As I type this, I’m trying very hard to clear my head from the noise of the past week’s headlines that are starting to blur dystopian fiction with cold reality.
But it’s also precisely during these times that we must really stand up for basic compassion, and work even harder to build cross cultural bridges, not walls.
So what better time than now to announce the next pop up dinner of Project Chefugee, this time featuring for the first time a very talented home cook Wesel Abd el Razzak from the city of Hama in West-Central Syria. A mother of four (including a newborn baby boy!), Wesel will be cooking a three course dinner consisting of starters, a main course and dessert.
I sat down personally with our next featured “chefugee” and an Arabic translator to design the menu featuring traditional Syrian classic dishes, such as tabbouleh, or parsley salad, hummus or chickpea dip with tahini and garlic, and kibbeh, or bulghur wheat croquettes stuffed with minced beef.
We are hosting the sit-down dinner in La Piscine Café, and I adore the fact that two French owners are pairing each course with a selected French wine. (This is a personal milestone for me and the project itself, as I seem to recall the pilot Chefugee last April 2016, when we bought wine from Carrefour to stay within budget!)
During the night, dinner guests will have a unique opportunity to meet Wesel and learn more about her distinct cuisine and Syrian culture. In the past dinners, this has been quite an emotionally charged moment of the event, and admittedly awkward as the mood sometimes detoured quickly to dark places when the refugees shared their traumatic experiences escaping their war-torn home countries.
Our team decided to keep it light by letting the refugee talk about their cuisine, which is perhaps one of the greatest expressions of a people’s culture and heritage. Indeed, it goes back to the underlying philosophy of Chefugee that our team continues to uphold – food is refuge.
Food is a language understood across all cultures. Through this universal language, we find in each other more commonalities in our diversity.