Passion Project 2019 - Inspiring Women of Sioux Falls - Sanaa
Feb 14, 2019 | By: Maggie Sweets
This year, one of my New Year’s resolutions for my business was to use my skills and platform to highlight notable & successful women in our community. I call it my “passion project”. In 2019, I want to choose five women that have inspired me and embody characteristics such as passion, dedication, selflessness and therefore are an example of success right here in the Sioux Falls area.
The first woman I would like to introduce to you is Sanaa. For those of you that know her, you may have heard or have eaten at her wonderful restaurant, Sanaa’s, located in Downtown Sioux Falls. Her gluten free menu and healthy yet delicious menu has been the talk of the town since she opened her restaurant in 2004. I have admired Sanaa for a long time. As an immigrant myself, I have appreciated most, her fervor and hard work in making not only a dream come true out of a passion but her relentless pursuit in making a brand and contributing to the culture and food scene in Sioux Falls.
Just to give you some background on this amazing chef, although Sanaa is known for her homestyle cooking and has a modest & down to earth persona, her resume is seriously impressive. Sanaa holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering from Damascus University and a Masters degree in Nutrition from California State Polytech University, Pomona. She also attended cooking school in Florence, Italy, as well as the Cordon Bleu Baking School in Paris, France.
Here are some questions I asked Sanaa in my interview with her:
1. When did you come to the United States?
"I came to the States 37 years ago."
2. When, how and why did you start your restaurant?
When we moved to from Washington DC to Sioux Falls via Rapid City. We were looking for "Farm to Table" restaurant that provided healthy gourmet food but there was none. There was fast food Or high end resteraunts like Minervas. We used to entertain weekly at home; I enjoyed cooking and people seem to enjoy the food. So, when I was asked by the owner of 8th and RR center if I would open a restaurant there I said yes and the rest is history. :)
3. What’s your biggest success in your business?
The confidence in myself that I gained from my ability to run the business but also to make it a success.
4. Describe your family
I came from Syria and my father and mother were farmers who believed in education and especially for women. My father will say that education is your insurance for you life. I have one sister, she is an MD in Syria, and three brother’s. One is in Boston and he is a civil engineer, two are in Syria with one holding a degree in Math while running a business and the youngest running the family's farm. I have degree in Agriculture engineering and I came to America to finish graduate school. I got master's degree in Food and Nutrition from California State Poly Tech University in Pomona. I am married to James Abourezk former United State Senator, civil engineer and a lawyer. Our daughter Alya is a senior in Boston with a degree in architecture.
5. What do you like to do for fun?
I love reading mystery and travel.
6. What is one quote/principle or idea that is important to you?
Eleanor Roosevelt "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"
7. Can you tell me the story about your necklace?
When I left home to come to America my mom gave me a necklace that she kissed and hugged. The necklace has blue stone which we believe protect from the evil eye and a charm to give luck. The necklace is always on me, this way my mom is always with me.
Getting to meet and photograph Sanaa was a pleasure. Sanaa is a kind, down to earth and appreciative person that never stops reaching for her dreams. Though she has accomplished much already, she still has her eyes set for more in the future including another upcoming cookbook and plans for expanding her restaurant. She also has a good sense of priority, placing a high value on her family of which is especially evident when she talks about her daughter, Alya. I am happy to give you this profile on her and hope you can be inspired as I was by this incredible woman.