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Garlic belly: a tale of two chickens

Joseph Istiphan bids falafel to arms


The proprietors of the El Jannah chain of restaurants are to charcoal chicken what Matt Preston is to cravat wearing: maverick game changers. They appeared on the scene in 1998 to sate the hunger of a city crying out for garlic soaked poultry and their restaurants, particularly the one in Granville, quickly became legendary. However, there’s a dark underbelly to their greasy menus, the chain was born out of a bitter and longstanding rivalry, the likes of which the charcoal chicken industry has never seen.

It all began over a decade ago when two siblings, Andre and Samira, opened up a charcoal chicken restaurant together in Granville called Awafi. Samira provided the majority of the start-up capital, but as this was to be a family business, she decided to forego formalising the partnership with a written agreement. However, it wasn’t long before the two began to argue and the brother would often destroy parts of the restaurant in retaliation for perceived slights. The situation escalated quickly and Andre hired a bodyguard after Samira supposedly tried to push him in front of an oncoming truck. Tiring of the constant conflict, Samira allegedly arranged to have the place burnt down.

Rather than repay his sister the $60,000 that was owed to her, Andre branched out on his own and opened an Awafi restaurant in Belmore without any regard for the fact that he and his sister shared ownership of the Awafi brand. Not one to sit idly by twiddling her thumbs, Samira opened her own branch of the chain in Punchbowl. Both were thriving, but then Andre opened another restaurant in Granville, an establishment that would grow into the famed El Jannah.

This turned out to be a step too far because Samira decided to open an Awafi a stone’s throw away from him. Andre responded by opening another El Jannah, this time in the building that neighboured Samira’s Punchbowl restaurant. Samira bought the building and kicked him out but he just moved across the road. Ever since, the two have been doing their best to drive each other out of business, cleaving the Lebanese community in half in the process – the Awafi aficionados insist that Andre’s garlic sauce is too bland while the El Jannah devotees maintain that Samira’s chickens are too dry. Whatever your affiliation, know that had this occurred back in Lebanon, the whole country would’ve been consumed by civil war. As it stands, the conflict remains bloodless, but many a wedding seating plan has been forced to allow for a wide buffer between the two warring factions.

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