From a refugee camp to Galway Michelin-starred restaurant



Galway diners were treated to a night to remember, after Syrian and foreign-born chefs living in Ireland came together to serve a five course meal in Michelin starred restaurant Loam.

Combining the distinct flavors of the Middle East with the best quality in Irish produce, the night was a sellout, with funds raised going towards supporting asylum-seekers to further their culinary skills at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

 “When we think of the many things refugees bring with them to their new countries, we often forget that they also bring their talents and skills too” said Enda O’Neill, Head of Office with UNHCR Ireland.

“The event shows the huge potential that exists in allowing refugees to use those skills to rebuild their lives and contribute to the communities they have adopted as their new home.”

Syrian Refugee and Irish based chefs come together for a Far Fetched meal in Galway Michelin Star Restaurant Loam

Amer Marai worked in a Damascus restaurant for five years before the war in Syria forced him to flee to Turkey, then Greece in 2014. He spent one year and a half in a camp, making a living baking Manouche, a Syrian pizza-like bread, while he waited to hear of his application under the EU’s relocation programme.  “I want to restart my life, start a job and help my family” he says.

”This is my job. My specialty”.

Joining the three Syrian chefs were New Zealander Jess Murphy of Galway’s Kai Café, Australian Damien Grey of Dublin Heron & Grey and Takashi Miyazaki, a Japanese chef who owns and runs Miyazaki in Cork.

“We are immigrants too, but we didn’t have to seek refuge here to escape a conflict,” said Murphy, who was instrumental in organising the night with Grey.

 “We were talking about how we may represent Irish food, but what about the future in a changing Ireland? We were also talking about the shortage of chefs, and about how there are skilled chefs seeking asylum here.”

Their idea was realized in Loam, which UNHCR supported in organising.  Three funded scholarships in catering, specially designated for young asylum-seekers, have now been established with the help of funds raised on the night and the by support of the Galway International Hotel School in GMIT.

Training them in food, hospitality and chef skills, the joint dinner should have a real and lasting impact into the future.