It’s very easy to forget what’s behind the crisis that many refugees are currently facing. Despite the fleeting flood of news on the internet and other sources, we don’t usually have the opportunity of meeting the people facing this crisis, the ones that are actually suffering each day. I say fleeting because one day it seems like it’s the only problem in the world but after weeks of mourning, it’s as if the problem has disappeared.
I had already known about the work that MFR does to help people in this situation, even though I had never been in direct contact with the association. From the moment that I heard about Chefugee, I couldn’t get the idea of collaborating with them out of my mind. It struck me immediately as an amazing way to combine several passions of mine, food and cooking, with the opportunity to not only help, but to learn firsthand about the lives of people who have had to leave everything behind to start a new life.
I immediately got in touch with MFR regarding Chefugee in order to present a professional proposal to work together. I couldn’t stop imagining how incredible it could be to contribute my grain of sand. So that’s why, following the meeting with Natalia and Felicia, I accepted the invitation to attend Chefugee Mundial.
In Chefugee Mundial, the setup was slightly different compared to the previous dinners that were all held in houses. This event took place in Mona Pinkerton, a restaurant in the barrio madrileño de La Latina. As soon as we entered, we noticed a warm atmosphere with a mixture of first timers and repeating guests. Conversations blending, each person with a different background, all together to enjoy a delicious meal, and of course, contribute as much as possible to the project. The food was already waiting for us on the bar, we were all excited to hear from the organisers and to have the privilege to enjoy typical plates from regions that aren’t common in places so far from their origin (yes, there is cuisine beyond shawarma and hummus in the so called Middle Eastern countries).
So after an introduction by the organisers, a presentation of the worldly menu (Ukraine, Venezuela, Iraq, and Syria) by the chefs themselves who had prepared it, and a few more words from them, the dinner began. That’s when you really understand what Chefugee is all about. That’s when you feel that it’s not a normal dinner, not just a gastronomic event. When you understand once again that food is more than an ice-breaker that allows people to let go and be able to delve into any topic. Accompanied by a delicious and abundant plate of different and freshly prepared foods, people begin to indulge themselves in conversations ranging from professional matters to cultural discussions. That’s when you really find the opportunity to talk to refugees, organisers, and all the other people I had gone in hopes of meeting while enjoying the dinner and Chefugee Project.
I really hope that the project continues to grow and that all those who live in Madrid (and hopefully one day all the others in all parts of the world) have the opportunity, at least once, to share a few hours and help people like Ghada, Edgar, Oscar, Natalia Nataliia, or Ruba. Not only to try their delicious food but to also feel their energy and be influenced by the enthusiasm they emit despite the hard road they’ve had to go down to arrive to where they are now.
About the author
Luis Grande is a passionate software developer and amateur chef. He currently works with Ivan Campos and Julien Hennico for soeasytocook.com, a project to connect lovers of the kitchen through cooking courses to private cooks looking to teach in their houses or professional cooking schools. If you’re a lover of the kitchen and want to discover new people and new recipes or simply want to learn how to surprise your friends at your next dinner party, visit their website and learn how to cook your favourite plates with a 10% discount using the code CHEFUGEE when making your reservation.
[Photography: Jane Mitchell Photography]
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