Baba's pantry

wHAT CONNECTS US

Baba's Pantry

Food is an important part of culture and heritage. It can connect us to people and places bringing together families and friends. Food connects us to each other, our identities, roots, and the cultures around us.

Baba’s Pantry, located in Kansas City, Missouri, is an authentic Palestinian American deli and cafe. “Baba'' is Arabic for “dad”.

As a Palestinian refugee, Baba immigrated to the United States of America in the late 1970s to seek a greater education and build a better life. Without any family or friends and knowing little English, Baba began to pursue his American Dream. Often reminiscing the delightful aroma of his mother’s cooking, he missed home.

In 1995, there was news of a new treaty that would create a pathway to statehood for Palestine. Hearing this, Baba took his family home. Going to Palestine led Kamal and his siblings to experience a world full of color, history, and culture. Throughout the six years they stayed, the siblings learned about the typical Palestinian traditions and heritage that they lacked in America. Because Kamal and his siblings lived with their grandparents, they learned how to speak Arabic and when it came time to return to America, they left empowered and proud of who they were and where they came from.

Back in America, Baba was always in the food business. Coming from a creative family, everyone had their special talents. As a chef, Baba used cooking to reconnect with his roots. But, in the industry, he did not have the freedom he wanted to explore new foods resulting in a feeling of discouragement.

As it took him some time to figure out his objective, Baba approached Kamal and his younger brother, Omar, about a family business. Together, they brainstormed a space that would be based on Baba and who he was. No one could take his identity from him.

Experiencing African American and Palestinian culture, the brothers envisioned a space that would unite the element of being American and an immigrant in their food. Living in New York for over ten years, Kamal and Omar derived inspiration from grab and go delis that were instrumental in a New Yorkers typical day.

When designing this space, each component of the interior of the store was constructed to be intentional to convey Baba. His house had plants and he collected antiques. Baba’s father was blind and had radios surrounding him. Baba then collected radios as tribute to his father. The store reflects these components of his identity.

As the store began to undergo construction, the world was hit by a pandemic. Due to unforeseen challenges and obstacles, it seemed to the family that the store would not open. Subsequently, the community wrapped their arms around Baba and lit a bright light inside the family.

A few weeks later, as their sign went up on the front of the building, in English it read “Baba’s Pantry” and below, in a beautiful orange, there was Arabic– a tribute to Baba’s identity. The family looked up and Baba said “Mashallah [God willing] it’s beautiful.”

With the intention of creating a community through food, Baba brought people together and built friendships that provided him comfort. Everyone is welcome to experience their vibrant culture. Now serving the Kansas City community, Baba and his family share a part of their heritage through food cooked with love.