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Hello, Suomi! Working in Finland: Mohamad AlHallak runs two Syrian restaurants in Helsinki

Mohamad AlHallak came to Finland nine years ago when the war started in Syria. After some time, he was joined by his brother and wife.

AlHallak has studied information technology engineering in Syria, but his father has been running restaurants, so he and his brother Basam have grown into the restaurant business. AlHallak established the Syrian restaurant Karaz in Helsinki’s Lönnrotinkatu with his brother in 2020. The business has started well, and they already have a second restaurant in Helsinki, located in the Kallio district. Mohamed AlHallak has big plans for the future.

The biggest challenge?

The language, to be honest. When you understand the Finnish language and speak it well, it is easier to survive in this country. I think that if I spoke Finnish better, it would be easier to be part of the community with my business. Maybe it is just a feeling but that is why I want to learn Finnish. The weather is another thing, but you just have to get used to it.

Your favourite Syrian dish?

Syrian cuisine is about vegetarian dishes, but one of my favourites is Tawook. It is grilled chicken with spices. We grill the chicken pieces and serve it in a sandwich or with rice. In Karaz we serve Tawook with potatoes.

The best thing at work?

I enjoy talking with the customers and serving but also preparing the food. I was a bit scared to open the restaurant and how people will like the Syrian kitchen, but everything has gone well. I also enjoy working with my brother. We get along although we worked 12-hour days for the first ten months.

The biggest mistake?

I wasn’t clear enough with my personnel about what I want and don’t want them to do. When you work with your brother, you do not need rules. When you have people working for you, you need them to avoid misunderstandings.

What is the strangest Finnish dish?

Makkara (sausage) especially if it is served with ketchup and mustard. Maybe it would taste better blended with other ingredients.

What plans do you have for the future?

When we opened the first Karaz restaurant, we planned that in six months we will have a second restaurant. We signed the contract for our Kallio restaurant exactly in 6 months. Now our plan is to open the third restaurant and go international – and I know it will happen.

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Mohamad AlHallak

  • Restaurant owner
  • Workplace Restaurant Karaz, Helsinki
  • Born in Syria

  • Tilaa Lehti

    Inspiraatiota ja hyötyä ruuan ja juoman ammattilaisille.

    Tilaa Aromi