Syrian chef brings skills to Dublin's Guinness Storehouse
With 22 other chefs and bakers, Abdullah is taking part in the Refugee Food Festival Ireland, which sees 16 restaurants and food businesses across the country take in refugee bakers and chefs to cook for diners
When Abdullah Anzo arrived in Ritzona refugee camp, Greece, he took a look around and thought about what he could put his skills to.
“I wanted to keep my mind occupied and thought of falafels,” says the 28-year-old, who was studying pharmacy in Syria when the war broke out. “I didn’t cook much but when you abandon everything you look for reminders of home and family. And cooking brought that back.”
Abdullah and a friend borrowed €500 and set up “Falafel Ritsona”, selling the deep fried balls of chickpeas for €1 each. Soon the shop was the go to place for camp residents and volunteers alike.
“I think people liked them because they were very simple, something like you would get at home. We usually sold falafel wraps and put falafel, together with, tomatoes, cucumber, tahini sauce and different spices in them.”
Most people in the camps were so anxious about where they would end up that they didn’t have the strength orthe will to change anything about their situation, says Abdullah. “However the memories of the war were still fresh in my mind so I needed something to keep (me) occupied.”
One year after setting up the shop, Abdullah came to Ireland on the EU relocation scheme in March 2018. Under the programme, just over 1,000 refugees have come to Ireland from Greece, where they live for several months in a centre before moving to other parts of the country.
For Abdullah, it’s a chance to start off again, using the skills he learned in Greece to good effect in his own home. With 22 other chefs and bakers, he is participating in the Refugee Food Festival Ireland, which sees 16 restaurants and food businesses across Ireland take in refugee bakers and chefs to cook for diners.
Abdullah is based in Aramark run Season’s Restaurant in the Guinness Storehouse, the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland.
“I just want to go out and work again. I could see myself opening up a falafel shop again or working as a chef in a restaurant. I want to learn more about the Irish cuisine and what role food plays here. I would also really like to continue my studies.”