By Charlie Kadado, Lebanese Examiner
(TROY, MI) — There’s something special about Lebanese moms. Besides their strange obsession with television soap operas and making sure you’re wearing a jacket, they seem to always have a noteworthy interest in feeding you.
Just ask Camilia Saleh, owner of Cedar Grille in Troy, Michigan. Her mother Sadie Fares is now 90 years old, and still strongly hails as the matriarch of the family recipe book.
“I remember growing up and watching my mom make homemade meals everyday,” Saleh said. “She never let me touch anything. She used to tell me to stay away and that one day I’ll learn.”
Saleh says her mother had a passion for preparing the finest authentic meals from the finest organic ingredients.
“Every morning I would look out my window and see my mom picking fresh vegetables and beans from our land.”
These memories of watching her mother refine her already perfect recipes inspired Saleh to open Cedar Grille, on Crooks Road in Troy, in 2010.
“I wanted to share our culture and cuisine with my community right here in Troy. I wanted to show them what I was so proud of,” she said.
“I used to work as a stock-keeper and hear the businessmen talk about America and Canada and how you could do things we could never dream of. I used to say that this is where we should be,” she said.
Saleh admits experiencing culture shock upon arriving to the States, but was eager to work and adjust to what she called “a wonderful opportunity.”
After years of working in the school system, Saleh decided to follow her husband’s footsteps in opening her own business.
“My husband asked me what I’d like to do best and I told him I loved our culture and our cooking. My mom worked hard all these years providing for us and I felt the love in all that. I wanted to share what my mom taught me with my community after sharing it with my family all these years,” she said.
Saleh’s husband, Antoine, owns Antoine Salon, which is also located in Troy.
“I contribute the success of this place to my husband, for being supportive and working behind the scenes. He’s the outside manager and he manages me too. He helps me a lot with his business experience,” she said.
After one year of planning, Camilia decided to finally follow her dreams and open the restaurant in honor of her mother. She hired a head chef, who used to cook for the former president of Lebanon, and several hand-picked employees to lead the operation.
“If you can manage people, you can manage anything. I’m a homemaker by nature, and I started this business hard and quickly, so I needed to get my game together to manage people fast,” she recalls.
It’s this sense of strength that follows a seemingly universal trait of Lebanese mothers. She says future immigrants should be prepared to face obstacles, but push through in the face of adversity.
“Don’t ever be afraid. If you can imagine it, go for it. With the support of family and believing in yourself, you can do anything you want.”
For more information about Cedar Grille, visit cedargrille.com.