Culture

This New York Startup Has the Best Way to Help Refugee Chefs Everywhere

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New York City is a haven of great international cuisine. With the number of specialty restaurants that offer a variety of food from different countries in the city, it is certainly not easy for a restaurant to stand out even if they are offering unique meal options.

However, there is something special about Eat Offbeat that sets it apart from other restaurants: its chefs are all refugees who were recruited from International Rescue Committee, an American refugee resettlement agency.

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Oroog, prepared by Chef Nidaa Al Janabi (Iraq)

Founders Manal and Wissam Kahi decided to set up Eat Offbeat to help refugees get established in their new country and give New Yorkers a positive way to interact with the city’s refugees, reports The Guardian. The startup currently employs chefs from Eriteria, Iraq and Nepal who are tasked to cook traditional dishes from their home countries.

The hiring requirement for the chefs are simple: they must enjoy cooking and they should have experience cooking for others.

“My grandmother had a lot of stories about how she maintained her culture being from a different country, facing a lot of xenophobia in Lebanon,” Kahi told the Guardian. “I then thought about the Syrian refugees being resettled in the US, and how they probably made the best hummus.”

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Sumaq Salad, prepared by Chef Nidaa Al Janabi (Iraq)

Back in 2013 when Manal had just arrived to New York, she immediately sought out her favorite dish, hummus. She was disappointed with what was then available so she made her own based on a family recipe. When friends said they loved the homemade product, her brother, Wissam, encouraged her to sell it. That idea then blossomed into something a whole lot bigger.

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Potato Kibbeh, prepared by Chef Nidaa Al Janabi (Iraq)

Currently, the team does not have a physical restaurant and only offers food delivery. Orders are currently limited to groups (minimum of five servings), although they hope to offer individual orders as they grow. They are also planning to hire a chef from another country next week.

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Manchurian, prepared by Chef Rachana Rimal (Nepal)

“It’s much more scalable,” Kahi told CoExist. “We really want all New Yorkers to be able to experience this kind of food, this kind of new cuisine.”

She added: “Once this is successful, once we do well in New York, we would love to expand to other cities where people are curious, adventurous eaters. There are refugees everywhere.”

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