“You have to taste a culture to understand it” *

Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

*Deborah Cater, British travel and food blogger

On the evening of June 19th, the Seychelles restaurant in Kerameikos had altered its catalogue adding Barshank’s dishes – humus, spicy lamb, tabbouleh, grilled chicken with spices and groats and mutabal. The same happened when Abdul cooked at the 7 Food Sins restaurant in Plaka, where the cook confirmed his reputation as the “king of falafel”!

Both sides ceased the opportunity to come closer to each other’s culture; the Greek public on the one hand and the chefs from other countries on the other; the chefs who live currently in Greece as refugees and/or asylum seekers. Among them, Barshank and Abdul, chefs, refugees from Syria, beneficiaries of the SolidarityNow housing and accommodation program.

All this became a reality for the first time this year, since the Refugee Food festival, which is organized by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in several European countries, came to Greece and more specifically in Athens!

It took five days, from 17th to 22nd June, for the five chefs who cooked in five different restaurants in Athens, their countries’ traditional dishes and literally charmed the audience. Some of the restaurants even needed to extend the days for the new chefs to satisfy the people who wanted to taste the flavors of the different countries, such as Syria, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan.

The organization’s beneficiaries, firstly Barshank, on June 19th and then Abdul on June 21st, cooked for us Syrian spicy dishes, which were accompanied by their warm smile as they could not hide their happiness doing what they love. Cooking. They cooked for Athenians, delicacies from their own country, giving in this way a message of solidarity, respect and equality.

We wish to all the chefs who participated in the Refugee Food Festival to find their way to a peaceful and safe life and gain the opportunity to do what they love; besides, Abdul states that food and his relationship with it “is the ticket for a better future”!

Initiatives, such as the one by the UNHCR, will always be supported by SolidarityNow, since they are steps towards the next day; the one of social acceptance and integration of refugees and/or asylum seekers into the Greek community.

Abdul and Barshank were uniquely photographed and filmed by Giorgos Moutafis’ lens.


The best for last! Barshank shares a traditional recipe with the organization’s readers and friends:

Baba ghanoush | Kurdish version without tahini

We punch out the small round eggplant with a fork a and put it in the grill, until it blackens and shrinks. Then, we peel it and put the flesh in the blender until it becomes a pulp. Then we strain it.

Take a pan and pour some olive oil. Add 2 or 3 cloves of grated garlic. In the pan, we can add a whipped egg. Then, we add the pulp eggplant, paprika sauce, salt, pepper. We place the pulp on a dish and make a hole in the center. Add mint or other fresh herbs, olive oil and some slices of tomato to decorate the dish.


The Hosting and Accommodation Programs are developed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO).