Relish closes after over a decade of service


Owen Barbato

Relish’s owners will continue to cook and host events from the building of the pior Relish restaurant, located east of Central Park.

Ella Labarre, Staff Writer

On Aug. 21, the restaurant Relish closed after over ten years of being an established institution in town. Some residents of Grinnell identify the restaurant based off its grandiose Victorian exterior located on the corner of Park and State Street. The closure comes after owners Kamal Hammouda and his wife Laura Fendt retired.  

Before his retirement, Hammouda was a well-known figure in Grinnell, even outside of Relish. In 2020, he ran for Iowa House District 76 against Democrat Sarah Smith and Republican Dave Maxwell. In 2021 he ran against incumbent Dan Agnew to be the mayor of Grinnell. Hammouda offered his main inspiration for getting involved in politics, and he shared that he plans to run again for mayor in the near future.  

“I feel strongly that we need to break the barrier of new immigrants entering the political arena,” Hammouda said. “Everybody should participate in all facets of the community.”  

So why did such a prominent figure in Grinnell choose this moment to retire? Along with their age, Hammouda and Fendt cited reasons resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. They said that it became difficult to cater to every customer’s desired level of precaution while also maintaining enough staff at the restaurant.  

“People who wanted to be safer [did not] feel like they could come in and know that everybody else in the restaurant had the same mindset,” Fendt said.  

“Also, the labor market became incredibly hard to fill,” Hammouda said.  

These combined factors led Hammouda and Fendt to the decision to close Relish.  

However, the restaurant is not completely shutting down all services. Instead, Relish will continue to offer catering. Hammouda said the catering menu is designed around the customer’s needs, and that they offer nearly every meal requested, excluding pork products.  

The Relish building will stay preserved, as three or four highly trained core staff members will continue to cook in the Relish kitchen. Room space, located downstairs, will also be available to rent for a fee.  

In the past, Relish has hosted events such as cooking classes and spoken word performances. They plan to continue these events in the future. However, Hammouda said he is unsure about when these events will continue, due to other unrelated duties Hammouda has recently taken on.  

Hammouda and Fendt also noted that they would be eager to provide a space for Grinnell College students who had ideas in mind to host similar special events.  

Though this chapter of their lives has closed, Hammouda and Fendt are still involved in the Grinnell community as the president and secretary, respectively, of their non-profit, The Iowa Kitchen. In the town of Grinnell, the organization provides meal distribution for those in need and education for young people on how to cook economically.  

With the freed-up time from closing Relish, the two share that they are most excited to have time to focus on The Iowa Kitchen while still having well-deserved time to themselves.  

“It’s our way of giving back what we know best, which is giving good nutritious food to the needy,” Hammouda said.  

Hammouda and Fendt also said that they are consistently looking for volunteers from the College, specifically first- or second-years, for The Iowa Kitchen. For them, these volunteers are what keep the non-profit alive and thriving.