Lead: Jamjar owner travels the world before returning to his roots with a string of successful Lebanese restaurants
So, what’s in a name anyway? For restauranteur, Fadi Eid, a lot, actually. It’s his way of paying respect to the beautiful Lebanese tradition of sharing one’s bounty.
“Like many countries, in the summer, we have an abundance of food,” says Fadi of his motherland. “So, if you make strawberry jam, for example, you never just make strawberry jam for yourself, you give jars away to friends and neighbours… so the name for me means showing affection through food.”
And he comes by his own passion for serving food honestly. He was only a teenager when he got his first taste of the hospitality industry, working for his uncle’s deli in Lebanon. “I loved it, loved talking to people – everything,” says Fadi. “In Lebanon – we’re all about the food, like when you’re at your grandmother’s for example, you always leave stuffed.”
Path to Proprietor
Looking back now, Fadi feels like all signs were pointing to life as a restauranteur, but it would be many years before he would open his first establishment. Upon graduating from the Lebanese University with a degree in Hotel Management, he began working in five-star luxury hotels all over the world before landing at the Fairmont in Vancouver. But this last stint wound up serving as a catalyst for change.
“After working a year, I basically had a midlife crisis,” he says. “I was doing okay professionally, but I wasn’t really happy. I wanted to do something new with my life but I just didn’t know what that thing was. So, I took some odd jobs to allow myself the time and space to explore what I actually wanted to do – as opposed to just working myself to death.”
This soul-searching period led to the birth of his first Jamjar, a beloved traditional Lebanese eatery that’s been a neighbourhood favourite on Commercial Drive since it opened its doors in 2014. Since then, Fadi has opened three more locations, including at UBC in 2017.
“I had never been in business for myself,” he says. “So, that was very scary at the time, but I had a lot of support from friends and family.”
Serving the Masses before the Classes
It’s safe to say that the risk was definitely worth the reward. Fadi genuinely loves what he does, and it shows. With each location, the recipes are essentially the same but how dishes are served varies according to the needs of the customers.
In the case of Jamjar Canteen at UBC, for instance, he’s worked really hard on reducing wait times so that he can serve his busy clientele in a fast setting without sacrificing quality – something that’s taken a little trial and error.
“We did eight months of research and prepping before opening,” he recalls. “So, I thought we were ready but obviously we weren’t because on the fifth day, we ran out of food in two hours.”
Thankfully Fadi is a quick study. The UBC location has since streamlined its lunch rush system. The menu has a 4-step, build-your-own-bowl premise with gorgeous fresh ingredients, tasty cold mezzes and plenty of vegetarian options to choose from. But the number one filling here is Fadi’s famous yogurt marinated chicken. Top that off with his Jamjar’s original hummus and you’re good to go.
Fadi also customizes the décor for each location. Inside the UBC location, there are beautiful bright turquoise accents to reflect the vibrancy of the area. There are also playful graphic patterns of pomegranates and lemons that pays homage to some of his key ingredients in a way that’s relatable to students.
Business Bumps & Blessings
Sadly, he had to close one of his restaurants due to a loss of business during the pandemic. He chose South Granville, a hard decision to make, for sure. Nonetheless, given the circumstances, it had to happen.
But now that the world is opening up again and the bumps are far behind him, he’s optimistic about the future. In fact, he’s opening a new location in Sechelt. And of course, as with every year since 2017, he’s really looking forward to September when the students return to school at UBC.
“It’s really great to be around that energy,” he says of the UBC location. “People are so stoked on life and the possibility of starting a new career. There’s so much positivity and vitality. Everyone’s so open-minded. I love the UBC location for that.”
Live, work or study at UBC? Or even just visiting the area? You can find Jamjar Canteen located at 6035 on University Blvd.