Two years after leaving Syria, Khaled arrived in Madrid. Like many refugees, he had undergone an unimaginable journey only to be met with further challenges upon his arrival: a strange language, bureaucratic hurdles and sleeping in the street. But just seven months after Khaled gained asylum here, his career as a chef is back on track.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The recently established association Madrid for Refugees works closely with a refugee centre in Vallecas, a multicultural neighbourhood just outside of central Madrid. Khaled had been living at the centre when he approached MfR with the idea of using his culinary skills to earn a living in Madrid. Inspired not only by his food but also by the story behind it, Chefugee was launched with Khaled as the chef.
WHAT IS CHEFUGEE?
Chefugee follows the same format as a ‘supper club’: a growing underground phenomenon that has captured foodies around the world in search of top notch gastronomy without the price tag. Imagine a kind of pop-up restaurant where you have a three-course meal and table service but where the venue is someone’s apartment.
SYRIAN FOOD & A CANDLELIT COURTYARD
In the true style of an underground dinner party, all we had was a time, an address, and a promise of home-cooked Syrian food. When we arrived, we received the heartiest of welcomes from the Chefugee team and were lucky enough to pull away Khaled from the kitchen to say hello and have a peep at his food which I had only seen before in the middle-east.
After taking stock of the delectable chaos in the kitchen, we stepped outside into the pop-up dining space for the night – a stunning candlelit courtyard in the lovely home of Bibiano, a collaborator with MfR. Take Bibiano’s home plus Khaled’s incredible home-cooked Syrian menu, and I challenge you to find a restaurant in Madrid that could top this operation. The star of the night, Khaled Kafta Kabab (Grilled Meat Kebabs) Warak Enab (Stuffed Grape Leaves) Kabseh Maa Djej (Kasbeh Rice with Chicken)
THE FUTURE OF CHEFUGEE
Nobody had anticipated the scale of success this project would have, nor how much money it could raise for its partner charities in Greece. Chefugee is now held monthly, with plans to involve many more refugee chefs from other countries.
If you’d like to attend the next Chefugee event, or even host one, email firstname.lastname@example.org
MADRID FOR REFUGEES
MfR is a small, hands-on association established just 10 months ago when the plight of fleeing Syrian refugees reached peak media attention. MfR welcomes refugees from all over the world and helps them establish a life here in Madrid, from finding accommodation and jobs to overcoming language barriers and red tape. Many of the volunteers are English-speaking expats living in Madrid, which is important as many refugees speak English and not Spanish.
All photos by Kelsey Krach.