Refugee Food Festival: food – a powerful tool to challenge our views about refugees

The Refugee Food Festival was created four years ago in 2016 and is the product of a truly voluntary endeavour. The founders decided to use food and the art of cooking in order to change the way we look at refugees – an objective that is also shared by FAIRE.

Promoting refugee integration amidst the migrant crisis

In the midst of the migrant crisis, Louis and Marine, cooking enthusiasts, cookbook authors and food documentary creators, decided to transform the art of cooking into a tool to help integrate refugees. The concept was simple: creating collaborations between refugee chefs and professional chefs from host countries during a festival that takes place during the month of June.

The initiative has a number of objectives, including promoting different cultures, forging relationships, supporting the professional integration of refugees and also offering a different perspective on this community group.

From the beginning, the initiative has been supported by UNHCR (the United Nations agency for Refugees) and has quickly spread to other cities in France and in Europe thanks to a network of motivated volunteers. In 2019, fifteen cities welcomed a Refugee Food Festival initiative and more than 200 restaurants collaborated with refugee chefs on innovative menus.

A shared eatery to trial new projects

Going one step further, the Refugee Food Festival team decided to open “La Résidence” – a restaurant initiative nestled in the heart of Ground Control (located in the 12th arrondissement of Paris). This space provides a refugee chef the opportunity to work in residence for several months to try out a restaurant idea or a food concept. The refugee chef is accompanied by a training chef and a restaurant director who helps out with all matters related to running a restaurant (including logistics, accounting, etc.)

We had the opportunity to visit the restaurant to meet and interview Haitham, a Syrian chef, who told us he is now full of new ideas and would like to offer Syrian cuisine with influences of French cuisine.

Furthermore, the Refugee Food Festival is expanding its operations even further; the team are now offering a catering service for individuals and businesses!

Spotlight on the new initiative “SESAME” – a kitchen hand training programme for refugees

According to the Refugee Food Festival’s latest newsletter, the organization is launching a new programme called “SESAME”. This exciting initiative will be carried out by the AKTO–Fafih Network in conjunction with the Refugee Food Festival and Envergure and will allow approximately 300 refugees to undertake hospitality (assistant chef) training.

The inaugural cohort was launched in the Île-de-France region at the end of 2019. In the future, another eight cities will follow suit by offering a training opportunity to help refugees enter this industry that is regularly in need of employees.

If you are interested in learning more about this programme or even participating in this programme, you can contact Valentine PIA at valentine@refugeefoodfestival.com.

You can also follow the latest news and updates from the Refugee Food Festival on their website !