Refugee chefs land work at unique south London cafe

Refugees are working as chefs at a south London cafe that connects communities through the ‘universal language of food’.

Plateful Cafe, on Lewisham Road, not only serves up delicious grub, but also hosts ‘bistro nights’ showcasing the music and customs of the cooks’ cultures.

Hadis, who was a physiotherapist back in Iran, is one of several cooks who have sought sanctuary in south London.

“Plateful has allowed me to make a better lifestyle for myself in the UK and it’s been great to show off my culture and my style of cooking to customers,” she said.

Hadis is one of several cooks who have sought sanctuary in south London

Last month, Hadis led Nowruz celebrations at the cafe – the Persian New Year which takes place on or around March 20.

That night, diners gathered around a traditional Haft-Sin table to try traditional dishes like Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi – a herby rice dish served with fried fish.

Traditional Iranian music played on the Tar, a long-necked lute, greeted people as they walked in, and the seven symbols of Nowruz were laid out on each table.

Plateful Cafe boasts a varied and affordable menu with a Syrian mezze platter costing just £7.95 and a full English breakfast priced at a reasonable £6.95.

Faten, from Syria, is another one of Plateful Cafe’s cooks

Sara, another chef from Iran, studied Computer Engineering back home but fled to England two years ago.

As a child, she baked cakes and cooked for her mother, especially during the summer months, and has found “joy” in sharing her dishes with Londoners.

She said: “Moreover, I am excited to embrace the opportunity to learn and prepare dishes from various other countries.”

The other chefs include Faten, Yasmin, Nahed, Sana and Manar, all from Syria.

Iolanda Chirico, Plateful Cafe Founder, said: “I am so happy to be leading on a community initiative by local refugees to bring their cuisines to the local public and show their culinary talents.

“What amazing food and dishes will come your way in Spring 2023 at the Parkside Community Centre thanks to Peabody Housing Association who have generously offered the venue.”

All the money raised at Plateful Cafe’s ticketed fundraising events is used to pay chefs and musicians, and build our training programmes for refugees wanting employment in the food and hospitality industries.

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