migrant and refugee chefs

These female refugee and migrant chefs are holding a pop-up dinner and here’s how you can help

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  • Better bring your eating pants

    Migrant and refugee women are taking an old adage and turning it on its head, empowering themselves by taking to the kitchen. Mazi Mas, a roaming restaurant and catering concept, is training the next generation of promising female chefs through their seven month culinary programme and this year’s intake is holding their pop-up graduation dinner on June 27.

    The organisation’s mission is to ‘engage and empower women to earn a living from their love of cooking’ is a deeply personal one for its founder Nikandre Kopcke. The German and Greek CEO was inspired after learning how her talented godmother’s dreams of a bakery were dashed by her husband, who had very traditional ideas regarding a woman’s place in the world. After Nikandre began volunteering at community kitchens and migrant centres across London, she remembered her godmother and wanted to support the talented chefs from places as diverse as Costa Rica and Iran that she came across.

    migrant and refugee chefs

    This year, the graduating group of chefs will be hosting a pop-up dinner at Round Chapel in Hackney to express themselves and their culture through their cooking. The three course meal includes dishes such as a Persian stuffed chicken, served on a bed of Saffron rice with pickled garlic and herb yoghurt dip, as well as South American shrimp ceviche, cancha corn, plantains and coriander. The whole menu can be viewed here.

    migrant and refugee chefs

    One of the chefs, Luzmilla Jarrin Avalos from Ecuador, said, ‘I used to work [in] cooking before moving to England, so Mazi Mas gave me the opportunity to do again what I like the most: cooking. My dream is to have my own food business selling my food, and now working with Mazi Mas I feel I have a chance to achieve it!’

    ‘I grew up in Riobamba, high in the Andes mountains. When I was little my mother sold potatoes in the local market, and I used to help her after school. Whenever she left me on my own I’d put up the prices, and pocket the extra to buy a plate of hornado, roast pork carved from a whole pig – head and all. Now I make it at home, but without the bustle of the market it’s not quite the same.’

    migrant and refugee chefs

    Iranian Nasrin Rooghani also spoke of her own aspirations, saying, ‘I did try to do odd jobs cooking but when I started with Mazi Mas it was totally different! The people working there support you, are caring and we create a loving connection between the chefs.’

    ‘Cooking becomes more than just feeding people, it is like art, we create a special moment and food when cooking together. It is special! I would love to have my own business and to use my creativity and my knowledge to create my own food products.’

    ‘I was born in Astara, a town at the edge of the Caspian Sea in the lush northwest of Iran, on the border with Azerbaijan. My grandfather had a vast rose orchard, and as children we were warned not to play there because of snakes, but the scent was irresistible. Whenever I return to Astara, I bring back a jar of dried rose petals to make rose petal and walnut halva, one of my mother’s signature recipes.’

    migrant and refugee chefs

    If you’re interested in supporting these women and you’re based in London, you can still support them by attending their pop up. All the details are down below:

    Date: Tuesday, 27 June, 7pm
    Price: £45 per head (includes a three course meal and drink)
    Where: Round Chapel, Hackney, 1 Glenarm Road, E5 OLY
    How to buy tickets: Purchase your seat on GrubHub

    Roberta Siao, Maz Mas’ General Manager, explained, ‘Cooking for others is an act of love and we’re breaking society’s barriers through acceptance.’

    Now that’s a mission we can get down with.

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