Four foreign-born, Irish-based chefs with a group of Syrian refugee chefs created a Far-Fetched Dinner in Loam Restaurant in Galway on Sunday October 29. Chefs Damien Grey, Takashi Miyazaki, Jess Murphy and Louise Bannon cooked a five-course dinner with three Syrian colleagues, chefs Mhd Ahyam Orabi and Ahmad Orabi and baker Amer Marai on Sunday.
The sell-out dinner was generously supported by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and by some of the exceptional producers that the four chefs use in their own restaurants on a daily basis. Guests were treated to a menu created by the adopted Irish and their Syrian colleagues served with matching wines provided by Shane Murphy of Findlater Wines. The night also welcomed the music from the Galway Ukulele Orchestra and documenting of the evening by Heavy Man Films.
With a shortage of chefs in the Irish hospitality industry, this was an opportunity for refugee chefs to flex their kitchen muscles. They also got to share their particular knowledge, expertise and skills to the benefit both of the four cooks sharing their kitchen, and of dinner guests on the night.
The Far-Fetched Dinner was the first of its type, and UNHCR plans to work on further initiatives in the future.
“When we think of the many things refugees bring with them to their new countries, we often forget that they also bring their talents and skills too. Sunday’s event shows the huge potential that exists in allowing refugee to use those skills to rebuild their lives and contribute to the communities they have adopted as their new home,” explained Enda O’Neill of UNHCR Ireland.
All monies raised from the dinner will go towards education and training. The Far-Fetched Dinner in conjunction with GMIT have together established three funded scholarships in catering, specially designated for young chefs in direct provision. Training them in food, hospitality and chef skills, this means this joint dinner is not just a one-off, but an event with a real and lasting impact.”
“We are immigrants too, but we didn’t have to seek refuge here to escape a conflict,” Jess Murphy said, explaining that the idea for the night came about in conversation with Grey. “We were talking about how we may represent Irish food, but what about the future in a changing Ireland? We were also talking about the shortage of chefs, and about how there are skilled chefs seeking asylum here. Sunday night was really special and showcased how food and creativity brings people together. WE live in a changing Ireland and integration, realm integration with people and in communities is how we can all make Ireland a brilliant place to live, work and enjoy life."
Cáit Noone, Vice President of International Engagement and Head of the Galway International School, said, “The Galway International Hotel School is delighted and proud to support this wonderful initiative led by Ireland's finest culinary leaders. In GMIT we are proud of our diverse and multi-cultural community and recognise the burden in which families in direct provision are placed. Some of our students and lecturers will support this special dinner. In addition, the school is developing a short accredited course in professional cooking skills for those in direct provision. This will equip them with Irish food safety knowledge and enhanced cooking skills ensuring they are ready to join the workplace as and when such restrictions are lifted.”