Chickpeas’ modern twist on traditional foods

Chickpeas restaurant has won awards for its vegan fare. Photo: Omer Abdallah

Omer Abdallah, owner/proprietor of Chickpeas restaurant at 931 Bank Street. Photo: Mariia Liu

By Mariia Liu

Chickpeas, a scratch kitchen that makes falafels and hummus, recently opened in the Glebe. Walking into the restaurant, you are welcomed by aesthetic arrangements of hanging plants, along with the fresh smell of falafels and vibrant greens being made before your eyes.

This fusion of modern yet traditional elements at Chickpeas has led it to its ever-rising success since its first opening in Trainyards.

After his studies as a commerce student, Omer Abdallah graduated from Carleton University in 2011. Soon after, he travelled to Léon, France, with the intention of studying French, but a new language was not the only skill he brought back. Travelling to the food capital of the world and living under the same roof with a chef has taught him the art of cooking.

“I fell in love with it. I really, really did. Just everything about food sparked so much attention, so much passion in me that I never knew existed.”

When he came back home, an office job as a project manager would just not scratch the itch for the adrenaline and fast-paced environment of a kitchen. So after quitting his job and volunteering at a fine-dine restaurant, Abdallah finally decided that it was time to open up his own business.

To build the perfect restaurant, Abdallah took his ever-burning passion for cooking to Lebanon to learn what it really meant to create food from scratch.

“The idea was to work on ancient middle eastern recipes with a modern western twist,” and that’s exactly what he did. For a good month or two, Abdallah worked alongside a chef, diligently learning how to handle chickpeas in a variety of ways.

When he came back, he and his brother Khaled, with the help of their sisters, worked together to finalize and open the first falafel and hummus restaurant.

Now, after three and a half years of successful business at the Trainyards location, the Glebe seemed like an ideal next spot for expansion. The plant-based vegetarian/vegan scratch kitchen fits right into the lifestyle of those living in the Glebe, and located right beside Lansdowne, the restaurant foot traffic can be packed on days when events and games are taking place down the street.

What is so eye-catching and unique about Chickpeas is not only that it is a restaurant exclusively focused on falafel and hummus in Ottawa, but also that it has an original spin on ingredients and new recipes that Abdallah developed. The mango hummus only exists at Chickpeas and the falafels take on the unique shape of a donut. In addition, he has added herbs and vegetables along with his own blend of spices that makes it different from how falafels are usually made.

Before opening the restaurant, Abdallah had done thorough research on things such as food trends, what the younger generation’s eating habits are, and more on the psychology of food and nutrition intake. One thing he made sure to target to eliminate was the dietary restrictions in the food he creates, such as oil.

For those trying to cut down on oil consumption, the hummus on Chickpeas’ menu is a surprising recommendation. Unlike the usual hummus that adds olive oil to give it that smooth texture, Abdallah’s recipe found a way to eliminate it. Their secret ingredient? Chickpeas.

With hard work and the right training, a simple ingredient such as chickpeas can go a long way in a recipe. Abdallah sticks by his words to never use a can of chickpeas, but rather he takes the time to peel, soak and cook them, which naturally forms the smooth texture of the hummus.

His work has not gone unrecognized. Last year, Chickpeas received an award for the best vegan restaurant in Ottawa, and that was only two and a half years into the business.

As Abdallah said during an afternoon chat, “I’m no better than anybody. Anybody can do anything they want. Whether it’s a restaurant or not, just follow your passion, do your homework, work hard and you can really create anything you want.”

With almost 28 staff and two restaurants, Abdallah, the face of Chickpeas, counts his blessings every day to have such a power team working alongside him, helping the partners cross milestones of success. To Abdallah, “It’s a passion that keeps me going, really.”

Down at 931 Bank Street, the warm, welcoming invitation of the orange and green sign continues to attract a flow of customers with wondering appetites for something fresh and flavourful.

Mariia Liu is a journalism student at Carleton University. She loves writing and meeting new people and getting their stories out.

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