Chocolate to paperback: From Syria with love

When Tareq Hadhad came to Canada his family had a dream and a mission to rebuild their lives and to share their story of hope and resilience, four-years-later he is releasing the book Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada.

ANTIGONISH: Tareq Hadhad says his family’s story is more than just chocolate; it’s about the message behind it – peace.

During a book launch on October 29 at the Antigonish Farmers Market, the CEO and founder of the Antigonish-based Peace by Chocolate, told the crowd that peace is the single noblest thing cannot be possessed, seen or heard.

“And we lost that peace in the bombings in Damascus, we lost it when my brother-in-law went missing overnight,” Hadhad told The Reporter. “We lost it when my cousin was shot dead by soldiers who believed his life was worthless, and we lost it when our factory in Damascus was destroyed in the war and we had to leave our home.”

Photos by Drake Lowthers
Isam Hadhad, the father of Peace by Chocolate CEO and founder Tareq Hadhad, watches as his son delivers a speech during the book launch at the Antigonish Farmers Market on October 29.

Written by Jon Tattrie, Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada tells the Hadhad’s family’s riveting journey, providing an in-depth behind the scenes look at the families of Tareq Hadhad, and his father, Isam.

“We have done countless interviews with Jon telling him everything about the family, everything about our story back in Syria, the start of the company, even how my parents met, the peaceful life we were living before the war until we became refugees and how Canada really opened its doors to us,” Hadhad said. “The book is really documentation for our family for generations to come to tell them in the past decades of what’s happened in our story and what our vision for Peace by Chocolate is for the future.”

Tattrie, who works as a reporter in Halifax for CBC News embarks his readers and transports them to a devastating war-torn Syria where Isam’s Damascus-based chocolate factory was destroyed by bombings, before ending up in Antigonish less than five-years ago to the extended hands of hospitality from Nova Scotians.

Having first spoke with Hadhad in 2016, when he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – Tattrie was instantly fascinated how he appeared to be “filled with joy and hope after experiencing so much loss leaving Syria.”

Life hasn’t been easy for the Hadhad family during the past 10-years, and since arriving in Canada, his family realized the world has been living in great anxiety and fear from the immigrant – something he’s wanted to change the narrative on.

“Just because you come here with nothing, it doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute. We came here with nothing, we only had one dream – to live in peace,” Hadhad said. “One day after my father arrived in Antigonish, he said “Let’s get to work,” he was so excited to start his life fresh.”

Four-years-ago, after first arriving in the province, the Hadhad family was at the same Antigonish Farmers Market re-starting their chocolate company by initially selling 200 pieces of chocolate they made in their new Canadian home kitchen.

Hadhad advised the family’s story goes back decades when his father first believed chocolate would make everyone happy – something the local chocolatier claims assisted with his mother falling in love with him.

The book, published by Goose Lane Editions, has a lot of exciting moments; especially he said when it talks about the birth of Peace by Chocolate in 2016 and the success that’s continued, and for his family there is no greater honour than telling their story to the world in a book.

“When we came to Canada a few years ago we had a dream and a mission to rebuild our lives and sharing our story of hope and resilience,” Hadhad said. “We believe there is so much hate, anxiety and pessimism in the world right now, so this book will inspire and lift others and bring communities together with kindness and compassion and hopefully it will show the best of humanity in the most needed times of crisis.”

The Hadhad family had the option, he said to stay in Syria and get killed in the war and simply become reported statistics or they could try and escape.

“Within three months after losing our house, my father’s factory was bombed, so we had to leave,” Hadhad said. “My father was saying nothing for three-days, and that everything was safe and everything was good – until the opportunity came to say we had to leave.”

Tareq’s older sister, Alaa Hadhad had her husband disappear one night during the war in Syria, and he has never been found.

Today, the Hadhad family is dispersed in over 26 countries.

He advised it’s always a big responsibility as every immigrant is an ambassador to their own culture, to their own stories, and the Hadhad family are doing everything they can to shed a positive light on their success story.

“Usually there is that notion that immigrants only succeed in big cities when they come to Canada, we wanted to tell them in our book that success doesn’t know place, and it doesn’t know time,” Hadhad said. “That where ever you are in Canada you have a great opportunity, you just have to dig down and find it.”

Already set to become a best seller, Peace by Chocolate has sold out completely within the first few days of releasing.

“We really can’t keep up. The book is available nationwide at select bookstores and online at our personal store,” Hadhad said. “It also tells you the momentum and the hunger across Canada for positive stories.”

The book in its true details, examines the Hadhad family behind the scenes, the real people behind the brand, the company and the people who brought them to Antigonish and despite having their story told thousands of times in the media, reading the book will add another depth to the story of the goodness in the world.

“They never ask you who you are; they just judge you by where you came from, and where I come from is something I‘m so proud of,” Hadhad said. “And at this moment I’m so excited to call myself a proud Syrian-Canadian.”