Organizer Stories: Komeeda’s Jabber Al-Bihani

Welcome reader to Organizer Stories! This interview begins a series of blog posts whose intent is to profile some of the most chronically unsung and hardest working people on earth: the organizer of events. Even the smallest of events requires preparation beyond the comprehension of the tiny attendee brain, so within these pixels we will get to know these heroes, these champions of community cultivation and excellent times.

Today we get to know Jabber Al-Bihani from the much-loved food meetup Komeeda. Jabber organizes group meals and chef competitions. Let’s hear more about that:

What is Komeeda? What inspired you to start the group?

Komeeda is a “kommunity” of food lovers and makers who come together for flavorful and interactive food events.

I was always coordinating dinner gatherings with my friends, and I always thought to invite an extra friend or two from my other friend circles. So I had a lot of my friends meet each other over meals, and they all got along very well. So I started a MeetUp for food gatherings and it took off from there. We now have a large and strong network of foodies who love to eat with us!

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What is one particularly memorable experience to come out of one of your meals?

They’re all unique in their own way. We host tasting events at restaurants, pop-up dinners and our popular Chef Showdowns. The Chef Showdowns wind up being my favorite, because we get chefs who have never had the opportunity to feature their work on a competitive platform. The reactions and feedback after the event enhances my reflection of the chef competitions and motivates me to keep them going. Food makes everyone happy, so it’s hard for me to pick ONE experience.

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Chef Showdown has quickly become one of NYC’s most in-demand gastronomical happenings. What do you think accounts for this popularity?

You’re making me blush… I’d like to attribute its popularity to the people who are involved with the event. The collaborators (Peatix), the sponsors, the volunteers, the enthusiastic chefs who help promote the event to their peers and, most importantly, our kommunity who are wonderful supporters of Komeeda. When I say we’ve built a community, I really mean it and that is why we are where we are.

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You’ve scored several high-profile partners to collaborate with you on Chef Showdown (Peatix included). Do you have any particular strategy for going about recruiting sponsors?

I am just approaching brands by being genuine and straightforward. When I partner with other brands, my goal is for them to understand what we’re doing, give them an image about our kommunity, and create a plan to enhance the event experience for our guests. If they share that mission with me, I’m more than delighted to partner with them.

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You’re well known for your coolness and composure while organizing and executing your events. How do you keep it all together?

I try not to worry too much about life. But event-wise I normally have everything planned out beforehand and I have an understanding of how the event is going to run. If something comes up, I deal with it then. Plus, Komeeda attracts awesome event guests, so they know the deal. It’s part of the process trusting your fellow organizers and your guests. If our event guests ever have an issue (rarely ever), they’ll approach me without hesitation and I make an effort to address whatever it is. Try your best to make everyone happy.

 

What is the most unforgettable meal you’ve had in NYC? Abroad?

Not to belittle all the other wonderful meals that I’ve had (Paella in Barcelona & huge seafood dish in Saudi Arabia), but Schwartz’s in Montreal.Their meat sandwiches are OMG! Never thought that I’d love a smoked meat sandwich like that.

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What is next for Komeeda? Where do you see the group going in the next 1-2 years?

Komeeda is growing and I am very happy about that! We have some behind the scenes work as I type this up, but in the meantime, we are hosting more awesome events! Such as our annual “Friendsgiving” pop-up, another Chef Showdown in January, etc. I also coordinate an end of year dinner for my family and friends– this will the fourth year I host this and I’m switching things up and seeing how that works out!

In the next year, we’ll definitely have more events in the NYC area. Our mantra is “Discover.Taste.Interact.,”  so we will have a lot of that to do in the next twelve months. In two years… Komeeda goes nationwide!