Meet Adam El-Dika, a proud Lebanese-Canadian. Adam has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Windsor, was a Board of Director for the UWSA, and was a Middle Eastern Student Association member at the University of Windsor. Outside of his community advocacy, most people know Adam as the Owner of Mare Nostrum, a Mediterranean Restaurant located at the University of Windsor. Mare Nostrum provides quality food and service to all its customers. Adam most recently launched a Lebanese Home Food Subscription called Leila’s Kitchen (named after his mother). As an extension of Mare Nostrum, the subscription’s goal is to bring Lebanese pantry items into everyone’s home. While reflecting on his family’s immigration story this is what he had to say:
Although our family is now a single parent household and has been so for the last 10 years, I will always appreciate the journey that both of my parents undertook to provide us with the life we have today. My father immigrated to the United States in 1987 to study English in Florida and then Agricultural Science in Little Rock, Arkansas. I always made fun of him because he was a farmer studying farming. He came from a rural part of Lebanon, a small town called Hizean in the Bekaa Valley, and travelled halfway around the world to study agriculture. He was one of twelve children, and the first person in his entire town to obtain a post-secondary education, let alone one from a country abroad. My mother was an English major in Lebanon but did not complete her degree because she moved to the United States after marrying my father. They first lived in Little Rock, then moved to Dearborn, Michigan before applying for refugee status in Canada and settling in Windsor.
The two of them worked extremely hard early on. My father could not find work in his field, so he worked everything and anything to provide for his family: taxi driver, gas station attendant, you name it. While my father was working long hours, my mother was taking care of her first child, me. I can only imagine how difficult that must have been, especially with all the trouble I gave her when it came to eating! Ironically enough, I was a very picky eater. The only way I would eat is if she took me to Jackson Park (which she would sometimes do 3 times a day). A few years later my mother went back to school to become a hair stylist after my younger sister Farah was born. Not too long after my father decided he wanted to operate his own business, so he purchased a small gas station in Harrow. He would wake up at 3:45 every morning for years and come back right around the time we were going to bed. He never complained about it. All he cared about was providing for us. My mother soon joined him, and as the years went by, he was able to employ others and spend more time with my siblings and me.
Fast forward 10 years and my parents decided they want to move back to Lebanon and so we did. I graduated from Eastwood College, an American High School in Kfarshima, Lebanon just outside of Beirut. I came back to Canada and started my post-secondary education as a Biology major and at the end of my first year my parents separated. It was the most pivotal moment in my family's history. Divorce is not looked at too well in Lebanese culture. Nonetheless, my mother showed strength and resilience like no other, hiding any pain she felt, focused on ensuring we continued our education, graduated, and started our own lives. She saw me complete my degree and then helped me and my former business partner, Ahmad Sanji, open Mare Nostrum in 2015. I have an incredible passion for food, and I can wholeheartedly say it is because of her. She was right there throughout my sister's journey studying and graduating to become a nurse. Now she is right there ensuring the youngest of us all, Youssef, completes his degree as a robotics technician. My parents were some of the most formative individuals in myself and my siblings' lives and there is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for the unmeasurable sacrifice they made to provide for us.
At the moment, Mare Nostrum is going through a difficult time. Covid-19 has hit the hospitality industry hard, and restaurants around the University community even harder. I believe people have garnered a stronger appreciation for restaurants and how important they are to their individual communities. It has also been during these times that I have recounted the resilience of my parents and remained positive about the future. My mother is the preparation cook at Mare Nostrum. She is the heart and soul of our 16-person team and always reminds me to keep my head up and look ahead. It will take time, but we will eventually get to see our great patrons again. We have since launched Leila’s Kitchen, a Lebanese Home Food Subscription service named after my mother, an extension of Mare Nostrum. Our goal is to bring Lebanese pantry items, that help us cook at home, into your home.