Strasbourg Christmas market welcomes very special guests

For second year running, Strasbourg Christmas market welcomes refugee chefs from Syria, Afghanistan and Tibet.

The syrian refugee chef Houssam Khodary with Santa Claus who passed by to try the chef's food!
© UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

It is 5 p.m. at the Christmas market in Strasbourg, in eastern France, and the lights on the 30-metre high Christmas tree have just been switched on.

It is freezing cold, but the atmosphere is warm and joyful.

Scents of cinnamon and ginger bread mingle in the cold air along with less recognizable smells from faraway lands.

This year, for the second time, from 18-24 December, the Strasbourg Christmas market has welcomed as special guests refugee chefs from Syria, Afghanistan and Tibet. They are all cooking dishes from their homelands at the Refugee Food Festival stall.

France. From 18 to 24 December, the Refugee Food Festival is at the Christmas market in Strasbourg with three chefs cooking cuisine from their homeland.

Syrian refugee chef Houssam Khodary is using his culinary skills to build a new life in France.  © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

“The Christmas market in Strasbourg is very traditional. We usually find Christmas cookies, mulled wine and tarte flambée. The Refugee Food Festival brings an exotic touch and new flavours to this Christmas market,” Hélène Déprès, the coordinator of the Strasbourg Refugee Food Festival says.

Hélène Déprès comes from Strasbourg and says she is very honoured to coordinate the Refugee Food Festival in her city.

Thanks to the festival, residents of Strasbourg and tourists enjoying the traditional festive market welcome the chance to discover new flavours and different cuisines.

Hussam Khoday is one of the chefs. Hussam is from Syria and cooking is his passion. He is using his culinary skills to start his new life in France.

  • Residents of Strasbourg and tourists enjoying the Starsbourg Christmas.
    Residents of Strasbourg and tourists enjoying the Starsbourg Christmas. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
  •  Hélène Depres, The Refugee Food Festival coordinator in Strasbourg.
    Hélène Depres, The Refugee Food Festival coordinator in Strasbourg. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
  • Residents of Strasbourg and tourists enjoying the Starsbourg market.
    Residents of Strasbourg and tourists enjoying the Starsbourg market. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
  • The beautiful streets of Strasbourg at Christmas.
    The beautiful streets of Strasbourg at Christmas. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau
  • The syrian refugee chef Houssam Khodary's cuisine.
    The syrian refugee chef Houssam Khodary's cuisine. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

“We have prepared many dishes, houmous with chick peas, marinated chicken brochettes, lentils soup, syrian custard and pastries with,” Hussam tells UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

There is a long queue of people waiting to taste Hussam’s cuisine. Nearly all of the 400 mezze he has prepared are sold out.

“It's quite magical because all people will come either because they have heard about the project or because they are curious,” Déprès explains.

“I discovered the food stall thanks to an Instagram story by Pokaa. They talked about the food stall and I was attracted to it as I love to eat hummus,” explains Valentine Piette, a student waiting in the queue.

Valentine was delighted after trying Hussam’s cuisine and said that she will tell all her friends to come and taste it too.

The Refugee Food Festival is a citizens-led initiative by Food Sweet Food, an organization that specializes in forming connections between people through culinary events, books and documentaries, and UNHCR.

After a European edition in 2017, a worldwide edition is being prepared for 2018.