Women chefs take center stage in Athens Refugee Food Festival
To mark World Refugee Day 2018, the Refugee Food Festival came back to Athens from 19 to 24 June 2018 as well as in 13 other cities worldwide, including Brussels, Madrid, Paris, San Francisco, New York and Cape Town. Over one week, six restaurants in Athens supported the refugee cause by opening their kitchens to six refugee chefs living in Greece, including four women from Iran, Iraq, Morroco and Eritrea.
A special Refugee Food Festival event was also held at Nan restaurant on Lesvos island. Residents and visitors had the opportunity to mark World Refugee Day by eating food from Iraq, Syria and Pakistan at Nan, a café-restaurant in Mytiline, which was founded by four women with the aim of working together to find solutions to benefit both refugees and local people.
Seinat kicked off the festival in Athens introducing Athenians to Eritrean gastronomic culture at Blue Fish restaurant, while at the same time Mahboubeh merged Iranian with Greek flavours at Seychelles restaurant. Adel continued with a sophisticated Iraqi-inspired meal at the Vassilenas restaurant. Barshank offered delicious Syrian food at Ama Lachei. Roaa blended her flavourful Iraqi dishes with Mama Roux’s ethnic cuisine. Turia reinvented Moroccan dishes and gracefully paired them with the innovative cuisine of Scala Vinoteca wine restaurant.
The 2018 edition of the Refugee Food Festival, aimed to bring people together around the table and showcase culinary skills of refugees as well as to help accelerate refugee chefs’ professional integration.
The Refugee Food Festival is organized in each city by volunteers with the support of Food Sweet Food (the founding NGO) and local offices of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. In Athens, the festival was made possible by the enthusiasm and energy of the Athens Insider team.
The 2018 edition of the Refugee Food Festival in Athens was also realized thanks to the Greek Council for Refugees, SolidarityNow, the Melissa Network of Migrant Women in Greece and Options FoodLab, which support not only the participating chefs, but also the long term efforts for refugees’ integration into local communities.
Touria Besbas (C) speaks with customers at the Scala Vinoteca restaurant in Athens, during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Nan, a café-restaurant in Mytiline, which was founded by four women with the aim of working together to find solutions to benefit both refugees and local people. © UNHCR/Notis & Petros Photography
Barshank Haj Younes presenting Makluba, a traditional Syrian dish, at the yard of Ama Lachei at Nefeli's restaurant ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Seinat Neftalem (C), an Eritrean refugee living in Greece for the past four years, is photographed with Janet Besir (L) and chef Giorgos Oikonomides (R) at the Blue Fish restaurant in Athens during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Residents and visitors enjoying the ethnic cuisine of Nan restaurant in Mytilene © UNHCR/Notis & Petros Photography
Barshank Haj Younes, a Syrian refugee taking part in the 2018 Refugee Food Festival greets customers in the garden of Ama Lachei At Nefeli’s restaurant ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Mahboubeh Tavakoli, an Iranian refugee (L), and Fotis Fotinoglou, owner and head chef of Seychelles restaurant in Athens (R), garnish a rice pilaf dish during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival that took place in Athens. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
A Baba Ghanoush and sambousek dish prepared by Roaa Sabah at Mama Roux restaurant during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Roaa Sabah, an Iraqi refugee from Mosul, spreads small pockets of dough for a Sambousek dish she prepares for customers of Mama Roux restaurant in Athens ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Adel al Ahmad (R) and Manolis Garnelis (L) head-chef at Vassilenas restaurant, prepare soup dishes during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival. Adel who worked as a chef before fleeing the war in Iraq finds a lot of similarities between Iraqi and Greek people and smiles when talking about the warm welcoming he got from locals in the area where he lives with his family in housing offered by UNHCR and SolidarityNow within the EU-funded ESTIA programme. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Mahboubeh Tavakoli, an Iranian refugee taking part for the second time in the Refugee Food Festival, poses for a portrait along with a rice pilaf dish she prepared for customers of the Seychelles restaurant in Athens. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis
Touria Besbas (L) and Dimitris Kontopoulos (R), head chef at Scala Vinoteca restaurant in Athens, prepare a desert during the 2018 Refugee Food Festival. Touria, who has been a member of the Options FoodLab for the past two years, loves cooking fusion cuisine dishes for friends and hopes to setup her own North African restaurant in Athens soon. ©UNHCR/Achilleas Zavallis