Global Grace Café Offers Variety of Cuisine
When food historians seek insight into time and place, they often turn to church cookbooks. With the November 2016 release of The Global Banquet Cookbook: Recipes from the Global Grace Café Community, the Reformed Church of Highland Park is opening a delicious window onto its diverse constituency.
Befitting a congregation of 44 nationalities and counting, the church is home to the Global Grace Café. Spanning foodways during weekday lunch—Syrian or Indian dishes might be on the menu one day, Nigerian or Jamaican the next—it may be the most inventive restaurant in town.
Both café and cookbook were a natural progression for a diversifying church community where roast-beef dinners have given way to global feasts. “We saw the great pride people had in putting their best self forward through food,” says Reverend Seth Kaper- Dale. “Our cookbook says that this is America. It’s a place where everybody belongs.”
Put simply: “Food is hope.”
On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, people gather for Syrian cuisine from chef Najla, whose fatoosh salad draws raves. “It’s always a little bit different, and it’s always a fan favorite,” says café manager Emily Randall-Goodman. (The cookbook includes a version.)
The food alone justifies a visit. Most amazing, though, is the mission: The ministry raises funds for a broad immigrant and refugee support initiative. In November 2015, the church and other area faith-based organizations launched Interfaith-RISE, resettling nearly 30 refugees directly and in partnership. Some now work here, gaining invaluable job training while sharpening their English skills.
Najla is surprised yet thankful to be among them. Born in Syria, she spent years in the United Arab Emirates working in the insurance industry. When her residency was abruptly revoked, she was granted asylum in the United States in late 2015 with her husband and young daughter. Two sons, 18 and 20, remain in limbo. Sharing pictures, she prays for a reunion, viewing her work here as a form of outreach.
“I hope people learn about my country—how we live, how we make food,” Najla says. “When I’m cooking, they see something about the Syrian people.” Above all, she’s struck by the church’s welcoming nature. Her Congolese coworker, Yvonne, concurs: “These are very, very nice people.”
Global Grace Café
9:30am to 2pm, Monday – Friday
The Reformed Church of Highland Park
19 S. 2nd Ave., Highland Park