to write a story and take photos of the owners to advance the event on the Ethnosh Facebook page and then welcomes folks at the door. For $5, people get a sample of food and a chance to hear the restaurateurs’ story in person and ask questions.
More than 80 people attended last month’s Ethnosh event at the Neomonde Cafe and Market off Strickland Road in North Raleigh. Simone Saleh, 23, one of the daughters of Mounir Saleh, even gave a guided tour of the cafe’s market to a few interested guests.
Simone Saleh and her sister, Noelle, grew up hearing the family tale about what her father and three uncles had done to bring pita bread to North Carolina. Simone Saleh, who now works at the North Raleigh cafe and store, loved the Ethnosh event.
“To be able to share that story with everyone was amazing,” she said.