Athens’ first Refugee Food Festival – staged by Athens Insider in partnership with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the French Association Food Sweet Food, kicks off this Sunday (June 18-22). Meet our 5 talented chefs and the 5 splendid Athens eateries who will be opening their kitchens to them during this innovative 4-day event.
It’s a rare chance for you to enjoy exclusive and exotic dishes created by talented refugee chefs at a fantastic and diverse range of restaurants and cafes.
All the chefs are professional cooks, who are striving to use their cooking skills in their host country, in order to succeed in their social and professional integration. Athens – a city at the centre-stage of refugee awareness – will participate alongside Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lyone, Lille, Madrid, Florence, Rome, Milan, Bari, Brussels and Amsterdam in this humanitarian initiative that uses the universal power of food to change how we see refugees.
MEET THE CHEFS
Mahboubeh has been in Athens for a year and has been cooking for the NGO, Melissa, where the other women refugees have come to demand her elaborate rice pilafs, garnished with dried fruits and nuts and perfumed stews flavored with cinnamon, mint, and pomegranates.
Her mother, who was blind, passed on Iran’s rich culinary tradition to her from the tender age of 7 and Mahboubeh’s cooking reflects the saffron- and rosewater-scented history of Persian cuisine.
Today, Mahboubeh’s reputation as a chef in Athens has grown considerably, and she is regularly invited to cook at multi-cultural festivals and events.
Barshank Haj Younes
Barshank is a Kurdish Syrian who came to Greece a year ago and during his brief stint here has acquired a huge fan following amongst his other refugee friends.
Right at the outset it was evident that Barshank was an extremely exigent chef insisting on personally picking his ingredients for a trial cook-out.
His approach to cooking is as meticulous as it is with his grooming – hair slicked back, beard perfectly trimmed, crease-free clothes. So watching Barshank cook is quite a visual treat too and the presentation is an elaborate work of art.
An extrovert, who came to Greece as a minor, Hassan enrolled into a professional chef’s course on a scholarship and has worked in hotels and restaurants since.
Hassan was too young to have picked elements of his native Somali cuisine as a child, but the flavours remain fresh in his memory. Rich in spices, Somali cuisine is a product of East African, Arab, Turkish, Indian, and Italian influences.
His linguistic skills are as versatile as his culinary expertise and Hassan is as much at ease rolling sushi or making pizzas in a wood oven as he is navigating between Somali, Arabic, Greek and English with remarkable agility.
Abdul Al Hallak
Abdul Rehman proudly shows us a photograph of holding a giant skewer of meat at his restaurant in Damas. A passionate restaurateur, what Abdul Rehman misses most is the banter with the guests, the compliments of regulars, and the epithet proclaiming him as ‘the king of shawarma and falafel’. He exudes energy and optimism and that infectious enthusiasm catches on despite language barriers.
He currently works at a Lebanese restaurant and cooks voluntarily for 80 of his fellow refugee friends every evening. But where he sees himself in a year is at the helm of his own restaurant.
Reza set up his own restaurant in Athens three years ago and aptly called it Folia, his nest, where he likes to recreate the flavours and memories of his native Afghanistan.
What started off as a personal quest is now a successful business with Reza recently expanding his restaurant to accommodate 40 guests. For Reza, food is all about conviviality, of stories being shared around the table and the decor at his restaurant reflect the vivid colours and fierce pride that Afghans take in being perfect hosts.
While his cuisine is quintessentially Afghani, Reza loves to experiment with other culinary traditions and to innovate.
NOW … MEET THE RESTAURANTS
A special menu will be created by the guest chef at the following venues. Bookings to be made directly with the restaurant.
Sunday, 18th June
with Mahboubeh Tavakoli
(Sunday from 1pm until 10pm)
Monday, 19th June
with Barshank Haj Younes
Tuesday, 20th & 21st June
with Hassan Hassan
7 Food Sins
Wednesday, 21st June
with Abdul Al Hallak
25 euros for set menu of 5 plates
Thursday, 22nd June
with Reza Golami
For more information, visit HERE
Insider Weekly, June 14, 2017.