Refusion is a restaurant and food delivery service situated in the Tetuan neighborhood of Madrid, which is devoted to granting migrants and refugees a platform to share their culture via culinary delights. A collaboration between chefs from Syria, Sudan and Venezuela, in partnership with Madrid for Refugees (MFR), Refusion provides its patrons with a window into the diverse cuisine of these three countries. The chefs often host cooking lessons at the MFR’s headquarters in Sol. I was invited to their kitchen on a mid-November afternoon to sample a three-course meal and interview Hala from Syria, and her Spanish collaborator Elena, who focuses on strategic operations, about the nature of this unique project and their vision for its future.
Inspired by EAT OFFBEAT, a New York City-based catering platform, Refusion launched in May 2019 and set out to assist Madrid’s refugees and migrants by giving them meaningful work opportunities and to integrate into their adopted city. Hala, from Syria, Ahmed from Sudan, and Yoly from Venezuela work diligently to be ambassadors of flavor from their respective countries. All three work together to create each dish on the menu and they are planning to design innovative fusions between them at a future stage.
The first dish that Hala presented to me was the roasted aubergine Mutabal, a Syrian recipe. It was light, refreshing and completely vegetarian as most of the dishes are when designed by the vegetarian Hala. Refusion prides itself on offering abundant plant-based dishes. The Syrian Mutabal was followed by Venezuelan Tequeños, which were soft, cheesy and delightful, along with Papelón con limón, the refreshing Venezuelan citrusy beverage made with unrefined sugar cane extract and lemon juice.
Hala invited me to watch her prepare falafel in the compact kitchen space. I took a bite and dipped the fresh ball in the spicy peanut butter sauce that accompanied it. Hala credited Refusion for propelling her to reach the next level as a chef. Multilingual, she is fluent in English, Spanish and Arabic, and attributes her flawless Spanish accent to full-immersion into authentic barrios where she has worked and resided over the course of her 7-years in Spain. Hala gained experience working at her family-owned Syrian restaurant in Alcobendas prior to joining Refusion, where she was granted further training and instructed by outside consultants on how to optimize the small kitchen space within the establishment. She is now positioned as a rising star in the culinary world.
Yoly, the chef from Venezuela, was not present but I am familiar with her story as I’ve conducted an interview with her in the past. Yoly was a political activist in Venezuela who fled to Spain with her teenage son after becoming a target of police intimidation. Yoly was an engineer in Venezuela who arrived in Spain with no documentation, without the ability to pursue career opportunities in her field. She did various odd jobs such as cleaning and attending to the elderly while waiting to be granted Spanish residence. In collaboration with MFR, she taught dance and yoga classes to members of the international community, as well as to Venezuelans who suffer from separation anxiety as a result of the diaspora dividing their families. I was thrilled to learn that Yoly is now a chef at Refusion, and has gained her Spanish residency, social security, and the ability to work since our last meeting.
Elena, one of Refusion’s five partners supporting the business in various capacities, wants to see the project evolve in such a way that it can help more migrants and refugees to obtain Spanish residency, while simultaneously providing their adopted home of Madrid with culinary gems from their countries of origin. The five partners are not concerned with becoming wealthy from this project, their goal is to see it become economically sustainable while having a meaningful impact on its chefs and the city.
I strongly recommend fellow transplants and native-born Spaniards alike to order from Refusion online, and support this growing business by dining on Syrian, Sudanese and Venezuelan culinary delights. You can place the order directly within their online platform and have it delivered to your location, as they do not collaborate with UberEats or Deliveroo and all of their packagings are ecological. If you are ever tasked with catering a meeting, event, or party, Refusion can swiftly attend to your needs. As the world becomes increasingly volatile and complex, cultural exchanges in the form of cuisine are playing a paramount role in bridging divides.