In Memoriam: LAU Friend and Donor Fouad El-Abd Loses Battle Against COVID-19

COVID-19 has claimed yet another friend of LAU. Fouad El-Abd, who is founder and president of leading canned food company California Garden and LAU donor, passed away in the United States from complications related to Coronavirus.

“The Nutrition Program at the School of Arts and Sciences is deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Fouad El-Abd,” said Dr. Maya Bassil, coordinator of the Nutrition & Dietetics Coordinated Program (CP) and associate professor of nutrition.

“Mr. El-Abd was an honorable member of the Nutrition and Dietetics Coordinated Program Advisory Council. He was actively involved in providing support to the program and advise on strategic directions to develop an understanding of the job market and industry needs, pertinent to the dietetics profession,” she added.

El-Abd made a substantial donation to the university, which went toward establishing the cutting-edge food innovation lab, inaugurated in October 2018.

“The state-of-the-art Fouad El-Abd Food Innovation Lab, located on the Byblos campus, serves as a teaching and research lab in the areas of food preparation, processing and development,” said Dr. Hussein Hassan, associate professor of food science and technology.

The nearly 100-square meter functional space is comprised of a core kitchen lab, a support lab service room and meeting room. The multi-functional lab, a great asset for the Nutrition Program in the Department of Natural Sciences, is also used by students in the Department of Hospitality Management and Marketing as well as external entities.

“As a guest speaker in our program, he inspired our students to take initiatives and believe in their capabilities. His love and support for Lebanon and LAU will be deeply missed,” added Dr. Hassan.

El-Abd, who started his journey in California 42 years ago, provided the Lebanese diaspora with a connection to the homeland through California Garden.

In his lecture on How to Build a Brand in the Food Industry at LAU in January 2019, El-Abd was generous in imparting advice and sharing the struggles and successes of his decades-long experience to build up California Garden into the company it is today.

He recalled his first job as an employee for a company that sold machinery and built factories for the food industry.

When his contract ended with that company, he set out on his own. “I couldn’t find a job. I sent 500 letters to 500 companies in the United States and got 500 rejections. I said to myself that I had to do something. I had three kids to feed and educate,” he recalled.

It was then that he decided to buy a small franchise similar to Subway in California, and it was at the back of that restaurant that California Garden was born.

The company had its breakthrough in 1983 with the introduction of “American foul mudammas,” a popular dish based on fava beans. After that, the company signed a joint venture to start a factory in Dubai.

One major partnership involved none other than NASA, leading California Garden to supply cans of hummus to the International Space Station.

El-Abd had concluded his talk by saying that “It might take some time but if you keep your goal and hopes, and your dreams alive, you will get there eventually.”

An advice worth remembering during these challenging times.