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Baltimore's homeless offered haute cuisine.

An Iranian-Israeli who came to the United States 30 years ago and opened a restaurant in Baltimore is offering free haute cuisine meals to the homeless in the poverty-stricken Maryland city.

Michael Tabrizi, owner of Tabrizi's restaurant, is partnering with local homeless shelters to feed those in need with fancy restaurant meals from July 20 to 25, when many Baltimore restaurants will be participating in the annual Restaurant week promotion of dining out.

For those six days, the restaurant has closed to the public so that it can serve up meals three times a day to those in need. Tabrizi and his staff have arranged for their guests to be picked up via school buses driven by volunteers.

An encounter with a homeless person while stopped at a red light one night inspired Tabrizi to take action.

"I saw a guy at a traffic light with the sign, 'I'm hungry, I will work for food,' " Tabrizi told People magazine. "I couldn't just pass him. I gave him my business card and told him to come to my restaurant when it's open for a free meal. I kept driving and asked myself, 'What about the others?' "

Tabrizi's fancy restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine "from the Middle East all the way to Spain--lamb, sardines, falafel, you name it," he says. However, he is taking a different approach to his menu for Restaurant Week.

Tabrizi says he will serve chicken cordon bleu with sage cream and salad on fine china, sparking apple cider in a champagne flute and ice cream in a waffle cup for dessert. The food will be served in an all-you-can-eat buffet.

"I think these people are really forgotten," he says. "Nobody looks them in the eye anymore. These people lost everything, but that doesn't make them less human than others. I like to help them by feeding them. I don't think they are hungry for nourishment, but more mental nourishment. They just need somebody to talk to them."

Tabrizi is not sure if other restaurants will join him in helping to feed the homeless, but he says he's gotten positive feedback during the past few weeks.

"I'm excited just to see the faces of these people," he adds. "My staff is overwhelmed by the experience. They were offered to get paid; most of them declined. I have received hundreds of emails from all around the world--Africa, Europe, Russia, Iran, Middle East and South America. Everybody is wishing good things."

Tabrizi told The Baltimore Sun he hopes to serve from 900 to 1,000 homeless guests at his restaurant during the week.

He is also asking for volunteers. Instead of helping to prepare or serve meals, volunteers are invited to sit down with homeless guests over dinner and talk with them.

Tabrizi said he is working with a professional organization of hospitality industry workers to help bring 150 guests each day for six days to Tabrizi's.

That group is working primarily through such organizations as the Maryland Center for Veterans Education & Training, the House of Ruth and other organizations that provide shelter and aid to the homeless and others in need.

Tabrizi's gesture has been picked up the national media, including the Huffington Post and People magazine, which reported Tabrizi had decided to forgo his participation in Baltimore's annual Restaurant Week in order to have his homeless restaurant week during the same period.

However, The Baltimore Sun said Tabrizi's is not a member of the organization that organizes the annual Restaurant Week event that promotes dining out.

Tabrizi said, "It's all about goodness. Imagine, if people can do random acts of good and make the city better again, the way it was before the riots" of a few months ago after police officers killed a black man.

Tabrizi says he'll spend about $20,000 of his own money to host the event, and says closing his restaurant to regular patrons will cost him even more in lost revenue. Tabrizi said he has received countless donations of everything from bread and chicken to produce from other Baltimore businesses and restaurants.

"I just wish people would treat the homeless in a different way. People should remember it's always good to hear kindness and it's important to look people in the eye. The homeless feel less human --like they're invisible. They just want to be respected."
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe; Tabrizi's restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 24, 2015
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