The World Opens Its Kitchens to Displaced Chefs for the Refugee Food Festival
San Francisco is joining the roster of cities participating in this annual United Nations-supported project, which offers refugee chefs a place to prepare their signature dishes.
The Refugee Food Festival, a European initiative in partnership with the United Nations, launched in Paris in 2016, powered by the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Food Sweet Food, a Paris-based nonprofit that encourages cross-cultural dialogue over good food. By 2017 the festival had reached 13 cities, and this year it adds number 14: San Francisco.
The Refugee Food Festival uses a familiar restaurant-week format: Over the course of a few days, restaurants in each city open their kitchens to chefs from conflict-torn countries, providing them with a space to prepare a traditional or innovative meal and to tell their stories to diners, who make reservations for the evening through the host restaurant’s website. The international festival runs from June 12 through June 30; in San Francisco, it runs from June 19 to June 23, with each evening bringing a fresh pairing of restaurant and chef. Hog Island Oyster Co., a popular seafood spot overlooking the Bay, will host a chef from Burma; the Mediterranean restaurant Tawla and the new and buzzy Son’s Addition in the Mission District will each feature chefs from Iraq; the Indian mainstay Dosa will host a chef from Bhutan; and Jardinière, superstar chef Traci Des Jardins’s restaurant, will feature a Senegalese chef.
Look for schedule and venue updates on the festival’s Facebook page.
The Refugee Food Festival’s journey to the United States was initiated by Sara Shah, a San Francisco–based activist who teamed up with the U.N. Refugee Agency to organize the San Francisco restaurant-chef collaborations; she is working to add New York to next year’s roster of participating cities. “The refugee crisis is a large one, and when studying the theories behind refugeeism it is easy to lose sight of the humanness of the refugee problem,” she says. “We mistakenly start to view these individuals as facts and figures. The festival reminds us to view refugees as people and uses the power of food to break down these walls.”
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