New food events to celebrate ethnic restaurants in Dayton

A new way to explore immigrant-owned restaurants and international dining has arrived in Dayton with an event series.

Ethnosh, an organization that plans monthly dining events called “NoshUps” at immigrant-owned restaurants in Greensboro, N.C., has partnered with civic innovation lab The Collaboratory to launch this model locally in Dayton.

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Organizers say the casual tasting events are a great way to sample and learn about foods from local ethnic restaurants, meet the people behind the scenes and hear their stories of coming to America.

The Dayton initiative marks the first expansion of the Ethnosh network through its partnership with The Collaboratory. Greensboro resident Donovan McKnight founded Ethnosh in 2014 out of a love for cross-cultural discovery and food.

“My wife is the daughter of an immigrant and grew up surrounded by global food,” said McKnight. “When she took me out to restaurants I became fascinated by the food, but more so the people behind the food. I began developing relationships with the families, and I thought, ‘What if I could facilitate this experience for my community?’”

Since its launch, McKnight has hosted events at more than 40 different restaurants and food trucks with thousands of attendees.

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Collaboratory founder Peter Benkendorf met McKnight while attending a national urban development conference about five years ago and they became friends. According to Benkendorf, when he learned about Ethnosh he thought right away of Welcome Dayton, the region’s immigrant-friendly initiative, and the gears started turning.

“What I like about Ethnosh is its emphasis on cuisine, culture and community, as well as supporting local immigrant-owned businesses,” Benkendorf said. “The NoshUps are about new culinary experiences, but they are also focused on sharing the personal stories and journeys of the restaurant owners and their families. NoshUps are set up with large tables, so we are also building community, which is a core value of The Collaboratory.”

The inaugural Dayton NoshUp took place in October at Olive Mediterranean Grill in Dayton. Guests were served a sampler plate representing traditional Mediterranean dishes along with Olive owner Fadi Shokri’s personal favorite dishes.

“What I love about this business is not just sharing the food I grew up with, but meeting and sharing my story with Daytonians of every walk of life who come into Olive. The community has been so welcoming and I could not be more pleased to help Ethnosh get started in Dayton,” Shokri said.

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Shokri immigrated to the United States from Palestine in 2009, arriving in Dayton on New Years Day 2010. He and his brother opened Olive in 2015. Originally located on North Dixie Drive, the restaurant moved downtown in June 2018.

“With hundreds of immigrant-owned restaurants in the Dayton region from every part of the globe, there is an incredible wealth of cultural experiences out there waiting to be discovered. Ethnosh is a perfect fit with the Welcome Dayton initiative, since Welcome Dayton is committed to supporting immigrants and refugees and celebrating their contributions to the region. Ethnosh is a great way to bring people who love food and those who are curious about other cultures together to support these locally owned businesses,” said Monica Harris, coordinator of the city of Dayton’s Welcome Dayton Initiative and part of the Ethnosh team.

“Food has the power to bring people together,” says McKnight, “to dispel fear by creating commonality across cultures, and build bridges across the table.”

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