The struggling economy has prevented many generous people in the community from donating to charities like they used to, so Awwad thought a restaurant could help provide funds for the ministries’ efforts, which include youth camps, sponsorship for children to attend schools, and a series of educational seminars that Awwad presents regarding the conflict in the Middle East.
Awwad has a personal connection to the ongoing fighting that plagues that region. He grew up in Palestine, where he served as a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He grew up as a soldier, and fighting the Israelis became second nature. At one point, he was captured by Israeli forces and had a gun pointed at his head.
He was lucky to escape that incident, but a year later, things changed. During an Israeli-Palestinian clash in his hometown, Awwad and his best friend stood side by side as the sound of bullets rushed past them. The bullets suddenly made a different sound, and that was when Awwad realized that this friend had been shot.
“It was that moment that I realized I had three choices,” Awwad said. “I could keep fighting and be killed. I could go to prison, or I could leave. I chose the third.”
Awwad came to the United States 19 years ago, and as he was assimilated into American culture, he also welcomed Christianity into his life.
Through Echo of Christ Ministries, Awwad now travels all over the world to educate the public about Middle Eastern culture and provide a balanced view of its ongoing conflicts.
The Shepherd’s Kitchen is Awwad’s way of raising funds while continuing to educate people in the Bay Area as well as abroad.
“This is a new avenue for money,” Awwad said. “This will help provide a steady income to support our work, such as providing food vouchers to families in need.”
The restaurant’s mission is reinforced in the décor and the dinnerware. Plates are inscribed with Bible verses, and Christian artistry decorates the walls. On the far wall, the text of Psalm 23 is inscribed in bold letters. Next to the verse is a large American flag, a symbol that Awwad loves dearly.
“The flag is a symbol, and it didn’t come cheap,” he said. “So many people have died to give us this freedom, and coming from a country where I didn’t have these freedoms, I value this gift so much more.”
Awwad said that although The Shepherd’s Kitchen is Christian-themed, Christian values and beliefs are not imposed on the customer. “It is Christian-themed, but it has decoration like at any restaurant. It creates an experience. We aren’t here to preach to you. We welcome everyone to come in and enjoy a meal.”
The restaurant’s menu brings Mediterranean meals to Brentwood, offering unique flavors and dishes to tempt your taste buds. Awwad suggests people try falafel, a deep-fried ball of seasoned garbanzo beans. “Falafel is like the Starbucks of the Middle East. You’ll find a falafel stand on every corner.” Falafel can be purchased as an appetizer, in sandwich form or as part of a platter.
Meals at The Shepherd’s Kitchen range from $7.99 to $14.99, and you get more than your money’s worth. The Chicken Kabob meal, for example, comes with a salad, a side of hummus, bread, rice, house sauce, and chicken.
With all the food on your plate, it’s difficult to choose what to eat first. Awwad suggests the combo plate to customers who are new to Mediterranean cuisine. The plate features any two items of your choice, a salad, bread and hummus.
The Shepherd’s Kitchen, 50 Sand Creek Road in Brentwood, is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. For more information, call 925-308-7000.