Guest post by Ali Clifford, sustainability communications consultant at incredibusy.com:
The theme of this year’s Refugee Week 2021 was “We Cannot Walk Alone…” which seemed incredibly apt having chatted recently to one of Cookery School at Little Portland Street, London’s favourite Cook’s Certificate graduates Faraj Alnasser. Faraj completed their intensive six week course ‘Cook’s Certificate in Food and Wine’ with flying colours and is now running his own food business in Cambridge.
Refugee Week’s theme: ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’, was an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Shoshana, the host mother of Faraj, a young refugee from Syria, extended her hand to Cookery School at Little Portland Street – as his ‘host mother’, she reached out, sending over a TEDTalk video of his journey as a young refugee from Syria.
Cookery School at Little Portland Street offers a scholarship place on their Cook’s Certificate course and, hearing his story, immediately felt that there would be a perfect fit between what Faraj needed and what Cookery School offers.
Following the six weeks on Cookery School’s Cook’s Certificate course, Faraj found work experience with the renowned Ottolenghi team, and moved on to work with Honey and Co for several months before Covid 19 struck the food industry and Faraj returned to spend Lockdown with his host family in Cambridge.
Although a safe haven, returning to Cambridge jobless, with no income, Faraj became depressed. The food industry had been hit hard, not just in London, but countrywide.
After fleeing war torn Aleppo in Syria at 17, Faraj had met his host family at the tender age of 19, he spoke no English, and had been sleeping on the floor of a Sudanese friend he’d met in a hostel in Huddersfield. A Syrian friend told Faraj about an organisation called Refugees at Home who introduced Faraj to an English-Jewish Family in Cambridge – what was meant to be a 3-6 week temporary refuge, has become a family home, with – Faraj says that it’s a miracle to have met them, they have welcomed him to be a part of their family, a son, introducing him to their friends and supporting him emotionally and financially through GCSEs, learning English, and finding the Cookery School scholarship place with Cookery School at Little Portland Street.
Faraj says he doesn’t know what he’d do without Shoshana Goldhill, his host mother, and the rest of the Cambridge Family. It’s through them that he started cooking for the local community and has set up Faraj’s Kitchen – since Christmas Eve 2020 he has cooked non-stop – cooking for over 2,000 people in six months!
Faraj has discussed his menus with Rosalind Rathouse, Cookery School at Little Portland Street founder, and Rosalind has suggested changes to make it a seasonal, sustainable menu – locally sourced ingredients and focussing on delicious Vegan and Vegetarian Syrian Food, such as Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Fatayer (pastries with feta) Challah bread and Tabouleh.
Locals order from Faraj the day before, and he currently has the capacity to cater for up to 30 people a day, currently a ‘one-man-band’ Faraj does all the shopping, deliveries, the organising and the clearing – and operates a strict ‘zero-waste’ policy, Faraj says: “where I come from, there is no food-waste, all leftovers are re-purposed or given to friends, Cookery School at Little Portland Street also introduced me to many ideas about sustainability in the kitchen, which I have brought to Faraj’s Kitchen. I have a regular veg box delivery from the amazing Cambridge Market, again locally sourced, and minimum packaging – and I deliver orders locally within a 2 mile radius on my bicycle!”
Faraj plans to expand later in the summer and is looking for premises, perhaps a day-time café where he can host pop-up evenings, and cookery classes in both Arabic and English. He also offers free 1-1 cookery classes for Refugees and is working to support the CRRC charity Cambridge Refugee Resettlement Campaign through his pop-up restaurant plans.
If you are local to Cambridge, email your order from Faraj’s Kitchen at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07523 832050 to order.
Follow Faraj on social media https://www.facebook.com/FarajsKitchen
To find out more about Cookery School at Little Portland Street’s professional cooking course, click here: You’ll spend six whole weeks towards the Level 3 certification, on pasta, pancakes, poultry, puddings, puff pastry, pickles, preserves and more, graduating with both the confidence and competence to embrace the next step in your culinary journey.
As a leading cooking school in London, we have all the tools, tips and tricks to provide comprehensive culinary training, imparting you with knowledge that will last a lifetime. Students leave us with a Level 3 Certificate from OCN London, a WSET Level 2 qualification in wine and the confidence to take steps towards a career in food, to become a professional chef or simply a brilliant home cook.
We are over on social media too, we’d love you to tag us @cookeryschoollondon in any of your food making adventures!
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