Here at Select Gourmet Foods, we promise to deliver to you the highest quality products at wholesale prices. As a local business with over 20 years of experience, we are committed to conducting our trade in an ethical manner that also helps create a more just and sustainable world.
Mohamed Souaiaia (pronounced Su-why-ya) is the owner of Select Gourmet Foods Inc.
A Tunisian born in Algeria, Souaiaia grew up a refugee in an area where the border between Algeria and Tunisia was in flux and dispute.
His father herded sheep and tended orchards. It was in the orchards that Souaiaia's passion for fresh foods blossomed.
"[As a child] I would climb the trees and sit up there and eat the figs just like a monkey."
But his childhood was far from Idyllic. Souaiaia grew up on United Nations food donations, and his parents used empty flour sacks to make clothes. Landmines dotted the countryside and he sometimes had to eat weeds to survive.
His parents however were determined to give little Mohamed further opportunities. Through his own ability, and with the kindness of others, Mohamed was able to pursue an education, and eventually came to the United States sponsored by a Peace Corp volunteer.
Flashing forward a number of years, and after studying and teaching political science at the University of Washington and other schools, Souaiaia veered away from academics and bought a small fruit stand, perhaps with memories of those childhood fresh fruits in the back of his mind. In 1993, he again moved off in a somewhat different direction, buying an existing meat-distribution business and moving it to Kenmore in 1997.
Kathleen Triesch Saul, a Seattle Times food reporter, asked the question: "How does a guy who pursued education and politics all his life wind up pushing food?" The following is a selection from her exclusive interview covered in "From Want to a Wealth of Food."
"The whole politics of the world is about food," he says, "about survival. Without food, you don't survive." Besides he says, he uses many of the research skills he learned [in academia] to uncover - and sometimes create - good suppliers for often hard-to-get or expensive products.
It doesn't hurt that he's fluent in French, Arabic and English, and speaks a little Turkish, Spanish and Persian to boot. He knows about climates - political and social ones as well as those that rule where certain crops and animals thrive. All of this, he acknowledges, "is my biggest weapon" in getting quality products at good prices.
Much of his trade is in organic foods, and he believes strongly in promoting food raised in a way that is gentler on the environment. "It's really a continuation of my childhood," he says, where he learned the importance of being connected to the land that gives us life and the society that sustains us."
This commitment to social responsibility continues to shape the way Souaiaia operates his business. That's why Select Gourmet Foods is a proud sponsor of many local schools and charities.